I would rather have cancer than schizophrenia, bipolar or chronic depression.
Even though I am terminal I get so much more support than if I had mental health issues. People are not afraid to talk to me about my cancer and ask questions, but if I was suffering from mental health much fewer people would approach me or offer support.
1 in 4 Canadians have been diagnosed with mental health issues, but it makes me wonder how many have not been properly diagnosed or are ashamed to get diagnosed.
1 in 2 Canadians will be diagnosed with some sort of cancer in their life time.
Why is mental health not considered TERMINAL? When I was going through my process of not knowing what was wrong with my body everyone told me that I had depression and I needed to get over it. Anyone that I told I had depression and was medicated seemed to avoid me and didn’t know how to support me. Everyone seemed so uncomfortable.
Now, with a diagnosis of Stage 4 Breast Cancer I have an abundance of support, everyone wanting to help and basically knocking down my door to help. Where was all this support when I was seemingly struggling with depression? Would everyone have been so ready to support if I was still dealing with depression as my main diagnosis? What lengths would I have had gone to to get the magnitude of support? Would I have to claim that I was suicidal, even though I was not? Would I have to be put away in a mental health facility to make my disease of mental health heard and taken seriously?
Sometimes I feel that my mental health issues was way more of a struggle than the physical effects of cancer. This is why I think mental health should be considered terminal. Suicidal individuals should be considered terminal because we are both fighting a potential death end result caused by our disease. It is just as great a risk to someone who is suicidal and doesn’t or can’t get help.
If I don’t get the correct cancer medication the result is death. With cancer, I get a nurse that comes in and dotes on my every need. When I feel down and depressed she sits and listens to me, massages me and does everything in her power to pick me up and ensure I am feeling better. With my mental health, I was left in a bed, alone, suffering through my own thoughts. No nurse to rub my feet to listen to me. Family tried to support, but I wasn’t totally open with them at the risk of sounding crazy and misunderstood.
Prior to my cancer diagnosis, my husband and I were looking into mental health facilities to help with my depression. Shockingly there was no help for me if I didn’t need help for addictions.
I was wrongly diagnosed with clinical depression. With being told over and over I was depressed and not being believed that it was something else at the core of my symptoms, I felt so incredibly alone and unheard. I started to lose hope that I would ever be well again. I felt alone and secluded myself. No one listened that the medications were not working and I was worried why I felt like an alien was growing inside of me. I seriously wondered what was wrong with me. If you lose hope you have nothing, and I lost hope.
Hope came after a severe pain crisis, after the alien finally took over. Rushed to the hospital curled up in a ball on a stretcher, my body filled with electrifying bolts of pain, I was finally heard. My pain wasn’t mental, it was physical pain, not depression. After some tests I was sat down in a room with my husband and family, where a doctor had to deliver some of the worst words ever to pass through their lips to me: “You have Stage 4 Cancer.” The sympathetic look of the doctor quickly turned to confusion as my excitement grew. “I’m not crazy!!!” Is all I could think in a wave of relief. Others would see cancer at stage 4 as a bad thing. Not me! I was so happy there was actually something physically wrong with me. My depression was lifted so quickly.
Even though my depression lifted and my mental illness disappeared, I can reflect back and realize that I was depressed. Not knowing what is wrong with your body and not being able to articulate that feeling to others made me feel alone and unheard. I have such empathy for people who struggle with any sort or mental health issues. Sometimes it felt as if I were yelling and had no voice.
It can take up to 7 years for a person with mental health to get their medications and treatments right. It has taken me less than 7 months with my cancer to figure out medications and treatments.