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Jay Lake
Date: 2010-08-10 05:54
Subject: [cancer] Fear and loathing in El Lago
Security: Public
Tags:calendula, cancer, health, personal
Excellent Italian dinner with e_bourne and markbourne last night. Much was discussed, including me unpacking more of several earlier conversations with calendula_witch about my current state of mind with respect to the cancer issues in my life.

In short, I normally have a rather high degree of self-awareness and meta-awareness. This is both a function of about thirty years of on-and-off psychotherapy, some of it quite intensive (I was a suicidal mess as a teenager, and didn't really come into a solid, secure adult identity until well into my 30s); and the whole writer-mind thing where one grows a sort of second personality to function as an internal observer (I sometimes think of it as a benign controlled schizophrenia). Even when I am behaving like an emotional buffoon, I am usually pretty clear on what I'm doing and why, which generally allows me to abbreviate the process and make the appropriate amends.

Apparently I have been reacting to the new cancer diagnosis with an existential terror so deep that I have been completely unaware of my own negative behaviors and communication tics. That in turn frightens me at a meta-level, because over the years I have come to rely very heavily on my meta-awareness. In effect, I am at risk of abrogating trust with myself. This requires a great deal more thought, and careful communication

Cancer really, really sucks. It's not just a social disease, it's a mental illness.

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User: adelheid_p
Date: 2010-08-10 13:09 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
It's a sticking point with me, but schizophrenia is not the same multiple personality disorder. Mostly because my mom (adoptive) and her brother were both diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia so I know the difference. It's a common mistake but I think it's an important distinction.
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Kari Sperring
User: la_marquise_de_
Date: 2010-08-10 13:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
In the circumstances, it's almost a sane reaction -- a way to keep living, rather than being overwhelmed. Do what you need right now: the rest will keep.
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User: keikaimalu
Date: 2010-08-10 14:03 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think anytime you travel in new and unfamiliar waters, you run the risk of discovering that parts of yourself are still a mystery to you, and that those parts may rise up and wrestle for control of the helm. Doesn't negate anything you already knew about yourself, just ultimately adds more data.

I hope you can find many ways to be gentle with and kind to yourself through this shitty, shitty situation.
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User: joycemocha
Date: 2010-08-10 15:50 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My dear, you're exercising excellent coping skills. You're facing some very existential threats to your life. What the hell do you expect? You are doing very, very well in managing yourself.

As my wmoms friend Robin Schoenthaler the cancer doctor (author of that "who holds your purse?" article) would tell you, this is expected. Dude, the fact that you can self-check, note your negative behaviors and communication tics, and try to do something about them is impressive. Not everyone with cancer can do that. If I can talk to my lovely teacher friend who's gone through chemo and radiation to see if she'll do it, do you want to talk to her? She has some excellent perspectives, and man, she is one of the sanest cancer survivors I know. Of course, for her she had the kids to focus on. Something like that makes a difference. My other teacher friend who's a survivor isn't quite so graceful. It's all in temperament, and I've got to tell you, you're doing well.

Facing cancer and dying was very hard on my mother (two/three months from diagnosis to death), and she was one very tough cookie. She did not have your meta-awareness, and there were many things she said to me while dying that hurt. However, I also realize and even realized then, at age 29, that she was scared shitless and that removed the filter she kept on her rather sharp tongue (until she was dying I didn't realize how tightly she'd filtered herself. You think I'm sharp, well, I'm nothing next to her).

My father, on the other hand, had longer to process it (long enough that the emphysema took him before the cancer) and was less sharp. He also had more time to introspect and analyze it.

Conversely, my DH's uncle who died from leukemia had several years to process through the stages of dying. That gave him time to analyze and process.

Hugs. Face the fear, and I think it's great that you are processing and recognizing what is going on with yourself.

Life is a work in progress.
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User: crystalrmartin
Date: 2010-08-11 00:23 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Can I pick your brain for a moment? I am very aware of self-awareness, but could you explain meta-awareness? I am really curious for my own learning and self-growth. :)
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-08-11 15:14 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Meta-awareness is similar to self-awareness, I suppose. Meaning, an external, relatively objective perspective on myself and my actions (ie, self-awareness) combined with a similar perspective on the situation outside the boundaries of my mental and emotional territory -- ie, work, writing, family, etc.
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