When you’re young, you dream of what you want to be. As you get older, you hope you can fill certain roles well. I wanted to be a good daughter, wife, mother and friend. I wanted to go to church and be a good Christian. I wanted to be good at whatever career I chose, and to create and maintain a nice, attractive home. I wanted to be a good person and to be there for others. When I was in breast cancer treatment, I felt too inadequate to fill these roles.
Where do I begin? My surgery required a short recovery. It bothered me more emotionally than physically. As for breast cancer treatment, in the short term, it made me sick, weak, in pain, and, since chemo kills blood cells, vulnerable to infection. I felt the worst of those effects for more than six months, then slowly began to recover.
The feelings of inadequacy came when I couldn’t meet my own expectations. Let’s start with my family. In normal times, I cooked and cleaned up the house, grocery shopped, ran errands, and so on. When I was feeling sick from treatment, I couldn’t cook, clean, drive, shop or do much of anything. The guys fed themselves, did chores, and served me. In the beginning, I was sick on treatment week and more capable the next. Once I developed anemia and had been multiple treatments, I was always weak. I felt like the most inadequate mother and wife ever.
I wrote a whole post yesterday about being frustrated about the things I couldn’t do at my desired level during my son’s senior year. That added to the feelings of inadequacy. My personal interactions with my sons, husband, and friends weren’t always normal. Who wants to talk to a drowsy, out-of-it mom? Who wants to touch someone who’s sensitive to it? I could go on about my feelings of inadequacy, but I think you get the picture.
While I was in treatment, I didn’t go to church. I tried a couple times, but my white cell count was always too low to risk it. I swear church is the worst place for coughing and sneezing! Once when I went to mass, I had an anxiety attack about the germs, left early, and didn’t go back until all treatment was over and my white cells had recovered. It was an inadequate way to show my faith. I talked to God regularly, knowing he understood.
Lastly, I’ll address my feelings of professional inadequacy. It was hard for me to work the hours needed to do my job, and my thinking wasn’t on the level as it had been. I reduced my hours from 40 to 30. I reduced them again to 20, and finally, I quit. My employer wasn’t happy, but I just couldn’t stay awake to do the work anymore. I needed out.
I still feel somewhat inadequate from the lingering effects from chemo, now four years later. My family and friends don’t know and didn’t then feel the same way, it’s a problem with my self-perception. Have you experience this?
When you’re not thinking and feeling right, it’s hard to shift your mental state. Try to not be so hard on yourself. Know that others don’t think poorly of you. They care about you and understand what you’re going through. Do things for yourself that are positive. Call a friend. Take a walk outside. Play with your pet. Write in a journal. It will keep you from dwelling on those feelings of inadequacy.
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