Take That, Trauma!
Posted: May 23, 2022
Healing from trauma is hard, but we're here to help you with it.
If malignant cells could take their mental and emotional baggage with them when they go, that would be great! Unfortunately, the psychological impacts of cancer won’t go away with any amount of chemo or radiation...
“Cancer is more than just a physical condition – it imprints on your soul.” – Jenny Leyh, Cancer Thriver
From the moment of your diagnosis, cancer can traumatize you.
You suddenly feel unsafe in your own body. It’s impossible not to freak out about your prognosis even if it’s “good”. As if that wasn’t enough, the divorce cancer creates from your former life becomes compounding trauma. Sort of like death by a thousand cuts, things that may seem small at the time add up and cause major damage to your psyche. Missing out on family events, losing a career that you loved, and the ice in your veins as you wait for the results of the latest tests all count towards trauma.
If your malignancy is shrinking or you’ve reached remission, you may develop guilt for “sweating the small stuff” and being so affected by your experience. It’s important to remember that trauma isn’t one-size-fits all and what you’re feeling is valid.
(Image thanks to @spirit2spirithealing.)
The thing about trauma is that it demands to be noticed. There’s a significant connection between trauma and chronic health conditions like heart disease, gastrointestinal disease, skin problems, and more. It can also manifest as emotional dysregulation, somatization, sleep disturbances, numbing, and hypervigilance.
Effectively coping with the trauma of cancer is essential to wellness. This looks different for everyone, but here are a few things that have helped the buddhi team:
We’ve talked about the health benefits of journaling before. It’s no surprise, then, that some psychotherapists recommend expressive writing as a coping technique for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with PTSD during or after cancer, journaling can still help you achieve post traumatic growth.
If your creativity feels as blocked as North Lake Shore Drive at rush hour everytime you pick up a pen, we’ve got your back, bud. These simple prompts can help you get started:
1. In the HEAL Documentary, Deepak Chopra dives into the importance of learning how to witness your inner world. After watching this quick clip, try writing about your inner perceptions and attempting to identify your limiting beliefs. Next, ask yourself, “Where did this belief come from? When did it take root?”
2. Write a script for a conversation that takes place between your body and your mind. Think of this as an exercise to tap into what you’re feeling and discover new insights about the mind-body connection. It might look like this example from The Mindful Word:
Self: Body, why are you so exhausted?
Body: You saw the test results.
Self: I did, and I didn’t like them. I’m afraid of my disease.
Body: I think we need to make some changes.
Self: What are you thinking? Maybe diet?
And so on…
3. Don’t underestimate the power of gratitude. Make a list of the positive things your experience with cancer has brought into your life. Perhaps you made a new friend, have embraced a healthier diet, or find yourself more appreciative of life’s simple pleasures? You might find that the list is longer than you thought.
Let new habits bloom in your life, like the addition of a meditation practice. We won’t put you through yet another breakdown of the benefits of mindfulness. There are so many mental and physical benefits – as well as meditation techniques – it’s nearly impossible to create an exhaustive list.
If you want to give meditation a try, but find yourself shying away because you feel overwhelmed, a wellness app like Calm can help. There are guided meditations, relaxing breathing exercises, white noise and music options to help you sleep, and daily reminders to help you stay motivated in your meditation practice.
BONUS: By tracking your meditation activities in an app, it’s easier to figure out what’s really working so that you can do more of it!