We live in a world where we expect people with chronic or terminal diseases to be positive. Too often we say “Keep thinking positive and you’ll beat this.”; “Don’t talk like that!”; “At least it’s the good kind of <insert disease here>.” or some variation thereof.
I find this not only unrealistic but also extremely unhealthy.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-4 tells us “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…” (NIV)
The seasons move forward and there are opposites: winter and summer, spring and fall….. Day turns into night turns into day. Some days are rainy, some are sunny; some are hot and some are cold. If these changes occur in nature, why should people be any different?
While I generally do keep an eye UP and seek to find the good in my situations, I can’t possibly be expected to be happy 24/7. I mean really, are YOU happy 24/7??? Why should I be expected to “always be positive” just because I have metastatic cancer?
Everyone should be able to express a full range of emotions and not be judged. Before cancer, sometimes I just needed the release of a good cry. Before cancer, my ribs would ache from laughter. Before cancer, I’d get furious and rant, or work it out through physical activity. Intense physical activity is beyond my stamina at this point, so I do occasionally rant (especially through “pinktober”). And sometimes, I just need a good hard cry. Losing so many friends to this damn disease pisses me off to the point where I NEED to cry. It hurts. It makes me angry! And yes, I still laugh until my ribs ache, too!
We lose veterans to suicide at the rate of 22 a day. Why is that? Maybe because they feel an intense pressure to present what society views as “normal”? Take the recent suicide of Robin Williams, whose smile hid depression from the world. The most common side effect of a terminal illness? Depression. Being expected to show a mask to the world day after day after day causes a buildup of mental stress that is also physically unhealthy. You may be the one person that your friend is reaching out to, to get help, or even to stop a suicide attempt.
Am I suicidal? NO!
Do I get depressed? Sometimes.
Do I struggle with not making those I care about feel uncomfortable when we talk? YES!!!!!!
I need to be able to express ALL my thoughts. Thoughts about death. The utter joy I have at being ALIVE! Sorrow I feel for those I will leave behind. Happiness of making memories. Anger at the unjust happenings in this world. Love for my husband and son and family and friends. Facing fears. Crossing items off a “bucket list”. Planning vacations. Making preparations for my memorial service. Birthdays. Funerals. Celebrations. Thankfulness for the gifts that I’ve been given. Disappointment. Excitement. Guilt.
The next time someone needs to talk, will you let them? Even if the subject matter isn’t positive?