Friday, May 20, 2011

Mental maps

I thought I'd write a post about mental health. It's a sensitive topic for me, but it's been a really important part of my care.

My cancer clinic has an incredible mental health program. But I didn't take advantage of it at first, because I wondered, what could a counselor really say that would make things better? I'd had therapy in the past that took a hard look at my anxieties as an overreaction to situations. This was new.

When I finally reached out a tentative hand, though, I got a whole lot of very valuable help. I got a psychologist who put me onto an antidepressant (Lexapro) and some anti-anxiety meds for the worst days. I got a social worker. And, maybe most importantly, I got a really amazing psycho-oncologist.

Yep, psycho-oncologist. I love that word.

The goal of this mental work hasn't been to make everything okay. Cancer sucks. Sucks, sucks, sucks. And it's a uniquely challenging thing to experience as a young person (maybe I'll talk more about this in a different blog entry). What has happened, though, is that I'm able to enjoy almost all of my days. I go on vacations. I love my friends, I go to parties, I smooch my boyfriend. I eat good food. I'm able to take good physical care of myself, and for the most part I have a decent quality of life.

It's been a lot of work with everything from existential questions to the basics, but it's worth every moment.