Counselling is still a taboo subject. People don’t like to discuss the fact that they might need counselling or are actually having counselling. Cancer is such a traumatic experience that I feel it is important to drop the taboo and make others feel comfortable with counselling.
Cancer literally broke my heart. That is the only way I can explain it. But I was so busy getting my life back together post treatment that I never took the time to deal with the experience. I wanted to work. I wanted to experience new things. I didn’t want to talk about anything to do with cancer. I just wanted to be me again.
People often talk about the five stages of grief and all the different ways people cope with them. For the first three years post treatment I was definitely in denial. I talked about cancer so flippantly as if it was like any other experience a person would have. I suppose that was my strong Irish personality and get up and go attitude coming through. But last year it hit me like a ton of bricks.
Last year, my fourth year post cancer I started having vivid nightmares that shook my world. They kept recurring throughout the day and I was constantly crying. I would have to close my office door a lot and just have a cry. My team must have thought I was exceptionally busy that I needed no distraction but I was literally breaking my heart crying.
A friend suggested counselling. I remember saying, “no I’m grand, I talk a lot anyway, I will be fine”. Boy was I wrong. These nightmares and crying episodes continued and I had to give in and seek counselling.
At first I was very controlled and rational about my cancer experience. I was alive were many others weren’t. I was lucky to have so much support in my life were many others haven’t. I had a great job, husband, life, what the hell did I have to cry about? The counsellor kept explaining that I had been through a traumatic experience and that it was ok to talk about it but I was still adamant I was fine. We had about six or seven sessions and finished at that. I didn’t feel I needed anymore.
Moving on to this year, year five post cancer treatment and BOOM, it’s happening all over again. I’m having vivid nightmares, flash backs and constantly crying. This time I knew in my heart I needed help. This time I was ready. I emailed the counsellor and scheduled in a session.
I have finally recognised the sheer scale of what I experienced through cancer. I now don’t feel guilty about getting angry about my cancer experience. Every counselling session I have allows me to off load my thoughts little by little. I actually feel lighter after my counselling sessions. I get to discuss my nightmares, fears and things I think about but am too afraid to say out load. To me, there is a real sense of freedom in counselling.
After a few failed attempts at counselling I can now comfortably say that it has been a truly enlightening experience. It is a safe place to discuss and off load everything I have experienced through cancer. It is a place where I can truly let go of the stress of cancer.
Counselling has taught me that I don’t have to be a warrior all the time. I am doing enough just trying to stay alive. I have also learned to let others help. Using a tool like counselling can really help manage the trauma of cancer.
Break the taboo and find the freedom of counselling