So, yesterday I had my appointment with the psychologist. For the first time, the system broke down - I had booked the appointment a few weeks ago through the main hospital switchboard but it hadn't been transferred to the psychologist's diary, so she was totally unaware that I was turning up! My appointment was at 2, and she saw me at 2.40 and apologised that because it hadn't been in her diary, she could only give me 20 minutes, as she had a 3.00 appointment. In the end, however, I was there till 3.30, from which you might gather that there was rather a lot to talk about. To the poor 3 o'clock appointment who had to wait - I apologise. The other glitsch was that her notes recorded that at my previous visit (my assessment), I had asked to transfer to a counsellor at another hospital - errr, no! Cue much confusion and apologising.
We had a long chat and I got upset. Why? Because I feel ugly, because I feel guilty for not being more grateful that I am in remission, because I still don't believe I am in remission, because I am anxious about leaving the house and being seen, because I miss exercising, because I don't feel attractive, because everything feels so uncertain and so on.....out it all came. Feelings of guilt. Feelings of ungratefulness. Feelings of anxiety. Feelings of sadness. Feelings of loss. Feeling unattractive and ugly.
She asked me if I ever just curled up in a ball and howled. "No", I answered. "Why not?" - because I feel I should be coping and not getting upset. After all, I am still alive and the doctors reckon they've got rid of all the cancer. Why do I feel it's so important to cope? Because it's what I do. Always have done. And it's hard to think or feel that actually, maybe I am not coping so well with this. I don't like the lack of control I have over so many things - the after-effects of the treatment affect what I can eat and drink, how I eat and drink, what I am physically able to do. I told her how much I miss running and other exercise. How I have to steel myself, even after several months, to leave the house and be seen. How I feel as if my face isn't really part of me but something I take out with me, some ugly adjunct. How wonderful Neil has been, and the children, and my friends and that I worry that getting upset and not coping will make them feel bad or guilty. How I can't see my life returning to any kind of normality that I am comfortable with.
We talked it through and she said (and I know she said this before) that I have to give myself permission to be angry or sad. I have suffered a huge loss and I need to grieve for that. I have had a life-threatening illness and I need to deal with that. My life won't return to what it was and nor will my face. I need to deal with that. After completing a couple of questionnaires, she assessed me as having mild to moderate depression (not clinical depression, more reactive to the situation - can't remember the exact term she used) and borderline anxiety and said that she would have been more surprised if I hadn't turned out to have some kind of depression, given what I've gone through and am still going through. She suggested that I talk to my GP about whether anti-depressants would be a good idea for me and she's going to arrange further counselling sessions for me with her, on a regular basis. The combination of talk therapy and ADs is apparently very successful in cases like mine.
So, there we have it. I am not coping and I need help. I find it strange and unsettling, as I am used to being in control and being able to manage situations and to be struggling like this is new territory for me. I am not one of those people who thinks it's perfectly right to go for help if you break your leg but your mind is just something you sort out yourself - I have never been like that. I am just finding it a bit hard to process the fact that I need this kind of help myself now. I've booked the appointment with my GP for a fortnight's time (can't see him any earlier and I think that I need to talk to the person who knows my medical history best) and in the meantime I am going to give free rein to my emotions and feelings. I have already said to Neil that the diagnosis in no way reflects on the support and help that he has given me, because I do worry that he might think he's not done enough for me - nothing could be further from the truth. This is just another thing in a long list of things - another ripple in the pond caused by a big stone called Cancer being lobbed into it.
I have done my daily walk into town today and ventured into a few shops. It doesn't get any easier but it has to be done.