Looking after your mental health and wellbeing is so important as it influences the way you feel and cope with challenging situations. Today, one of our fabulous Community Champions Gbear is sharing her personal mental health journey in the hope it will help others who may be going through something similar at the moment.
My name is Sarah or GBear as I am known in the Community. I first came to the Community in 2017 when I had just had my hysterectomy to remove cancer. I counted myself very fortunate that I was low-stage and only needed a hysterectomy as treatment, but was told they were holding off radiotherapy as a standby if needed.
When I was diagnosed, I was full of anger and self-doubt as I was constantly fobbed off and even made to feel I was making up stuff and that I wasn’t really ill. The hospital would say we need the bed for someone who is really ill. If they had checked my symptoms then, they would of known I had cancer, which is why it took around 12 months to be diagnosed. This affected my mental health more than I had realised. I had the ‘keep going and carry on’ attitude for a long time and hide my pain from others with my smile.
"One of my biggest challenges was I didn’t want to show weakness in front of others. For some reason, I was too embarrassed to admit I was struggling."
I came with loads of questions to the Online Community. Everyone was so understanding and supportive, but I had realised after a death of a really close friend I had made here on the Community, that it took me to rock bottom. I felt that no one would care or would want to understand. I was dealing with other health issues alongside the feelings that come with my concerns being ignored which turned out to be cancer.
I was full of so much self-doubt I ended up being afraid to say anything to anyone because I believed I may be made to feel wrong. I know this isn’t true, but I was afraid just the same.
One day I thought you can’t keep going like this, you have to do something, so I turned to a friend I had met in lock down. They were teaching well-being techniques, and more importantly, that mental health matters.
It’s an organization she started called ‘rainbow after the storm’ – where mental health matters. Nicky taught me how to love myself and to say its ok to say you’re not ok. She drove my passion for my hobbies, and they help support my mental health. I love photography and enjoy my walks to the park and feeding the ducks.
I love art too and I have joined a pastel hub run by Sue Kerrington Harris where I can learn more skills. I realized after trying different art forms that pastel is my favorite.
I use Meditation and yoga to support my wellbeing. Meditation allows me to disappear from reality and to an alternate reality where I can think about nice, beautiful things instead of some of the awful reality so many have to face.
I was introduced to a poem by Rumi called the Guest House. The words help remind me that every day different things happen but learn to accept what we can’t change. My favourite quote is: “This being human is a guest house”. The reason I like it so much is you never know what is going to come through the door. Sometimes it’s bad but sometimes it’s good, you just never know. As humans we have to learn to adapt to new situations.
"What would I say to anyone struggling? Well first of all don’t be afraid to speak up and say I am struggling".
How we all deal may be different, but it doesn’t mean that someone’s feelings and problems are any less a real issue. Please reach out and get support whether here on the Online Community or to various local organisations as there are many local cancer support groups. I go to John Holts cancer support group which I was introduced to by the Macmillan Support Line (0808 808 00 00) and so I know from them that there are many local groups like Maggie’s centers too.
The support options mentioned all understand how cancer affects us. They also look for groups to help with your mental health as sometimes you need to look at these things separately as I did.
"The Online Community is a great place to chat anonymously."
Sometimes face to face helps and there are Macmillan Support hubs in hospitals that you can reach out to, with many amazing people ready to help as best they can. Use Macmillan’s In Your Area search tool to find local support.
We’d like to thank Sarah for taking the time to tell us about her mental health and the coping techniques she has used to support her wellbeing. If you have any wellbeing tips to share with Sarah and other Community members, please use the comment box below.
Additional support resources
Here are some more images of Sarah’s photos and artwork:
Amazing story Sarah and well done for putting pen to paper (finger on keypad). Mental health is something that goes hand in hand with serious illness and to "get your head" in the right place is half the battle to triumph over whatever you are suffering from. (I should know I have been married to a Registered Mental Nurse for 44 years!!).
Great photographs and some cracking art too - well done.
Best wishes - Brian .
Well done on putting your story out there Sarah. I love your painting of the late Queen Elizabeth II and your other artwork and photos are great too. That's what I love about this community that you can talk to other people who are cancer patients whether or not they have the same cancer as you and they understand where you are coming from and they give such great advice about how to cope with being a cancer patient.
Brilliant photos and artwork. Thanks for sharing. I have just booked a complementary therapy provided by our local cancer hospital charity for next week. My partner has cancer and as with all relationships it's important to be kind to yourself as well as others.
Sarah you are an inspiration, To come through the ordeal you have been through and to find yourself again is wonderful. Then to reach out to help and support others shows what an amazing woman you are. many of us know that, as Brian has said your mind needs to be in a good place when dealing with a serious illness and that is not always possible all the time. Sarah like you i found support when i needed it most and i believe i am in a better place for it. I hope your journal helps people realise it's ok to ask for help, please take care, Eddie