One Reason: LOTS of chatter on the interwebz about positivity lately. Advice that cancer patients should “be positive”. And I’m seeing a very disturbing lack of understanding for those who are labeled “negative” (although I do NOT label myself that way). My new favorite quote applies here: “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” – Nietzsche
Another Reason: I’ve been really, really, REALLY busy—too busy to write. I sit down each day and skim stuff to read and then fall asleep before I can get started. Hope to change that next week.
Posted on July 29, 2013 by Cancer Curmudgeon
A very special thanks to Tumblr buddy lux-fiam, who guided me as I struggled with this post, and to my IRL spoonie/fake psychiatrist/professor friend, with whom I fight The Overwhelming.
For the people who say “thanks for this.”
This post is about allowing myself and encouraging others to do cancer any way we damn well please.
Just prior to starting this blog, and in the hazy days of bouncing back from the treatment side effects, I was in a bit of a depression. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I had no time or energy to find blogs while I was actively in treatment and working my ass off. During treatment I was not happy with the rah-rah/pink/warrior culture that was the most prevalent form of support available (except in the diagnosed-under-40 support group, thank goodness). After I made some life changes, I was pleased to finally be able to take some time and dig around and find blogs or articles that said some of the thoughts that were more like mine, and I began blogging to interact a bit.
Around the same time I found other blogs, I had an epiphany. I was at some event last autumn with other cancer patients and expressing some anger. A fellow attendee started suggesting stress reduction methods, telling me that I must “accept” my cancer and ended her pseudo-lecture with “you can’t be angry all the time.” I was just so sick of this type of lecture; it wasn’t the first time I’d heard words of that nature. And BTW, I don’t think people mean the dictionary definition of “accept” when they tell me to do that; I think they really mean “shut up and sit down”.
There I was, a 40-year-old woman, being talked down to like a 6-year-old, because, being, ahem, a couple decades younger than most in the room, I was the youngster, the newbie; never mind I’d finished treatment already. I was not a cancer expert (and still am not), but I wasn’t a novice either, for crying out loud.
Then it hit me—why was I even listening? I can be angry if I want! I probably thought those sentences in the petulant voice of the 6-year-old me, but the minute I did, half the anger just fell away. And it continues to fall away still. By giving myself permission to be angry, sad, frustrated, etc., I become less so, especially with each post I write. Sure, anger & other bad company are still there, but in a weakened and more useful way–they inspire and motivate me, to speak up or write these posts. Whether they should be posted and sent into the blogosphere—I’ll get to that in a minute.
While I get that people who say “think positive/cheer up” and that sort of thing are well-intentioned, maybe even trying to help—the result for me is the opposite. I just get more pissed off, because in my mind, my feelings are being diminished, dismissed, blown off. That never feels good. Cancer sucks, but being told how to do cancer sucks too. Part of the crapfest that is cancer is the culture around it (especially true in breast cancer), and the culture demands conformity, and as I’ve said in previous posts, I cannot do conformity. It is great that the normal, socially acceptable warrior/pink/rah-rah methods work for the majority of folks, I can respect that. I’ve seen people swallow negativity and wondered if they could achieve better peace by letting it out, but it is not my place to tell them what to do. And I don’t want to be told what to do/how to handle cancer either.
This blog is to escape and to challenge all of the bullshit in the warrior cancer/don’t worry, be happy world that just does not ring true for me. Here, I express my thoughts in my way, no matter if they are angry, or blunt, or whatever other unpleasant adjectives can be applied to them. Here, I express my experiences of cancer without (much) self-censorship. My professional life before 2012 was very constricting, so I wanted a space where the rules, limits, deadlines, ideas were mine alone. This is that space.
I think many would tell me I should keep my ugly thoughts to myself; I should stop sending negativity out into the universe, or blogosphere. But my challenge to that attitude is this: why is expressing negative feelings automatically considered a negative action—why can it not be viewed as a positive, “working through it” technique, which is kind of the point of a lot of therapy? How can bad feelings be turned around if not confronted, if they are constantly submerged, denied, hidden politely away? And most of all, why is it assumed that expressing negativity means the one expressing it is negative on the whole, and somehow not capable of experiencing other emotions (sometimes simultaneously)?
My blogs are not read by many, but the few comments I’ve gotten here or on the other blog tend to say “thanks”, and some variation of “I thought I was the only one who felt that/this is what I’ve been trying to say.” So while many hear/read thoughts that make them uncomfortable (which might be behind some of the “get happy” suggestions rather than a desire to really help), those same thoughts provide comfort to a few. I remember all too well last October not knowing what search terms to use to find people with opinions similar to mine, and I remember all too well how relieved I was to stumble, bass-ackwards, onto blogs that did express such opinions. So if my blog is just one more place someone can stumble upon and find relief, then my own victory over anger & company is nearly complete. I hope your victory can be found here too.
9 thoughts on “Posting This One Again for Reasons Part 2”
Thanks for this insightful and honest post. People are so uncomfortable with anger and many of us are taught that it is not nice, or feminine, or christian, or whatever, to be angry. I used to worry that the anger I began to spew during my cancer treatments was going to hurt me, that somehow my anger was going to interfere with my healing. But then I discovered that the opposite was true. Getting in touch with my anger…and yes, even RAGE, was key to my healing. Denying, repressing, rationalizing, ignoring, minimizing my anger and my true feelings were actually killing me.
You made my day Liz! I strongly believe what you described is the way to go–it helped me for sure! Glad you shared your experience here–thank you!
I love how you are genuine. You are so right in that talking about real feelings does not mean we are being negative. All feelings are valid. It sometimes seems that if we aren’t walking around feeling positive all the time and talking about all the things cancer has ‘taught’ us, we are being negative. I hate cancer and I am grateful for blogs like yours that don’t pretty it up.
Thanks Nancy–yes that really baffles me, that expressing anything other than positive emotions is viewed as negative action. Isn’t getting something off your chest, ya know, a “good thing”? Sigh. And thank YOU–I am grateful for your blog, and you, which has greatly improved my life. I never want to portray cancer as anything other than what it is for me–the opposite of pretty. I will continue to strive to be genuine and honest as possible.
I LOVE the way you challenge the bullshit. I’ve been bullied by positive thinking pushers, and while they think they are showing us a “better” way to do our own cancer, it pisses me off as well. I’m pretty bloody happy, for someone with no idea when the last tumour or complication will end my life, most days are filled with laughs and good stuff. But I embrace all of my emotions, real, honest, human emotions, they all motivate and inspire me to do what I must to get on with things, or grab my blanket, all totally justified and acceptable behaviours… What right does anyone have to push their positive feel good views down my throat? Our throats? None. Thanks for reposting this one CC…
Thank you Carolyn, your words were needed today. I too embrace all my emotions, which are often conflicting. And yes, I am generally happy, tho’ I suspect most folks do not think I am, because of all the curmudgeoning. Oh well. Thanks for checking in–so glad to see you back in the blogosphere!
Honesty shouldn’t be confused with an emotional state. 😉 Thanks hon!