Did you feel the thrill of jumping right into the water when you were a kid? Of completely immersing yourself and playing underwater games, like having a tea party? The exuberance of being weightless as you splashed around? The freedom of trusting innately in your environment and the freedom of being so warm as a young person.

As an adult, are you less likely to just jump in without some form of preparation? Are you more wary of how the environment might impact you- the shock of the cold, the need to be mindful of others- especially if you are the adult responsible for children? Do you ease yourself in to respect the fact that your body needs time to adjust?

Or perhaps you avoid going in at all, which in the short run perhaps protects yourself from being cold yet also prevents you from experience the bliss of floating and feeling lighter than when you are on solid ground.

When you have been through something significant, like a cancer diagnosis and treatment, it can be overwhelming to imagine that you can wade through the thoughts and feelings that come along with the experience. You might perceive that the only options are to jump completely in, as you do not see a gentle way of easing in, and hope you can keep your head above water OR to avoid it all together.

It doesn’t help that the culture of the USA tends to have a mindset of all or nothing. Our propensity to live in the extremes, especially when it comes to our health and wellness, often sets us up for failure. And when we are faced with less tangible, less observable and unclear challenges, this dichotomy can become even more extreme.

Emotionally if you can identify a path or a map for healing as a cancer survivor, you can begin to break it down into pieces and parts that need to be addressed. This is why I developed the comprehensive self assessment form for survivorship, which you can access for free by clicking here.

Having a map is important, but in order to begin the journey you need to have the following lined up to support it:

  • a method or process for how you will travel from point A to B and beyond
  • an understanding of the support people you need to have in order to make it- often a blend of providers, family, friends and other cancer survivors that can get you the provisions you need (physical, emotional, spiritual, etc)
  • a compass that can help you find your way when you realize that your map did not have all destinations listed
  • provisions that will allow you to refuel yourself to support your resiliency
  • self awareness to support the undertaking- recognizing when you are ready to move and when you are needing to stop and rest
  • realistic expectations of how long it will take you

Learning to dip your toe into the emotional waters that surround cancer involves being patient, compassionate and understanding of yourself and your boundaries of when you are starting to feel overwhelmed. This is why using art can be such a powerful METHOD of traveling from point A to B, as the art happens through developing a deep connection to yourself and your experience. Check out what I wrote on the How art Helps page for more details on why.

I’m curious- if you were to imagine dipping your toe into the emotional waters that surround your cancer experience- where do you think you would begin? Feel free to share below or write me a private message!

-Stephanie McLeod-Estevez, LCPC, is an art therapist and breast cancer survivor, and a former oncology counselor at the Dempsey Center. She began Creative Transformations to help others who are healing emotionally from cancer. Through Creative Transformations, she works with people in person and online to offer the self assessment toolcancer coaching, an Art as Therapy program, virtual workshops, and this weekly blog. Sign up today so you never miss a blog and find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.