Unfortunately, cancer and depression go together like peanut and butter. As a three-time cancer survivor, severe bouts of depression presented a choice: take pills to alleviate it, or face it and figure out what my body and psyche were saying.
Depression is often a symptom, not an illness.
Alleviating the symptom may not cure the disorder. I saw my depression as something that would diminish if I faced and cured the cause. This is easier said than done. I considered suicide as a means of escape rather than facing my “ghosts.” However, deciding to see what lessons could be learned from the ghosts of my life was the first step toward a cure.
Looking back on difficult times allows us the opportunity to ask questions previously avoided such as, “Why was I depressed? How did depression serve me and what did it teach me?” Our mind is incredibly powerful and will create or manifest situations to serve and save us.
Depression and illness can be a way of forcing us to slow down and “look within” at memories (old baggage), events (past and present cycles), people (relationships), and life- styles (habits) that are not to our benefit. Without depression, we may continue to accept whatever life throws at us—settling for less than we needed and/or deserved.
Just because something is thrown at us does not mean we have to catch it, hold, and keep it, including insults or negative relationships. We can choose to duck or move out of the way. And, if we do catch it, we can choose to drop it.Depression made me stop and reassess my life-choices.
I concluded that how people treat me is their Karma, how I respond is mine.
Not all relationships or situations should be avoided or dropped. And that may be our most important lesson—the quickest way to change someone’s behavior is to change ours first. They must respond differently to the new behavior.
Depression can help us stop and reassess our life-choices.
Illness and depression are the perfect opportunity to take time out for yourself. It can teach you how to respect, honor, and put yourself first, and to choose to change or walk away from bad habits, relationships, and situations.
Draw new boundaries with which you can live.
A friend once asked me, “How can I just quit my job or walk away from my relationship if that is what is depressing or killing me.”
Responding to her question with another question was the best answer. “Are you worried about letting down your job and relationship or yourself? Will they survive tomorrow if you are not around? Will you thrive if they are gone? You cannot hold a gift if your hands are full. Put something down.”
Whenever we feel overwhelmed taking a step back can help us reassess our life. One of the first things we can do is “check our inner baggage,” –the useless stuff we accumulated throughout life. You may be surprised that you are bogged down with stuff which is not even yours. Simply drop it. It’s not yours to keep.
As a caring and loving person, it is so easy to take on other people’s emotional leftovers rather than respecting their right to carry it. By taking on the baggage of others we unintentionally take their learning experience and right to emotional growth away from them.
Old habits are hard to break. Keep working on them.
We often think if we carried someone else’s heavy troubles for them it would lighten their load. It doesn’t. It just makes ours heavier. That realization teaches a very difficult lesson—We cannot carry other people’s baggage or walk their path for them. We have to respect their life-lessons… to be learned by them… and our lesson may be to respect and love them enough to let them learn from their mistakes. We can offer them our shoulder but not our back. Let me explain.
There is a big difference between being supportive and being a mule. A supportive person lends a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on. A mule carries the weight of the world on their back while refusing to focus on their own life—this is avoidance. It only takes another challenge to be the straw that breaks their back and sends them spiraling into depression.
Our mind is a beautiful thing.
Experience has taught that we manifest not only what we want but also what we need. Sometimes we need to slow down and reassess our lives.
Depression served me in this capacity.
I didn’t enjoy it and would not choose to go through it again. However, by facing depression rather than suppressing it, I learned from it, used it to change my life, and ultimately survived life-threatening adversity and illness.
Kathleen (Kat) O’Keefe-Kanavos-three time cancer survivor whose dreams diagnosed her illness, TV/Radio Host/Producer of Wicked Housewives On Cape Cod™ , Kat KanavosShow , Patheos, Quora, Medium, Internationally Syndicated Columnist, Nautilus Award-winning Author/Lecturer who promotes patient advocacy and inner guidance. Contributing author to Chicken Soup for the Soul. www.KathleenOkeefeKanavos.com