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!