Fear & anxiety tend to go hand-in-hand for me.
I mentioned in my last post about how even writing down certain things causes me to feel as though I’ll lose all I’ve gained so far, and that the AML will come back simply because I chose to shed light on that aspect of my fears.
My heart rate increases, and my chest tightens. Often, my stomach trembles and my hands quickly follow suit. I try, and am often momentarily successful, at telling myself that whatever happens, happens and it has nothing to do with what I chose to write down, what I chose to do, where I went, or any other action I made.
Writing about it makes it seem silly— how can things that I know have no correlation impact me so severely? I’m sitting here, stomach and hands trembling, trying to figure out where to go from here, a voice in my head softly pleading for me to stop and not go any further… but that’s not going to happen. Not this time.
The other day I read an article from LLS (The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society) about recent advancements in blood cancer treatments, especially for AML. It was incredible, and I was feeling so confident about where I am… until I read the statistic that the 5 year survival rate for AML patients was less than 30%.
My heart sank like lead into the pit of my instantaneously sour stomach.
I knew, and know, that every case is different— that every patient and story is different— but I know that I’m an AML patient… and my heart and confidence was absolutely shattered by reading that.
That night I cried more than I have in a long while, and I didn’t manage to fall asleep until after 4am— my mind whirling with thoughts, worries, hopes, dreams…
The thought of the AML relapsing is not constantly at the forefront of my mind, but it’s definitely always present— hiding in the darkness and waiting for a moment of weakness to break through my barriers of confidence and leave my mind whirling with a hurricane of thoughts that is difficult to tame.
Like I mentioned before, my anxiety flares up and tries to convince me that if I do this or that, then I’m welcoming the AML back and that I can keep it at bay if I avoid doing whatever it is that my brain has convinced me is the “trigger” for allowing it to return.
Perhaps some of the most prominent examples of this are as follows:
1) before I was diagnosed I drank a lot of green tea, then I got AML. I didn’t drink it for months, and one day decided to again. Several weeks later, I relapsed. I haven’t consumed or used green tea in any form since, and I don’t intend to anytime soon.
2) before relapsing, I had made plans to visit Tim in Oklahoma. Ten days before, I relapsed. Now I don’t count down the days to things, and my anxiety amplifies horrendously before I leave for big trips/as they get closer.
3) several days before relapsing, I put my hair in a teeny ponytail for the first time. I did something similar a few days ago just to “stick it to the man” if you will, but it took me a lot of time to build up the courage to do it.
All of that seems so fucking dumb when I read it. I know that none of that caused any of what I have gone through. That if I do that stuff again, or act against my anxiety in any way, it’s not going to come back just to spite me. And yet I continue to act like that’s exactly what’s going to happen.
Well fuck that.
Fuck the fear. Fuck the statistics. Fuck the anxiety. Fuck the cancer. Fuck it all.
The anxiety is still going to be there, sure. But god damn it, the mind is such a powerful tool I may as well make an effort to use it positively. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, because I know I tend to hear one bit of bad news and it becomes a black speck in the depths of my mind that slowly spreads and grows— stagnating into a negative mold that threatens all I’ve gained with my positivity.
Wanna know some more of my irrational anxiety-induced fears (my insides are vibrating with nerves, hands shaking, the voice in my head still pleading for me not to do this. But fuck that!)
I’m afraid that if I go to places I haven’t been since relapsing that I’ll relapse again. I’m afraid that if people get upset with me that I’ll relapse. I’m afraid to go in for lab draws and biopsies because I’m afraid the AML will come back and I don’t know what the fuck I’ll do if it does. I’m afraid of accidentally forgetting my medications, because if I do, I’ll relapse. I’m afraid that I’ve come this far and that I’ll become just another part of that statistic. I’m afraid that if it comes back it’ll win this time. I’m afraid that if it comes back no treatment will work. I’m afraid it’ll keep coming back. I’m afraid I’ll never get to grow my hair out long again. I’m afraid that when I️ go to a horse barn tomorrow that I️ haven’t been to since before I️ relapsed… That I’ll relapse. I’m afraid of every bruise I get. I’m afraid over every cough I have. I’m afraid of living life for myself and doing what makes me happy. I’m afraid of every ache I have. I’m afraid of every time I start spotting. I’m afraid of working out seriously because last time I got back into fitness, I relapsed. I’m afraid I’ll never have the chance to get married. I’m afraid I’m wasting my life being afraid. I’m afraid that I’ll succumb to the darkness that lurks in my mind. I’m afraid if I disobey the warnings in my head that I’ll pay for it.
I’m afraid that by publishing any of this that— you guessed it— it’ll come back.
And that’s exactly why I have to publish it. In this moment— in this powerful moment— I’m not afraid. I’m angry. Angry that I let these thoughts have so much power and control over me. But now, even if this is just a fleeting moment, it’s real.
And I’m free.
I know I’m still going to have these worrisome thoughts, but my goal of posting this is that I will stop living in this fear and face it instead of succumbing to it and giving it so much control over me and my happiness.
Fuck that shit.
I believe that I’ve gotten to where I am in large part because of my mindset. I know that after reading all these fears and negative thoughts you’re probably like “wow, yeah I’m sure you’ve made it this far after nearly 2 years because of your glorious mindset”, but in all actuality I tend to be an exceptionally optimistic person. I highly doubt that I’d have made it this far if I wasn’t… thought at the end of the day I’m human and I doubt it’s possible to be positive indefinitely. I think it’s funny that, after all I’ve been through I can be so mentally strong, and yet so incredibly weak at the same time.
My hope is that by refusing to yield to these thoughts that demanded to stay buried inside my head I will give myself strength that I’ve been lacking lately, that I can really make myself believe that by refusing to give my anxiety power that I can be at peace with the darkness in my mind.
Of course, it won’t be gone. But I don’t need it to be.
Here’s to making peace with the darkness. Here’s to focusing on spending energy on positive thoughts. Here’s to giving my mind the power it needs to thrive.