SADNESS, FATIGUE, ANXIETY, DEPRESSION, LONELINESS, IMMEDIACY
They’re not interchangeable. You may hear people describe you as sad and depressed, anxious and depressed, and lots of other combinations. Usually the person describing you will not know what they are talking about…. and, even if they do, what really counts is how you see yourself.
You’ll hear people tell you to try meditation or exercise. Which is ok if you are already into meditation or exercise. But most men who have prostate cancer find suggestions about changing their habits to be stressful. Their lives have already been changed by their cancer diagnosis….they don’t want people telling them they also need to change to become vegan or to train for a 5k run. Most men want an ad hoc solution to stress, depression and anxiety…a tool that they can pull out whenever they have reached a stress wall. That’s what thousands of men in Malecare’s prostate cancer support groups have told us.. What works is what men will actually do, not what we tell them to do.
Being diagnosed with prostate cancer may make you feel sad. Prostate cancer diagnosis and treatment, aging, hormonal changes, your life experiences, and your genetics all affect the way you now feel.
Sadness is a human and healthy expression of your prostate cancer experience. You are a now a little different than you were the day before your diagnosis…you are now a cancer patient and it is totally reasonable that you should feel sad about that. The sadness will lesson if you know that everyone diagnosed with cancer goes through a period of sadness, and you will get through it. Let yourself feel sad and grieve. It will suck, but you will feel better, with time.
All of us feel depressed from time to time. Feeling depressed is part of what makes us human. There’s not much to do about momentary or occasional depression than to ride it out.
Clinical Depression is different. It’s more than just feeling unmotivated or sad for a brief time. Clinical depression doesn’t go away and can interfere with your everyday life. It’s the kind of depression that you treat. Do you experience:
- loss of interest or pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- change in weight
- difficulty sleeping or sleeping all the time
- energy loss
- feeling worthless, helpless, or hopeless
- thoughts of death or suicide
- just not wanting to be among other people
- not leaving the house for many days at a time
If you think you’re depressed, talk to your doctor. Together you can sort out if what you’re feeling is depression or extreme fatigue. You also may want to talk to an accredited psychotherapist. Therapy can help you feel supported and allow you to talk about what’s bothering you.
It’s also important to find out what’s causing your depression. It might be androgen deprivation therapy (“hormone therapy”) or one of the medicines you’re taking. If so, you may be able to switch to another therapy or medication.
Helping yourself when you feel depressed
- Set realistic goals. Don’t expect to be able to do everything you did in the past. When you have a big task, like cleaning your home, work your way in from the edges…take care of the edges and the center will eventually be completed.
- Self massage….back rubs with long spoons and kitchen ladles.
- Baby steps Break large chores into small ones and do what you can as you can…even if it’s just the first step.
- Bathing…with the water running just enough so that your tub overflow empties at the same rate as it is filling (be careful with that… Malecare is not responsible for flooding) for the sound of splashing and falling water
- Take a 30-60 minute walk, even if that walk is pacing the floor of your home.
- Remember that your mood will improve gradually, not immediately. Feeling better takes time. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t feel better right away. Try to by happy in whatever you achieve each day.
- You may want to postpone important decisions and sending out important emails until your depression has lifted.
- Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can make depression worse. Alcohol can also interfere with antidepressant medicine.
- Avoid doing things that aren’t working out such as reading a book if you find yourself staring at the same page for hours or trying to watch a movie that you are not interested in.
Fatigue is when you feel like you don’t have any energy and are tired all the time and lose interest in people and the things you normally like to do.
Fatigue is one of the most common side effects of prostate cancer treatment. Fatigue from treatment can appear suddenly and can be overwhelming. Rest doesn’t always erase fatigue Fatigue can last for months after prostate cancer treatment ends.
Feelings of fatigue include:
- lack of energy
- sleeping more than usual
- not wanting to do normal activities or being unable to do them
- paying less attention to personal appearance
- feeling tired even after sleeping
- trouble thinking or concentrating
- trouble finding words or speaking
If you think you’re experiencing fatigue, talk to your doctor. If possible, give your doctor specific information about your fatigue. Instead of saying, “I’m tired all the time,” give an example such as, “I get tired when I make breakfast.”
Because there are so many causes of fatigue, there’s no one medicine that can relieve fatigue. Together, you and your doctor can help you choose how you want to reduce your fatigue.
Anxiety is a feeling of fear, trepidation or uneasiness. Mild anxiety is part of every day life. You might feel anxious before you meet someone new or attend an important meeting at work. This kind of anxiety increases alertness, which is a good thing. Mild anxiety disappears with the even that caused it. It’s healthy to feel anxious about a life threatening event or diagnosis, like prostate cancer.
Talk to your doctor if you feel anxious all the time and can’t relax. Antidepressant medicines may help. Together, you and your doctor can decide if an antidepressant is right for you.
Both during and after treatment, it’s normal to have stress over all the life changes you are going through. You may notice that:
- Your heart beats faster.
- You have headaches or muscle pains.
- You don’t feel like eating. Or you eat alot.
- You feel sick to your stomach or have diarrhea.
- You feel shaky, weak, or dizzy.
- You have a tight feeling in your throat and chest.
- You sleep too much or too little.
- You find it hard to concentrate.
If you have any of these feelings, talk to your doctor. Though they are common signs of stress, you will want to make sure they aren’t due to medicines or treatment.
Stress can keep your body from healing as well as it should.
People with cancer often feel lonely or distant from others. This may be for a number of reasons:
- Friends sometimes have a hard time dealing with cancer and may not visit or call you.
- You may feel too sick to work or the activities you used to enjoy.
- Sometimes, even when you’re with people you care about, you may feel isolated from them.
It’s also normal to feel alone after treatment. You may miss the conversations and care that you got from your doctors and nurses. Many people have a sense that their floor has dropped away. It’s common to want to stop contact with friends or family members. Some of them may think that now that treatment is over, you will be back to normal soon, even though this may not be true. Others may want to help but don’t know how.
Look for emotional support in different ways. It could help you to talk to other people who have cancer or to join a support group.
A few men see their cancer as a “wake-up call.” They go places they’ve never been. They finish projects they had started but put aside. They spend more time with friends and family. They mend broken relationships.
But most men totally fail at this. And that is OK. Chances are, the things you planned to do years ago are not relevant to you today.
Don’t Try to Be Upbeat If You’re Not
If you feel bad, then give yourself a break, eat that forbidden fruit (or, pint of ice cream) and crawl into bed. Enjoy the comfort of cuddling with yourself under your blanket and allow yourself to dream what ever fantasy makes you happy.
You Choose When to Talk about Your Cancer
It can be hard for people to know how to talk to you about your cancer. Often loved ones mean well, but they don’t know what to say or how to act. You can make them feel more at ease by asking them what they think or how they feel.
Control Only What You Can
Even if keeping your medical appointments is all that you can do; for now, that is great!