Let’s face it, life is often more challenging than restful. We’re frequently confronted with situations and circumstances that are asking us to grow. When cancer comes into your life, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, like a deer in headlights. Whether you’re in the chaos of the diagnosis phase, the demand of the treatment phase, or the uncertainty of somewhere in between, cancer’s going to test you and everyone who loves you.
Not only is there a lot to do when you’ve been diagnosed with cancer- the appointments, the treatments, the trying to do some semblance of a “normal” life- there’s also a lot of needs that also want your attention. And of course, the disruption of the reckoning with how your body, mind, spirit, and self have been effected, which usually comes in some form of rude awakening as you come to terms with it.
To say the least, it’s a tall order and it’s perfectly understandable that you’re feeling overwhelmed by it all.
When we’re overwhelmed, it’s normal to feel frozen or to feel like all you want to do is just get away from the mountain that feels impossible to tackle. Just like having a hard conversation with someone you love, you may feel like the only thing that will work is to know exactly what needs to be said. You may feel like the only way through it is to know exactly what needs to be done.
This pressure to be certain is a huge roadblock. When you’re confronting the overwhelm, you’re confronting uncertainty, and this means that it’s going to be virtually impossible to feel certain. Especially at first.
When I’m in this place, or when I’m working with someone who’s here, I realize that I need to practice the art of acceptance and surrender. I need to realize that I won’t be able to fully plan out my strategy. I realize I won’t be able to know exactly what my end goal is. I realize that the only thing I can do, the only thing that’s being asked of me, is to find a place to begin.
Finding a place to begin is both an act of courage AND an act of trust. Trusting in yourself, trusting in the process, trusting that the act of showing up is the only thing that you truly need to do.
To find a place to begin, it helps to do a little pulse checking. Take a moment to see how you are authentically doing in the present, not in the future (even if it’s immediate), or in the past (even if it’s asking to be seen and heard). Give yourself that moment to sit with who you are and how you are. This is important, because it usually helps you recognize that you’re safer (even if you’re uncomfortable) than you realized when the overwhelm was banging at your door.
Once you’ve slowed down that heart rate, you’ll be able to sit with the question- where to begin- with more ease. This is an awesome time to have your art supplies and writing material available, because they can help you focus in and listen to the intuitive voice within.
Once you’ve received an answer, then you can take time to figure out how to begin. Pacing is important. Having a sounding board, someone you can trust, can help you continue to believe that small, consistent actions of showing up for what you need will get you where you need to go. This is one of the reasons why I started the virtual Art Therapy for Breast Cancer Community on Mighty Networks, because I know it takes a village.
If that sounds appealing to you, but you’d like a preview of what to expect- snag your spot today in my free MasterClass- Art Therapy for Breast Cancer, happening July 7th @ 6pm EST. Space is limited, so sign up today! A recording of the event will be sent to everyone who registers, whether you’re able to attend live or not!
When I was going through treatment, I was eager to start chemo, because it was the first opportunity I had to treat my cancer- and I was totally on board with killing it, even though I was scared of what it was going to be like. I felt overwhelmed by the double mastectomy because I had so much more time to think about it and the adrenalin was not as strong. To manage my overwhelm, I started making breast casts, because it felt like a place to begin, and I was so thankful because ultimately they became the canvas for my healing.
I’d love to hear about where you’re at and what your first step will be. Let’s talk about it in the comments below!
-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 emotionally healing cancer. Stephanie works with people online and in person, offering individual & group cancer coaching and art therapy. Her #TherapyThursday blogs offer guidance for healing the body, mind, spirit and self after cancer. Sign up today so you’ll never miss a blog and follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.