A breast cancer diagnosis is a life-altering event that not only impacts physical health but also takes an emotional toll. The journey of battling breast cancer is often accompanied by a range of emotions, including anxiety and depression. This post is so important to write because I experienced a lot of anxiety in the latter part of my journey, and I am thankful that I got what I needed to rise above. I wanted to shed light on the importance of embracing antidepressants as a valid and beneficial tool in the healing process.
The battle against breast cancer is an intense and often overwhelming experience. Survivors often find themselves grappling with a multitude of emotions, ranging from relief and gratitude to fear and anxiety. The trauma of diagnosis, treatment, and the uncertainty of the future can contribute to the development of anxiety and even depression. It's crucial to acknowledge that these emotions are not uncommon and seeking support is a sign of strength, not weakness. In my particular case I did not have anxiety until my oncologist told me that I was a survivor and "go live your life." This seemed foreign to me and it was at that moment I realized that I had been in the middle of the cancer fight (one of my first posts discussed where I wanted to show my family how to handle something to this magnitude with grace and lessen fear) and now the black eyes were gone and it was time to hang up the gloves but I did not know how to do that - and it was then anxiety rushed in.
Anxiety can manifest in various ways after breast cancer. Some survivors might experience constant worry about the cancer returning (that was me and now I did not have the "safety net" of chemo keeping it away) or fear of the physical changes that the body has undergone. Others might struggle with social anxiety, stemming from altered body image or feelings of isolation. Sleep disturbances (especially if you have expanders or implants that could take time to get used to), irritability, and difficulty concentrating are also common signs of anxiety that survivors might face.
While the emotional impact of breast cancer is significant, seeking help is often met with hesitation. Some survivors might feel that relying on antidepressants is a sign of defeat or weakness. It's crucial to debunk this myth and recognize that seeking medical intervention, including antidepressants, is an empowering step toward regaining emotional well-being. Just as chemotherapy and radiation are tools to treat the physical aspect of cancer, antidepressants can be a vital tool to treat the emotional aftermath. I felt like I could not feel a muscle ache or see a bruise without my mind going to a "reoccurrence." I spent countless nights waking up at 2am with my elbow hurting or a muscle ache googling these symptoms convinced to the point of utter fear that the cancer returned, and it was now in my bones. I could not shake the fear. I could not get the thought of cancer out from the forefront of my mind until I tried an anti-depressant. It worked like magic. I still think about those things from time to time, but it is not debilitating. It does not consume my thoughts at 2am- in fact I rarely wake up now. It is a freeing feeling and an empowering feeling of having my life back.
I had no issue seeking help for this, but I know many do. One of the key challenges survivors face is the stigma surrounding mental health and antidepressant use. It's essential to recognize that needing antidepressants is not a reflection of a person's character or strength. Breast cancer survivors should be encouraged to prioritize their mental health without any shame or judgment. Just as they fought tenaciously against cancer, they can actively work towards their emotional well-being.
It is important to remember that every survivor's healing journey is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. While some individuals might find relief through therapy, support groups, or holistic approaches, others might benefit from a combination of therapies, including antidepressants. The journey is about finding what works best for your emotional needs and embracing those choices without reservation.
The emotional toll of breast cancer should never be underestimated or ignored. Anxiety is a natural response to such a life-altering event, and survivors should never feel ashamed to seek help. Antidepressants are a valid and beneficial option to aid in the healing process, offering survivors a way to regain control over their emotional well-being. By embracing antidepressants and challenging the stigma surrounding mental health, breast cancer survivors can take yet another step towards reclaiming their lives and embracing hope for the future. You've got this beautiful! Be the warrior you are- seek help and enjoy life as a survivor- it is absolutely possible!