Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The slow internal burnout

I haven't written anything for a while.

I did start writing a post during January, but it became an extended rant about little things- little things that certainly weren't going to change thanks to my ranting. Frustration doesn't make for good blogging. You need a little more substance than twenty paragraphs devoted to saying 'some people are idiots', even if you do manage to do so in twenty different ways.

But now I do need to write something, because- surprise- I've hit the wall, and you, my friends, need to understand why.


I blame my father. Or rather, I blame his genes. In a tongue-in-cheek sort of a way.

See, some of my father's most prominent personal characteristics were courage, determination, persistence and anger. And lucky me- I inherited the full hand of cards.

The courage, determination and persistence stood me in as good stead through this battle with the Freeloader as they did my father in World War II. He emerged something of a hero at the end of it, and- in some people's eyes- it seems so have I. People like my father and me do well under fire. We steel ourselves, we fight back with everything we've got, and we do our best to save those around us as well as ourselves.

But he was ever after an angry, wounded man, prone to irrational behaviour and sudden explosions of temper. As the dust settles around me, with everyone telling me how fantastic I look and assuming everything's just hunky dory now, I find myself following down the same path. PTSD, anyone?

After all these months of holding things together, I can see the seams starting to rip. Distracting myself by helping other people isn't a long-term solution to the sort of stress that the Freeloader has put me under. In the end, it just makes me angry that hardly anyone seems to notice that maybe I might need a hand too. Not even when I tell them so.

Is my act that good?


Let's share it around; I blame my grandmother, too. Or rather, I blame the Polynesian blood. I'm guessing that her cultural heritage gave me my ability to understand what's happening between the lines of what people write and say. It's an instinct that I can't explain, but I can often nail what other people are feeling and put it into words for them, even if I don't know them very well.

That has its traps. Mostly people are grateful for my gift of understanding, but sometimes people reveal more than they meant to. Sometimes people don't want to be exposed like that.

And here's the rub: at some stage, a person who instinctively understands other people's feelings also wants to be understood like that in return. Sometimes I feel desperate for somebody, anybody, to at least try to read between the lines of what I write and say. Because we all self-censor when we go public.

I need someone who can see to the heart of things, like I so often can.


I would never blame my mother, of course. Not even with my tongue firmly wedged in my cheek. She gave me the gift of writing what I mean. She gave me the sense of humour to see the funny side of almost everything that's happened to me over the last 16 months.

Sometimes that laughter, and that ability to record my feelings accurately, have been the only things keeping my head above water.

But being the class clown on one hand and writing harsh truths that others identify with on the other- no, that's not the whole solution either. I'm still performing. At some stage the curtain has to go down, and I'm left with myself and a bin full of reject truths that weren't fit for public consumption.

Nobody gets thanked for bringing the whole room down, right?


So here I am, stumbling through the trenches of cancer, wearing my blog like a flak jacket to repel the bullets of fear, holding out my hand and my wise words and my poems and my songs to others to drag them out of the mud if I can. Overhead, skyrockets are going off because my war is, apparently, over. Isn't it?

A lot of the time, this is what it looks like ahead to me:

More trenches. 

Has anyone got my back?


Enough analogies. Here is the real scenery.

Put simply, I actually feel right now like I don't have any real-life support.

Yes, I've got a good partner, and for that I'm grateful. BUT. My man needs as much help as I do. He's been a trouper all through the full frontal engagements with the enemy, but now we both need debriefing. We're not a lot of use to each other in that respect, because we're both afraid the other will break if we open up too much. I've got to the point in this campaign where I'm maybe up for genetic testing; it might mean quite a lot more surgery. He doesn't even want to talk about it. The family history I've gathered isn't looking good. Another trench to fall into and climb out of.

I know I need help, and so does my man. I've rung the social worker repeatedly, trying to get an appointment to see her with the Bear so we can work through our issues. Every time, I've got her answering machine; every time, I've left a message; zero times has my call been returned.

And yes, she was expecting my call.

That doesn't feel much like support.

