A time of rest

I recently read an article in which the author referred to the depression she went into when she heard she had a life-threatening illness as a “time of deep rest.”

I am cautious about using the terms “depressed” or “depression” as they tend to be over-used and often misused terms to describe a feeling of grief, sadness, or malaise, usually with an identifiable cause.  I have struggled with my own clinical major depressive disorder and it’s quite a different set of feelings when your brain chemistry is so out of whack that for absolutely no apparent reason you are listless, sad, anxious, and would rather be dead then open the mail or answer the phone.  So when I mention that I have felt depressed at times since learning that I have a brain tumor, I believe that what I am really dealing with is shock, confusion, and overwhelm that is so exhausting that I would rather sleep all day than attempt the day-to-day business of life.  It is exactly as though I need a time of deep rest to recover from this shock.

This is not a course I’ve ever navigated before, and there is no road map to refer to (I have a horrible sense of direction, even with a map anyways).  I have bounced between the opinions of three highly qualified doctors, and I have received countless articles about brain tumor research and treatment found on the world wide inter-webs from well-meaning loved ones. I still don’t have a diagnosis and have decided (thanks to the tie-breaker doc #3) to proceed with getting a needle-biospy of this gunk to find out what the pathology is. Three to four more weeks from now, and we may have a clue as to how to proceed with treatment.

I miss my hysterical phase of coping… the time in which I could laugh and refer to the tumor as the Galaxy named Bob and hit on unsuspecting waiters.  As I am going deeper into the trenches of my new current reality, I am simply exhausted.  What I want is to go on big, thrill-seeking adventures. What I feel is a deep need for rest. Not to be mistaken for depression.

More will be revealed (now would be nice).

Thank you, with love,

Dawn

Goodnight all.
Goodnight all.

Anonymous angels

Hanging in my bedroom in Houston.
Hanging in my bedroom in Houston.

I boarded a full flight from Denver to Houston, the kind with no assigned seating, and found a middle seat not too far back.  The usual chit chat was struck up by the gentleman on the aisle and it turns out that his wife, who was seated at the window on the other side of me, had just completed a year of aggressive breast cancer treatment at MD Anderson and is now cancer-free.  They both raved about the level of care and medical expertise by the oncologists there, and assured me that I would be in excellent hands. I took this as a sign that I am definitely heading to the right place.

I stepped off the plane in Houston, and the first thing that caught my eye was a giant billboard above the terminal advertising MD Anderson Cancer Center. Yep, sign number two.

The very literal sign #2
The very literal sign #2

I then had an hour to wait for my mom’s flight from Florida to arrive.  I took a comfortable seat at the back of a coffee shop and dug out all my electronic devices that had been “powered down and stowed under the seat in front of me for the duration of the flight.”  I connected to the airport wi-fi and was pulling up my Pandora when I overheard three young men next to me discussing scholarly texts about the Bible. I became curious and asked if they happened to be seminary students.  Two were pastors, and the other was a seminary student.  They had been in Houston for a conference about building peace and justice centers in local communities, and the student was about to fly to Ferguson, MO to implement a program there.  I introduced myself, dropped my brain tumor bomb at their feet, and boldly asked them to pray with and for me.  I was very moved by their kindness to a complete stranger asking for spiritual help, and by their words of prayer as we sat huddled in a circle in the back of a crowded airport coffee shop.  They then very humbly thanked ME, and gave me one of their email addresses to update them when I have more news.

I’ve heard many times that coincidences are God’s way of staying anonymous. I was sent many angels today to let me know that I am in the right place and that I will be healed.

More will be revealed… Love,

Dawn

Breathing into darkness

Remember that time I went ice climbing?  I'm tougher than you, Bob!
Remember that time I went ice climbing? I’m way more determined than you, Bob!

