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[cancer] Coping with the emotions, a bit more thereon - Lakeshore — LiveJournal
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Jay Lake
Date: 2010-10-14 05:16
Subject: [cancer] Coping with the emotions, a bit more thereon
Security: Public
Tags:calendula, cancer, health, personal
One of the lessons of the recent contretemps with calendula_witch is that my iron-clad determination never to let cancer be an excuse for anything I've said or done may not be serving me well. This was a real important concept to me all through chemo and recovery. I clung to it as emblematic of my sense of personal responsibility.

Yet at the same time, chemo and recovery very much did fog my brain in important ways. I have been muddled. I have had inappropriate and deeply irrational thoughts, some of which I have articulated and acted upon. I have simply missed so much of the emotional transactions going on around and through me. All of this, for the most part, while lacking my usual very sharp self-awareness about such things. I literally didn't know what I was missing.

As one might imagine, this creates a lot of mistrust within me with respect to myself now. What else am I missing? What else have I missed that is yet to come home to roost?

And back to my first point, how much of this am I responsible. I don't think I can take it all in and own it all, yet my strong instinct is not to make excuses for myself.

A real muddle. We are working through it with love and care. The moral here, from a cancer blogging perspective, is that the psychological stress of cancer plus the multilayered stress and debilitations of chemo have long-ranging effects, some of which can be deceptively subtle. Or, put more simply, cancer sucks.

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Kari Sperring
User: la_marquise_de_
Date: 2010-10-14 12:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Illnesses talk. So does medication. It's like having two states of mind -- the one to which you're accustomed, and the one of the invader. In my mind, at least, the key thing is knowing this and being prepared and willing to say to others when the illness has got the upper hand.
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User: dionysus1999
Date: 2010-10-14 13:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The subtle effects are the ones that can easily be overlooked, after all. I don't think it's making excuses to acknowledge that your emotional state has been compromised by disease, or disease management. Trying to ignore the elephant in the room is never a fun game.
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User: sheelangig
Date: 2010-10-14 14:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

I don't think I can trust myself to always behave at my utmost best, no matter what is influencing my behavior. I don't think anyone can. It's part of the human condition. It's annoying as hell to have to recognize that I've been painfully, embarrassingly human; AGAIN, DAMMIT. And, of course, the person who is last in line to forgive me my sins is always me. This is not an excuse to misbehave for me. It is the bottom line command to get the hell over it and get on with todays tasks and issues. If I feel that the people I have transgressed have forgiven me, and I am working to not do it again, it's time for me to move on.

I am so relieved that you are well. I imagine those closer to you are also.

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User: voidampersand
Date: 2010-10-14 15:07 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
From my own experience, things you do when you are impaired are still you. It sucks to find out what kind of shit you will do. You have to own it. Vowing that "I will never be impaired like that again" works only if the impairment is voluntary.
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User: barbhendee
Date: 2010-10-14 15:10 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)

Oh, Jay, the last time I was truly vile to JC culminated in just an awful night.

The next day, I felt terrible about what had happened and my first instinct was to make excuses for myself--and I did have some legitimate excuses. I really do think that feeling is natural.

But after I apologized sincerely (one time), I switched gears rapidly and tried to make it up to him by playing to my strengths. This was the correct path for both me and him.

You should definitely play to your strengths, baby! (smiles). You have a lot of them.
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scarlettina: Cancer
User: scarlettina
Date: 2010-10-14 15:38 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I think it's good to be aware and it's good to be self-examining. I also think it's not incorrect to admit that when chemo's in the driver's seat, there's a limited amount you can do about it. Certainly, the aftermath requires revisiting behaviors and righting wrongs if they accumulate. But chemo is a mitigating factor here and not an inconsiderable one.

You say, "I don't think I can take it all in and own it all, yet my strong instinct is not to make excuses for myself." You're not making excuses for yourself. You were fighting for your life. You're discovering the far-reaching effect of the medications and poisons introduced into your system. You were ill in the extreme; the medications were there to help you conquer the illness; their effects were overwhelming.

Edited at 2010-10-14 03:39 pm (UTC)
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wyld_dandelyon: Working in the dark
User: wyld_dandelyon
Date: 2010-10-14 17:36 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Working in the dark
I look back at some of the things I did while my sleep apnea was untreated, and wonder how I could have done those things. They are not things I would have done with a healthy mind. And yet, I know I was doing the best I could at the time.

So, I guess, in my mind I make a distinction about what "being responsible" means in such instances. I cannot (or at least must not) blame myself for doing the best I could at the time, with the knowledge and capacities I had at that moment. No one can do more than their best, even when their best has been crippled by circumstances. And the self deserves the same consideration you would give to your loved ones in that regard.

However, I what I can do is to take to heart the interpretation of "responsible" as "able to respond". Where I did harm, or failed to do good, now that I am more able than I was then, I can try to set things right, apologise, make amends, or even merely respect the other person's stated desire to let the incident go, when that is the case.

Another thought: There's a difference between offering a true explanation and making excuses. It's subtle, but important.
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User: horace_hamster
Date: 2010-10-14 18:48 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Well said. It's important to distinguish between action and intention, and your awareness at the time of each.
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User: klwilliams
Date: 2010-10-14 19:49 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Reading about your experiences with chemo, I was struck by similarities with problems I have with bipolar disorder. In the last couple of years I've had real problems with muddled thinking, memory gaps, and concentration problems, added to the ongoing problems with having to figure out if I'm really sad or is my body just flooding my brain with chemicals that simulate sadness. Regarding the question of responsibility, I decided long ago that no matter what the cause was, it's my responsibility, largely because I can't bear the thought of releasing control to the illness. If it's my responsibility, I will do everything in my power to control my own life.
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