[Preface: I have amazing support from my family, Paige, my church, friends, doctors & other health professionals. I am lucky. But it’s still a struggle.]
“It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.”Hugh Laurie
For me, the revelation came after a sequence of words. Like a certain combination and cadence unlocked a door. “You’re not feeling yourself today, are you?” That was what my nurse asked at my latest cancer center check-in. Before the question was even done I felt the tears welling up in my eyes and then hot streaks down my cheeks. “No,” I answered weakly.
Heath-wise I’ve been okay recently. My steroid dosage was increased but only a little and the side effects are minor. It’s helped the stomach pain dissipate and the fatigue is slightly better. But something happened at the GI doctor’s office when I went to check-out. The last step before leaving is going to a check-out window and talking to someone. I’m used to this just being a scheduling discussion or a talk about what to-do and what not to-do. But this time the sole purpose of this face-to-face was to collect money. “Okay, so I see you haven’t met you deductible yet, so you owe us this about.”
Everything else this year has been billed and most hasn’t even been mailed to me yet. My deductible last year was met so fast because it was probably hit within 45 minutes of my hospitalization. This was the first encounter I was having with someone needing to be paid right away. I was stuck in a mental calculation loop. I couldn’t make eye contact with the check-out lady. I was running through scenario after scenario. I told her that I was sorry but I couldn’t do this, and I would have to cancel the rest of my appointments and pay this bill later.
I think she must have had to deal with this a few times before because she didn’t react sharply. She told me in a quiet voice, “It’s okay. You can go. We’ll just mail this to you. It’ll be alright.” I did leave, but I left dazed. If I was going to have to start paying at time of service I was going to have to find someway to magically make a pile of money appear.
Working more is an option. But with an additional specialist, appointments were becoming at least a once-a-week duty. And these appointments aren’t a quick “pop-the-hood, all clear”-and-go. A morning appointment usually uses my energy for the day. Typically, I have enough time to get back, rest and then get kid(s) and help with food.
Plus, the time away from work is what’s helping my healing. If I do go into full-work mode again, my fear is that I would be opening up the door to a reoccurrence. So more work wouldn’t be a good choice.
I could…sell stuff? Ask parents? None of these options were real solutions. My thoughts spiraled and spiraled downwards.
To be clear, I could’ve easily handed the check-out lady a credit card, or even gone to an ATM and paid with cash. But I was frozen and powerless. I just couldn’t do it, despite the ability to do it. And it was like having an out-of-body experience, watching my own inability to complete a simple task. This is how the sadness really hooks you. I think this sadness is called depression.
I open this post with the Hugh Laurie quote about being ready, because I’m not ready. I’m not ready for a lot of things. But there is now, and “you may as well do it now.”
I am admitting that I am struggling with depression in my life.
It’s wonderful to be a survivor. I get that. But depression doesn’t go away by taking stock of all the fortunate things that have happened in your life. This is, whether I like it or not, part of the experience of survivorship and being human. It’s taking a lot of overcoming just to get this all down on a screen, but I can’t pump out another blog post trying to offer insight into something spiritual when this is what is happening in my head. I wouldn’t want to read anyone’s insincerity and if I can be a model for my own children, maybe this can give them some courage to admit difficult things in their life when they have to, not when they’re ready.
I title this post Everything and Nothing for a couple of reasons. Everything and Nothing is a paradox I contemplate on many times during meditation. But it’s also what depression in this stage of survivorship feels like for me.
I have my life, but what sort of life is it?