It’s been one month and 4 days since finding out that I have a brain tumor.  So far, I’ve had two doctors bring my MRI’s to tumor boards for consultation with neuro-oncology specialists in the last two weeks, and then fail to follow up with me.  That is perhaps a good sign, maybe in the realm of brain tumors, mine’s not an urgent case. In my realm, however, it feels pretty damn urgent.  This isn’t the first brain tumor the neuro-oncologists have seen, but it is my first and it’s in MY head.  I like my brain-stem, and I hear it’s pretty important.

For the past month, I have had an amazing opportunity to move towards acceptance, faith, and patience.  In between complete and total melt-downs, bouts of hysterical laughter, and unexpected anxiety attacks.  It’s quite amazing how quickly I move in and out of detachment from or denial of my emotions.  I am in continual flux between wanting to find escape though any form of immediate gratification, and embracing my current reality. I often don’t recognize what I am feeling or how I am coping with my feelings until hours after the shift.

Remembering to breath has been a big deal.  Thank you to several friends who remind me of this on a daily basis.  When I become consciously aware of my breath, I come back into my body in the present moment.  In the present moment is where I find connection to the source of life deep within.  In the present moment, I am in perfect health and peace.  Plus, perhaps good ‘ol Bob doesn’t like oxygen in his galaxy. F.YOU BOB.

More will be revealed…

Dawn

How to date with a brain tumor…

Rule #1 – DON’T

Ain’t nobody got time for that! While dating would be a fantastic distraction (one of my favorite distractions of all time) that is all it would be, and most likely a destructive one at that.  I have more important things going on right now that require my attention.  Such as scheduling PET scans, getting second opinions from neuro-oncologists, and researching treatment options.  Spending time with friends and family; paying attention to how I’m feeling; and blogging about the shit going through my head!  Let’s not forget Saffie…

Rule #2 – When you break Rule #1, do so as a social experiment

So truth be told, the week after learning about my brain tumor, I posted two online dating profiles at the same time, using different user names, on Plenty of Fish.  It was a pleasant distraction that turned into an interesting social experiment.

One profile was for “looking for a serious relationship” and the other was for “dating only, not looking for a commitment”.  I did not mention the brain tumor in the “relationship” profile, but put it in the first line of the “dating only” profile.

Dude! Within an hour I had like 6 responses to my dating only profile in which I disclosed my brain tumor.  Most of them were flat-out propositions of the like that I cannot share in detail here.  My mom reads this!  No, mom, I did not take any of them up on their inquiries.  One guy just said hi and wished me well, and one other told me about his experience with his cancer, saying that he never talks to anyone about it anymore.

I did communicate via the website with a few guys, but then said goodbye and cancelled my profiles.  Like I said, a minor distraction during the initial shock of hearing, “you have a brain tumor.”

In conclusion:

I was trying to prove to myself that I am date-able, therefore in my mind, love-able, even with a damn brain tumor.  But there is nothing to prove.  There is no outside validation needed.  Not only am I love-able, I am a damn fine person/woman/child of God/stardust.  Plus, I have a f*cking galaxy in my brain, how cool is that?!

More will be revealed…

Love, Dawn

The gift.

This is how quickly my attitude and outlook changes on a daily, sometimes hourly basis. In complete opposition to yesterday’s post, today I can see the gift of a brain tumor, the opportunity of any serious challenge that any of us face in life.

What has the galaxy of Bob-the-parasite-in-my-brain gifted me?  The opportunity to heal and expand relationships within my family.  The ability to reach out and ask for help.  The awareness of how much I am loved and the vulnerability to accept that I am worthy of so much love and support.

The tumor is giving me even more opportunity to examine how I act out in life to escape my feelings, and by so acknowledging, the willingness to release these obsessive thoughts and behaviors.

I have deepened my connection with God, the Source of All, through prayer and meditation.

I still grapple with my shift in perception of Reality, but I know that it is a positive shift.

I am willing to release Bob back to the Source, and believe that it is so.

*the small print at the bottom of the page: thoughts and feelings subject to change without notice.  I am a temperamental, delicate flower who is good at pretending to be strong.

