Tuesday, November 27, 2012

When Fear Becomes Obsession

I recently shared with a friend, about a time in my life that I had pushed aside (blocked out, tried to forget, etc... all those good ole defense mechanisms).  After speaking about it, I decided to dig through an old box, a box I might now name "The Fear Box", which contains all of my daughter's food allergy stuff and the folder that holds all the info about this crazy time I'm about to discuss.  Just a box of anxiety provoking shit, really...one that gives me a stomach ache when I sift through it.

OK, so this time period, this folder, this fear that soon became an obsession..Here it is:  I had my first melanoma, had my surgery, healed physically....and then the after-math happened.  It was marked by the moment that "normal fear" switched to an all-encompassing obsession.

Let's define it in its most basic form:
Obsession- noun. The domination of one's thoughts or feelings by a persistent idea.  

Over time, I became consumed with each and every freckle on my body!  And when I say consumed, I mean that every time I went to pee, I would start checking my thighs, inspecting my moles, building anxiety, panic and the like.  Each time I took a bath, I'd throw out any possibility of relaxation, and fill it with obsessional checking.  Check, check, check.  It just went on.....and on, and on.

At first, I could justify this behavior (or so I thought...and did!).  Of course I should be checking my body as often as I can for moles (their color, size, shape, changes, etc.), I just had fucking melanoma!  Justify away...but this eventually turned into something that was creating an extremely small life, and really not a life at all. 

It got so bad, that I recall one day getting the brilliant idea of finding a plastic surgeon that would take off ALL of the moles on my body (and there are MANY!!!).  Yep, that would solve this problem, so I thought.  Of course, after one phone call to a plastics office, and hearing the response of the nurse when I inquired about this "procedure", I knew I needed help!  

And so I sought help.  And luckily, I found exactly what I needed- a behavioral therapist who specialized in "health worry".  I wasn't really sure what was in store for me here, but I was willing to try anything to feel better.  

That's where our (me and my new therapist) journey began...This was not a "talk about your feelings/dive into your family history/lay on a couch thing".  This was something I had never experienced before.  We met once a week for about 10 weeks, practicing a multitude of various exercises that help to "re-train" the brain.  As the student at heart that I am, I loved this- homework?  YES!  tasks?  YES!  I pounced all over it.



And, with work...it worked!



And life began to have more room.

Don't get me wrong, this was by no means an attempt to not be vigilant about my melanoma.  No.  I still do my once a month body checks (just not my once an HOUR checks), I still see my dermatologist every 2 months, and my oncologist every 6 months.  But, for the times in between all that, I am LIVING.  

We all handle fear in different ways.  We all respond to it uniquely.  But please know, that if it takes over to the point of NOT living at all, there is help.  This was what helped me, my experience, strength, and hope.  Just know, that it's OK to ask for help!  



#stayconnected


11 comments:

  1. I absolutely LOVE that last quote! SO true. I have gone back and forth between obsession and avoidance. I know this isn't healthy. Thanks to this post, I am going to officially schedule what day each month I give myself a skin check and do my best to move on until the next month's check OR appointment.Thank you for sharing!

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    1. It's a crazy "new normal", this melanoma life! Hope your appointment today went well. Did you circle with a marker? lol xo

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  2. I needed to read this post today. Thank you. <3

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  3. I love this post! So often we talk about the disease itself, but not the tole it takes on us mentally or emotionally. I guarantee you're not the only one of us that does this. Stress can manifest itself in the craziest ways.

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    1. Thank you, Katie! Yes, most don't talk about the WHOLE person...just the medical part of a disease...even the doctors often miss the idea of addressing a person as a whole person. But, that's what WE do...talk about these things, so that others know they are not alone :)

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  4. Learning to not be obsessive about our moles and freckles is one of the hardest things after being diagnosed with melanoma. I too was very obsessive about it. I wanted them all removed. Mine are mostly irregular looking. I have gotten much better with time. Thanks for the great post, and for letting us know that we are not alone!

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    1. Thanks, Melissa! I know...it's SO hard! But if we talk about the REAL stuff that goes along with this disease, then hopefully, we can help others.

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  5. I just was diagnosed with Melanoma 4 weeks ago. Reading this today has helped me. I was laughing out loud as you were talking about all the places you start examining your moles, because I too will take a bath to relax and well, that just doesn't happen. It just isn't relaxing anymore. Thank you for this post. It is refreshing to hear that I am not the only one who checks their body five times a day. But, I am going to TRY to stop doing it five times, maybe just once. :)

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    1. Hello Amanda! I'm glad you found this blog. I know exactly how you are feeling! Stick close to supports and reach out. There are so many amazing blogs and brilliant Facebook pages related to melanoma. You can reach out to me anytime- respecttherays@gmail.com

      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Respect-the-Rays/243223335784833

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  6. I think getting past the five year mark seemed to help. But I know the other day, I saw something dark on my collar bone and my heart stopped. Just a damned tick! PHEW!!! LOL!

    But since Melanoma doesn't go away, I think that we all tend to be a bit hypochondriac-ish!! And rightly so!

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