How Do I Feel? The Psychological Aspect to Recovering From A Mastectomy. PART 1

Confidence and Who You Are

 

I am not one to air my laundry or feelings online. I am in fact one of those people who roll their eyes when they read a facebook update about something personal, or about an argument or someone feeling blue. Why put it online? Talk to your friends and family about it, it is surely more beneficial. I wouldn’t want people I have met a few times to know my deepest thoughts and feelings. Having said that, here I am… writing a blog post about how I feel. Contradictory to my introduction!

 

The reason for this post is not to do the whole ‘oh look at me, I feel so blue’ but to reassure people who have had their mastectomy that down days, or moments are in fact the norm.

 

At this present moment, just over 5 weeks post op, I don’t feel comfortable or confident with myself. What a silly thing to say, I know. Also, unless you go through something like a mastectomy, surgery or illness that can impact your life, I think it may be difficult to understand. Hopefully this will help those supporting someone, have an idea of how they may feel. Likewise, those recovering or waiting for their operation, hopefully it will offer some reassurance about how you may fee. Obviously everyone is different, and therefore you may not feel like this at all. You may feel the opposite or you may feel worse. But I wanted to ensure that if you do have a moment or two like this, you know it isn't uncommon.                                                                                

I have split how I feel in to two parts, self-confidence and body confidence.

 

Self-confidence

 

Before my op, I was very independent. I liked doing things, being at work, being mentally stimulated and generally liking that I had the ability to do things for myself. During recovery, I have had to go against my inner independence and people have had to do things for me. I have not been able to open things, lift items, move a chair or really simple day to day tasks. Several weeks after my mastectomy and I am gradually starting to do things again, but there is this overarching worry of ‘what if it hurts?’, ‘can I do this?’. Then other times, you forget that you are limited. For example, the post man delivered a parcel last week, I opened the door, as you would to take the delivery but dropped it the moment he put it in my hands, as it was ridiculously heavy for me. The reality is, it was not very heavy at all, but having my chest muscle cut open has (obviously) impacted my upper body strength. I find these moments highly frustrating-how hard is it to hold a parcel? Open a cupboard door that is slightly stiff? This, I have found then reminds you of what you have been through, why you cannot do things…. Frustration then turning to sadness at not being able to be myself.

 

I always knew recovery would be tough, and would take time. But I was hoping that my inner strength would just push on through, dominate and I would be able to carry on as normal. Clearly, this is not the case. If you find yourself at this stage, I think it is important to know that you are not the only one to have felt this way. You are not the first, nor the last! I would say remind yourself that this is just temporary and if you are like me, and quite bloody minded, you need to instruct yourself that this is how it is, and you’ve got to accept it for a while. My Macmillan psychologist did warn me that this may be my reaction and advised directing my leadership in to delegation. So, still feeling in control, but not necessarily doing everything myself. Again, another reason why taking up support from such services offered can be really beneficial. Another example of where things take time, so patience (which I am USELESS at) is important. 

Current or past psychology students of mine as I know some of you follow this site... (always teaching)  could I apply/implement Skinner's there of reinforcement to help? Think small tasks. Would a cognitive psychologist suggest I have faulty thinking? CHALLENGE: What would a humanistic psychologist make of it?