When I first was diagnosed with throat cancer I was unafraid of the dreaded disease and even less so death. I still am. My approach to the whole thing, my positive attitude revealed me as I have always been with ill health. Get on with it. However, even with my daily practice of being mindful, of meditating which soon was forgotten as events, events of my own making, overtook me things took a severe downturn. My family put it best for between them all, even though my kids have never seen me have a seizure only my wife, they have seen me shrug off one heart attack, three strokes and the usual illnesses that life throws at you. Why then did I go into a mental meltdown? I have said to one and all who read this blog I live in the now. I am unconcerned with the past as it has gone and no one knows what the future holds as it hasn't happened yet. So what on earth went wrong?
I did. I allowed my mind to control me rather than me controlling my mind. First, though there was the matter of a family crisis. My daughter Grace and son-in-law and the proud parents of Lily, Lily Bug as they call her. Lily was born with Cystic Fibrosis, an illness that can, in extremes kill you or, as with very many sufferers foreshorten life. Some who have CF can expect to only live to forty but there are many now who have, through the advance of medical science, reached sixty.
Both Grace and Brett have struggled to come to terms with their daughter having CF. There is a lot of time taken up with caring for an infant with Cystic Fibrosis. They needed a break. A holiday had been booked for the family in Scotland. They asked me did I want them to remain at home to support me through the process of radiotherapy which I was in the early stages of having. I said no, I wanted Grace to have a break, to get away from it all. On the day my family left, a Saturday I went into mental meltdown. My neighbours saw me pacing up and down the pavement shouting out. They kindly took me in, tried to calm me but eventually contacted Anne the senior nurse of the Oncology Team who called for an ambulance which took me to A&E. Patients with cancer normally attend treatment as an outpatient. In my case, they made an exception.
Things went from bad to worse. Anxiety attacks began to appear all the time with me walking up and down the length of the ward I was in, then around the hospital and even beyond. All of this due to my inability to recall my practice, to remember to breathe, to count my breaths, to realise that my fears were groundless as they all were based on what might happen not what was happening. For the weeks I was in the hospital, I can't remember how many, I had panic attack after panic attack. Why?
When a diabetic, certainly me, becomes low in sugar he has to first take some fast acting sugars, liquids are best and then eat some slow acting carbohydrate. At that stage I had to take painkillers one-half hour before eating, a period far too long should my sugar drop. I think this was the cause of my anxiety as I no longer was in control of my diabetes. As I said previously if only I had maintained my daily practice I doubt this would have happened. At one stage I was taken to the mental health wing of Basildon hospital. Jasmine and Grace took me there having returned from their week in Scotland. As I entered the building I was whisked away before being shown my room. Jasmine and Grace were not allowed to say goodbye to me by an over-diligent jobsworth who wouldn't let them in. I arrived at eight in the evening and didn't see a doctor until one in the morning of the next day.
Lorazepam became my best friend during these dark days. I really dislike that drug, its addictive properties and the fact I didn't really need it had I put into practice what I have spoken of here - mindfulness. Then came the flare-up of my ulcer followed by another week in the hospital. I was discharged in time to be home for Christmas. It was lovely to be home and to be with my family, my children and grandchildren. Still, the panic attacks plagued me. The Mental Health Crisis became involved after Jasmine phoned them. They have been incredibly caring and supportive helping get back to my usual self. I no longer need them as I have returned to my daily routine.
What's gone has gone. It happened but that is over now, in the past and there s nothing I can do about it. I have let it go. No shame, no regrets and no guilt. These peculiar events shape us so that we are self-aware of our weaknesses and therefore know how to deal with them should they happen again,
Now? The Mental Health issues as I said have gone. There are many people far worse than me who suffer as a result of mental health. Their condition is beyond mindfulness and I am in no way suggesting all mental health issues can be beaten by how I now control my mind. Not all can. Having been home now for over a month each day I awake I feel a little better. My throat is still sore but is gradually healing. I tire very easily. The smallest and simplest of tasks means my having to sit down and rest. Loading and unloading the dishwasher or the washing machine before putting the laundry into the tumble dryer. Ironing is the worse as I am slow at the task and stand whilst doing the job. I sit down but...today I took Wiley for a walk for the first time. We were out an hour and a half. I was knackered when I came home but very pleased. I am getting better, on the mend. The Oncology Team say this tiredness might last until June. I intend to prove them wrong and be back at work by the tail end of March.
However, you perceive God, be it as a deity or something else, may your God bless you..
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.