“I can only please one person at a time. Today I choose me”

I recently read a blog post by Sally Crowe, who wrote about how her mental health was impacted after going through cancer treatment. She was diagnosed with cancer related post traumatic stress (you can read the blog post here).

Sally chose this image: “Gardening as a metaphor for ‘tending trauma’, and learning to live alongside it”. Artwork: ‘Little Sue’ by Andy Farr.

I could relate to so much of what she wrote about. Even though I have not been through a cancer diagnosis my own experience of living with a life threatening long term condition has me on a knife edge some days. I do not think I have post traumatic stress but on some days I do struggle with normal functioning and can get struck by bouts of panic, fear and feeling totally overwhelmed with life.

The real learning for me came from seeing in black and white 4 of the different changes Sally made in her life to allow her to live her life to the best of her ability whilst managing the effects of cancer (treatment etc) and the cancer related post traumatic stress. These are things I need to keep at the fore front of my mind to ensure I look after my own well being. I am very bad at prioritising my own physical and mental health and often won’t speak up when things are not good. Something I think a lot of people are guilty of.

The 4 changes Sally highlighted were:

  • Simplifying your day
  • Knowing signs of overload
  • Self care and activity that soothes
  • Communicating about post traumatic stress (PTS)

For me the final point would just be communicating about how I am feeling because no one knows unless you tell them. You also cant be helped or understood if you keep your issues to yourself. While I am sure there are many other changes that she has made to help her live alongside cancer related PTS these four can be a starting point for anyone looking to improve their own wellbeing.

Mental health seems to be such a taboo subject and it is only when one person opens up and speaks publicly about their mental health that others around them might then comment and say they have felt similar. It almost starts a cascade effect and people feel they are now allowed to speak about their experience because someone else has and someone else has started the conversation.

Sally highlights in her post that how sharing her experience has been on he whole positive and she was surprised how many other people with cancer have had similar experience. I bet though that is you did a survey of people with a variety of long term conditions they would all relate to some of what she has written about and experienced PTS in some degree themselves.

In life we can only truly look out for ourselves. Others will say they will be there and help you through but there is always the time when someone is not there. I will finish with the same quote that Sally did and the quote I used to title this blog

I can only please one person at a time. Today I choose me.

(On a side note I am really excited to be able to work with Sally Crowe when I start as a Consumer Champion with Cochrane UK later this month. In patient and public involvement Sally’s name is one you always hear. She is a champion for PPI and has made it her life work essentially)

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