A thought occurred to me the other week that I hadn’t properly registered until then. This month will mark 10 years since my mum was first diagnosed with breast cancer, something which is quite crazy for me to comprehend. It doesn’t seem possible to think it’s been a decade since I came home from school one day to find both my parents waiting in the living room for me, where they told me that my mum had found a lump that was cancerous. At the time I was 15, and it felt like my world had come crumbling down around me. Gone were the happy, carefree days that I’d had up until then, and in their place came constant talks about hospital appointments, operations, chemotherapies and radiotherapies that my mum was going to have to undergo in order to get better.
I didn’t show it at the time, but the next few months after I first found out she was ill were some of the hardest in my life. Adjusting to everything that was happening, but still trying to carry on life as a ‘normal’ teenager, was at times all a bit too much. For whatever reason, whether I was in denial about the whole thing, or that I just wasn’t old enough to comprehend everything that was happening around me, I completely shut myself off to any emotion around my mum’s illness. I ultimately largely acted as though nothing was happening, although in my mind I was very much struggling to process everything and accept the fact that my mum was ill with a potentially life threatening disease.
In 2007, I started to really suffer with anxiety and constant over thinking. Looking back now, as a 25-year-old woman who has largely overcome the problems I had at that time, it feels strange to even consider that I went through this stage. I have a pretty good memory, and I usually remember some of the most irrelevant things and most useless pieces of information. Nine years ago though is almost a complete blur. I can only pinpoint certain days and things that happened, the rest is just a distant memory that I can’t recollect for the life of me. To me, this just goes to show how much I was trapped in my own mind, that I wasn’t even able to register events and anything else happening around me.
At the time when I was going through this stage, it felt like it would never end. I honestly thought at the time that nothing would ever be the same again, and that I would live the rest of my life feeling like I couldn’t escape from my own head. It also felt like I was going mad. There were many nights where I would lie in bed wondering if I was actually losing my mind. Looking back in hindsight, it’s quite clear to see that I was going through all of this as a direct reaction to my mum having cancer. Even though I wasn’t coping with it all, it was my minds way of coping, almost as though it was trying to regain some control, as there was nothing it, or I, could possibly do to control what my mum was going through.
It reached a point in late August 2007 where I felt like a shell of my old self. I didn’t eat, I barely slept, I didn’t want to wash my hair or make myself look nice, I didn’t want to go out and I didn’t want to engage with the outside world. I was well and truly in my own bubble, and it took a good few months for me to break out of it and start connecting with the world once more.
Thankfully, when it all came to a head at the end of August, where things just became too much and I felt like I was spiralling down a continuously slippery slope, I managed to speak with both my mum and dad and let out everything that was swirling around in my head. Although they were both a huge help, even with my mum recovering from a mastectomy and undergoing radiotherapy treatment, I think even they didn’t know what was going on with me. Maybe they did realise it was probably all linked to my mum being ill, or maybe they just thought I was going through some weird teenage phase. Who knows, but talking to them and getting everything out there helped me in more ways than you could imagine.
I know I’ve rambled on, and this is no way the full story of my mum’s illness and how my teenage self reacted and coped with the situation, but what I really wanted to highlight by writing this post was that if you’re also going through a tough time, for whatever reason that may be, and if you currently feel like things are never going to get better, stay strong. It may seem like your life will never be the same again, and that you’ll never feel happy or normal again. But I promise you, the time will come when you push through everything you’re going through, and you’ll come out the other end stronger and back to your old self.
You’ll probably be somewhat changed after everything you’ve been through, but it will be a learning experience and something that you will take with you through the rest of your life. It may seem like the end of the world at the time, and trust me, it takes a long time to overcome something major you’ve experienced, I’m still getting over my mum’s illness and subsequent death, and it’s been 10 years since she was diagnosed and just over eight since she passed away. You do get through it though. You’re stronger than you think, and you’ll come out the other side as a better version of yourself. Keep your chin up, don’t let your demons win, and I promise you that things do and will get better.