Last week, I had a real treat: for the first time in a long time, I went to the Art Institute of Chicago, famous for its impressionist paintings, among other artwork. On a pitch perfect day, I met a dear friend whom I hadn’t seen for awhile at the museum. We had lunch, laughed, caught up on our lives, sat in beautiful outdoor spaces. Then we went to the galleries with the impressionist paintings and marvelled at what was before us.
Art museums give me a sense of spiritual awe that I can never find in organized religion.
I had to leave at 3:00 to catch my 3:30 train to my suburb. I had walked a total of about two miles to and from the Art Institute from the train station, something I can easily do, as I am an avid walker. Yet, this time, walking to and from the museum was difficult for me. I felt enormous fatigue, and when I got home, I collapsed on the couch and felt 100 years old. I spent the entire next day recuperating from such a tiring adventure, an adventure that, years ago, was an easy feat. And I was disappointed because I couldn’t figure out where the fatigue was coming from.
True, having had cancer has caused me fatigue. But something else was wrong. I was over the pneumonia. Then I realized the cause of my fatigue:
The medications I’m taking for depression and anxiety seem to have become less effective.
Every night I have insomnia, and it’s so difficult to get up every morning. If I didn’t have responsibilities, I’d be sleeping all day. I’m depressed in the day and anxious at night.
I no longer find what was my most joyful activity — creating art — pleasant. I used to feel so inspired and buoyed by the masters of art that whenever I’d go to a museum, I’d hurry home to create art. There was nothing so exciting as feeling the brushstrokes on canvas. Now, it doesn’t even feel good to paint, and I haven’t painted in a long time. The truth is, my joy bank has run dry.
Psychotherapy helps, but I’m far from the person I used to be and want to be. I want to feel good painting with my daughter and especially with myself, gaining that sense of flow I used to have.
I am in anguish and despair.
Luckily for me, I have an appointment with my psychiatrist in a couple of weeks, and it may be time — I hate to admit — for a medication change. This scares me to no end because it can take two weeks of hell to adjust to psychotropic medication.
And then there’s the stigma against people with mental health issues. There’s always the stigma. And weighty judgment against me for needing medication. No matter how many people preach against the mental health stigma, it’s there — an albatross around my neck.
I’m taking care of myself the best way I know how. And yet, it doesn’t seem to be enough to lift my spirits. I’ve never been the same since cancer; my brain chemistry has changed.
At the same time, I must not focus on the damage that having had cancer caused my psyche and forge ahead.
I must be brave enough to face a possible change in medication regimen.
I must be brave enough to combat the depression and anxiety.
I must be brave enough to face the stigma daily.
I must be brave.
Have you ever have had problems with depression or anxiety? I’m curious to know your experiences.
Tags: anxiety, cancer, cancer and depression, cancer and fatigue, depression, psychotropic medication