30 Sep My Big Fat Emotional Meltdown #CCAM
On a random, uneventful Thursday evening this September, I had the most momentous emotional meltdown ever. Looking back, it had been swelling inside me for a few months but that one evening, the stars collided causing a tumultuous wave of emotions to come flooding and crashing out. I cried, I sobbed and wailed for hours into the night and into the morning taking days to subside and finally ebb away.
Things had been building for a couple of months. Felix’s blood counts have been unstable since the end of June with low platelets leading to chemo holds left, right and centre. According to our consultant, this is to be unexpected during the last year of treatment because of the amount of chemotherapy he has endured; this does not make it any easier. There has also been a significant change in our home life with Dylan resigning from his well-paid full-time teaching job to work alongside me at Go Fish Education. This has been emotionally demanding for all of us but certainly, a decision that was needed for his mental health. There is also the fact that the end of treatment is becoming more of a reality which fills with me with unbridled excitement combined with utter fear. At the moment, it is still slightly out of reach but occasionally my fingertips brush against the actuality of it. The actuality is fused with such intense emotion it is somewhat incomprehensible.
On top of this swirling and the unpredictable ocean of feelings and emotions, came Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. A campaign that I wholeheartedly support but one which is so close to home it’s sometimes too much. Bearing all this in mind, an emotional meltdown was almost unavoidable.
So what was the trigger?
During Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, I do all I can to help charities by sharing our story and experiences. I can usually cope with it all absolutely fine – I write blogs, do interviews, create and share images without any issue at all. Until one Wednesday when I was doing a telephone interview with a charity. This is nothing unusual and something I ordinarily do with ease. So, I settled myself down with a coffee and started our story. All was going swimmingly until I was asked to describe our first night on Piam Brown when Felix was diagnosed. As the words came out so did the tears. I hadn’t thought about that first night on Piam Brown until this moment. The feelings of utter fear, confusion and bewilderment came flooding back. I recalled that first night. The hours spent wide awake by Felix’s bed watching him sleep. I tried to sob quietly out of respect for the other family in the ward. I stared at him and tried to tune out the sound of the monitors and children crying. I looked at his innocence and knew that his and our lives would never be the same again. I felt so lonely in that ward. So scared. So powerless. Bewildered. At around 2am the nurse brought me tea and tissues in an attempt to comfort me. I will always be grateful for that compassion during the darkest night of my life.
The phone call ended and all of a sudden I felt exhausted. Utterly tired of it all. I felt depleted. That is the essence of it. The last two and half years had finally taken its toll – I was spent. Twenty-four hours later I sobbed it all out. It was a purge of dormant emotions and feelings that had built up since that first night on Piam Brown.
So what happened next?
Embarrassed by my extremely puffy eyes and being unable to get away with wearing sunglasses, I had to tell people about my emotional meltdown. And for once, I told it for all its glory. I was so surprised by the intensity and power behind the meltdown I described it to people in detail, including the triggers that led up to it. No one had seen in coming as I always appear to cope so well with my positive and pragmatic attitude.
I always believe that you have to reach rock bottom sometimes to gain clarity and move forward. This was one of those moments.
What have I learnt from this emotional meltdown?
If you talk about your lows, honestly and openly with others you will soon find that others are struggling. Those others are probably your friends who appear the most reliable, dependable and stable. We hide it well.
Next time you see a friend, instead of asking them, ‘how are you?’ try asking them, ‘how are you feeling today?’ And if someone asks you, don’t take the easy option of ‘I’m fine’ – tell them how you’re feeling. You may be sad, worried or lonely or conversely, you might be feeling content, happy or excited. If they really care and respect you, they will want to hear about it.
As we leave September behind I can safely say I now feel energised following my purge of emotions. We have just under 7 months of treatment to go and I know we can do this thing. There will be more tears on the way I’m sure of that and fine with that. It’s totally OK not to be OK!