As we are all forced to upend our lives from the spread of Covid-19, the cancer community has been in my thoughts constantly. I am sending all of my love and support to anyone mid treatment right. During this stressful time, I have been reflecting on the power of naming one’s emotions, something my therapist brought up early on in our sessions after my diagnosis.
A friend recently shared this article on the collective grief we are all experiencing in the loss of our typical way of life and this part resonated with me:
“There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us. So many have told me in the past week, “I’m telling my coworkers I’m having a hard time,” or “I cried last night.” When you name it, you feel it and it moves through you. Emotions need motion. It’s important we acknowledge what we go through. One unfortunate byproduct of the self-help movement is we’re the first generation to have feelings about our feelings. We tell ourselves things like, I feel sad, but I shouldn’t feel that; other people have it worse. We can — we should — stop at the first feeling. I feel sad. Let me go for five minutes to feel sad. Your work is to feel your sadness and fear and anger whether or not someone else is feeling something. Fighting it doesn’t help because your body is producing the feeling. If we allow the feelings to happen, they’ll happen in an orderly way, and it empowers us. Then we’re not victims.”
I particularly appreciate the shift from feeling helpless to empowered by simply giving yourself space to feel your particular emotions (without guilt!) and put a name to them. My therapist also shared a wonderful “emotion wheel” which I found helpful for processing what I was feeling at any given point in my treatment. Friends and I would also chat about adding on a 4th circle that would be hyper-specific emotions - my addition was the particular joy of getting a notification from the library that a book I requested was finally available. ;)
Download a free PDF of the emotional wheel here.
As I try to process this new reality we find ourselves in, I’ve been joking that I beat cancer just to enter a global pandemic - thanks universe! As Kevin and I talked about our upcoming vacation (first one post cancer!) and whether we’d still be able to go, I made a particularly dramatic comment about how I didn’t want to look forward to anything anymore since it all seemed to be called off anyway. Kevin replied, “So that’s the attitude these days — don’t ever hope or dream anymore because it will all be crushed! Hashtag mayleavestars.” At which point we both started cracking up. But in truth, I never want this blog to feel disingenuously positive. I’m striving for a genuine reflection of my cancer journey and all of the emotions along the way.
As a wise friend of mine recently said with regards to changes wrought by Covid-19, “Humans are remarkably adaptable, but we all need to acknowledge that we’re in the process of adapting.” Sending love, good health, and adaptability to everyone right now.