More will be revealed…

Love, Dawn

When depression is really just a brain tumor.

I haven’t written in a while because I haven’t been able to find my humor, which my earlier posts were full of.  The sense of relief that I felt when the neuro-oncologist told me she believes this tumor is a grade-one, slow growing, non-malignant type has vanished.  I am left with no answers and more questions.  Best case scenario is just that.  I have a brain tumor, and considering that it may not be an aggressive, malignant bastard, it is still an unwelcome parasite in the deepest part of my brain.  So yeah, I’m still whirling in emotional turmoil. My life is not back to “normal” whatever the fuck that is anyways.

I’m not sure if anyone truly feels normal, average, or a sense of real belonging, though it seems to be a societal expectation or goal.  I have struggled with clinical depression and alcoholism for most of my life, along with a chronic feeling of general discomfort in my skin and in the life all around me.  I’ve worked really hard to overcome the obstacles both within and without in my life so far.  My depression is managed with counseling and medication, and I have been sober since January 31, 1997 by fully immersing myself in a program of recovery with other recovering alcoholics. As a result of both, I have found a sense of ease and comfort that I hadn’t thought was possible.

I have a life of gratitude, joy, faith, and service today; yet for the past three weeks, I still would like to spend most of my days in bed with my dog.  It takes a sometimes insurmountable measure of energy to interact with people.  I have a dialog in my head telling me that nothing matters in this life, which makes it difficult to have conversations.  It may sound like I am in self-pity.  I guarantee you that is not the case.  There were one or two times in the beginning where I would say, “why me?” but there is no point to that question.  I am trying to make sense of my shifting perception of reality.

More will be revealed…

In faith and gratitude,

Dawn

On staying present.

I’m sure I’m not alone in not wanting to feel “bad” emotions, such as fear, anger, sadness, etc.  Years ago I developed my personal method of achieving Detachment Level: Expert.  The problem is that it has practically become an instinct to detach from my physical self when I am emotionally disturbed, which although no longer serves me well, is a tough habit to shake.

I bring this up because the last two weeks have been such an emotional rollercoaster that even though the most recent doctor that I saw had relatively good news, I am still in shock from the original bad news.  I feel like I am underwater, trying to break the surface to catch a breath and look for the shore.  I know it’s there, as much as I know I’m going to get through this, but I just can’t see it yet.  I am in a bubble of un-reality.  Nothing in the “Real World” makes any sense to me right now.

I have told myself that I need to stay positive and have faith, I have been told (kindly) by others that I am strong and have a great attitude; and I received good news. Now I expect myself to feel the same way I felt just two weeks ago, before being told that I have a brain tumor. Then I engage in “Real World” activities to get back into the stream of life, such as going to share a meal with a friend, or going to work.  And none of it makes any sense. Sort of like Charlie Brown’s teacher, bwah bwah bwah bwah bwah bwah.

I tell myself that I’m fine, convince my conscious mind that I believe it, then my subconscious mind lets my body know that it’s bullshit.  Because although I can and do emotionally detach from my body when the feelings of fear and anger boil up, my body tunes right into the truth of what I am actually feeling and lets me know through getting nauseas, crying for “no apparent reason”, and having full on anxiety attacks.

Clearly, denial is not working for me.  While I don’t want to dwell in fear and anger, denial of those feelings actually keeps them stuck in me longer, and the fall-out is downright unpleasant!

My challenge to myself:  Become aware without judgement of what I am really feeling as the emotion comes up.  Allow the emotions instead of telling myself that I shouldn’t be feeling this way, or trying to push them down.  Breathe deeply into my body, following my breath consciously, allowing my breath to keep my mind rooted to my body, and my mind in the present moment.  Accept the feelings without attaching to them. Let go of the story around the emotions.  Allow myself the experience letting go of the emotions without detaching from myself or denying what I am feeling.  Phew, that’s gonna take some practice!

As always, thank you for reading, and more will be revealed.

Dawn (and Bob)