Maybe it’s just STRESS!!!

Since Nov 4, 2006 (when I found the swollen lymph node that started my cancer journey) this house (my family) has been under an usual amount of stress and emotional fatigue. Thru my diagnosis, surgery and treatment it was a roller coaster. I’ve been in remission since May 2007.

On Superbowl Sunday 2008 I got a text message from my father that started the next roller coaster…it would eventually lead to another cancer diagnosis in the family and lead to all sorts of new stress and emotional crap.

So…combined with regular everyday stress, work, bills, life in general…extended family bullshit has led me to this state of Burnout. It has affected my performance at work which had to be addressed with my boss and has been slowly eroding other areas of my family life as well.

It got so bad- a situation at work lead me to finally question and doubt and second guess everything…EVERYTHING. So I called Livestrong. I had to ask about Chemo Brain. Certainly it’s possible. Right?

I saw my Primary Care Physician for blood work follow-up on blood pressure issues and cholesterol numbers from my recent physical. So given the opportunity to talk about it I asked her about “mental fatigue” …forgetting simple things like which towel is mine or my wife’s. ??? after 13 years of marriage I can’t recall the towel on the higher rung is mine? Always has been?!?

She blamed it on stress and being too overwhelmed. She said quote: “We can only multi-task so much” and she advised me to keep an eye on it and if it gets out of hand to call her. Thankfully she didn’t dismiss it but I didn’t ask about chemo brain either. She has gone on record that the cancer is gone and the rest of my health needs to be taken into consideration. She would have dismissed Chemo brain as a source.

So even though I have not called the Cancer Center of L.I. back yet, I am concentrating on somehow managing the stress I have, doing what I can and moving on. The rest will just have to fall away…

Some notes on Stress:

Long-term exposure to stress can lead to serious health problems. Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can raise blood pressure, suppress the immune system, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, contribute to infertility, and speed up the aging process. Long-term stress can even rewire the brain, leaving you more vulnerable to anxiety and depression.

Cognitive symptoms of stress:

  • Memory problems
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Poor judgment
  • Seeing only the negative
  • Anxious or racing thoughts
  • Constant worrying

Physical symptoms:

  • Aches and pains
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Nausea, dizziness
  • Chest pain, rapid heartbeat
  • Loss of sex drive
  • Frequent colds

Emotional Symptoms:

  • Moodiness
  • Irritability or short temper
  • Agitation, inability to relax
  • Feeling overwhelmed
  • Sense of loneliness and isolation
  • Depression or general unhappiness
  • Behavioral Symptoms:

    • Eating more or less
    • Sleeping too much or too little
    • Isolating yourself from others
    • Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities
    • Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax
    • Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

    … … … … …

    I have experienced a lot of these symptoms of late. So I think my PCP is right. Since February 2008 when this new cancer issue erupted in my family and other family dysfunction became the emotional center of the storm I have been under a tremendous amount of it.

    So in an effort to get back to myself and focus on my family and my personal needs I “walked away” from my parents and brother and began to take my life back.

    I have also started to pare down my life of the extra stuff I just can’t concentrate on anymore. I need to focus on as few things as possible. Keeping it (life) as simple as possible.

    So far I am down to: FAITH/FAMILY/WORK/WATERCOLORS.

    I have decided to level the negative stress with some relaxation. Water-colors is a throw back to my old art school days and something I have always wanted to spend time on. The “writing” can take a back seat for now…I am also getting tired of playing “beat the reaper” which is just me trying to get something accomplished before I die…I gave myself a deadline as a kid to be a professional cartoonist by my 30th birthday…life got in the way and here I am settling into 40 refocusing priorities and deciding to ease back into water-colors. Needing to let that self-imposed deadline go…I missed it, move on.

    Faith, Family, Work, Watercolors. 

    Simple.

    Direct.

    To the point.

    Suggestions on coping with Stress:

    A strong support network is your greatest protection against stress. When you have trusted friends and family members you know you can count on, life’s pressures don’t seem as overwhelming. So spend time with the people you love and don’t let your responsibilities keep you from having a social life. If you don’t have any close relationships, or your relationships are the source of your stress, make it a priority to build stronger and more satisfying connections.

    You can’t completely eliminate stress from your life, but you can control how much it affects you. Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and deep breathing activate the body’s relaxation response, a state of restfulness that is the opposite of the stress response. When practiced regularly, these activities lead to a reduction in your everyday stress levels and a boost in your feelings of joy and serenity. They also increase your ability to stay calm and collected under pressure.

    Most people ignore their emotional health until there’s a problem. But just as it requires time and energy to build or maintain your physical health, so it is with your emotional well-being. The more you put in to it, the stronger it will be. People with good emotional health have an ability to bounce back from stress and adversity. This ability is called resilience. They remain focused, flexible, and positive in bad times as well as good. The good news is that there are many steps you can take to build your resilience and your overall emotional health.

    Link: http://helpguide.org/mental/stress_signs.htm

    So as I try and take my former blog title as advice. (Taking Life One Day at a Time)…I truly am trying to live in the moment and take each day as it comes. One at a time.

    I have realized Cancer may not have killed but this stress just might. I’m not going to beat TWO cancers and let some petty emotional family bullshit run me into an early grave.

    Family dysfunction has been around since Cain killed Abel. Why should my family be any different?

    Working on getting better…

    Be Well.

    -Scotty

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    Published in: on November 4, 2009 at 9:43 am  Leave a Comment  
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