Meanwhile, one girlfriend whose visit I was looking forward to isn't coming, or not for several more months. After her spending most of the time I've been sick overseas, I admit I was counting on her coming and fielding a few more four-letter-words than I usually release into the wild in real life. But she can't help it; I'm not blaming her. Another girlfriend, my usual reliable backstop, has recently admitted that due to a few challenges that are out of my control she won't be visiting any time in the near future either.

And the neighbours and the acquaintances- well, they just want reassurance that I'm well and staying that way. They're mostly not the sorts of people I'd be spilling my guts to anyway.

As for the new local Breast Cancer Support Group, the one they want me to lead in the future- well, same old same old, right? Who gets the support? Who gets to do the supporting? The dynamics so far suggest that I'll be doing a lot more giving than receiving.

Online support? I guess I'm my own worst enemy in some ways, always more ready to help than to admit I need help. And like I said- it's hard to find anyone who can read between the lines like I do.

Hell, I don't even know what I need help with most of the time. I think I probably just need to cry and yell for about two weeks, and it's hard to do that online. I'd just make people distressed. It's the best I can do to put out the occasional rant in the Pink Sisters. And some things- well, some things you just don't want to put in writing anyway. You just need to thump someone's shoulder while you scream.

So much for the backup troops, the covering fire. That's just the way it is; nothing I can do about it but shrug my shoulders and keep putting one foot in front of the other. And glancing over my shoulder, keeping an eye out for snipers.


Against that background of 'you're on your own, sweetheart', I'm finding a whole new and exciting range of triggers to set off my temper. Mostly, I feel enraged completely out of proportion to the supposed offence, and I know it. I can't blame the Arimidex for all of it, though certainly it makes me irrationally touchy from time to time. But some of my anger goes deeper than being starved of a hormone. There's a deep injustice about this disease that has no answer. My nature craves balance and fairness, but life isn't like that, is it? Life doesn't give a crap about fairness.

The latest nudge to set me off was the media hype about a dead movie star found with a needle in his arm and a shitload of heroin in his body. The tenth Facebook friend waxing lyrical about what a tragedy it was inspired me to express my anger on my page about fools who choose to dice with death, aka using addictive recreational drugs for a thrill, and then get a big glorious pat on the back when they cark it. Meanwhile I fight for my life, for the rest of my life, with no option to sit out the game.

Nothing fair about that.

Yes, I admitted, maybe I'm being unreasonably hard on people for making one mistake. But considering where I've been this last year, cut me a break, I asked my friends.

Or words to that effect. I haven't been back to Facebook to check exactly what I said, because right at the moment I don't want to be there, because some of the responses I got made me too angry and hurt.

But I guess it sorts people out, doesn't it?

Some 'friends' didn't seem to bother reading that last bit about cutting me a break, or didn't think it mattered. In they came with barrels blazing, arguing with me and each other. The one time I actually admit to a bit of anger about what's happened to me, and people rush to call me names. WTF is that about? Judgmental, unsympathetic, lacking in compassion; you name it, it got either said or implied.

Yeah, that's me. To a T. Who are you and how the fuck did you get on my friends' list. And why didn't you ever learn to read.

I wasn't that rude in response, of course. Mostly I just thought it. Felt it.

Oh, quite a number of people agreed with me about drug use. But agreeing wasn't really the point. I don't think they heard what I said- what my heart said- any better than those who disagreed. Not the important thing, the thing that was actually there in black and white at the end, but which somehow got lost amongst the knee-jerks. Because if they'd heard that, they might have said to some of the other people, 'didn't you hear what she said? Shut up. Why are you turning this into something about you?'

Two friends did read and comprehend, in that whole string of 80 comments. Two people didn't immediately try to

argue about how wrong I was about addiction or risk or whatever their personal hobby horse was or

modify my opinion as too extreme or

embroider the argument to encompass their own personal context so they could refute it or  

agree with me that recreational drug use was a bad choice. 

Two people actually read to the end of what I wrote and understood it as me saying THIS IS JUST A BRIDGE TOO FAR, I'VE HAD ENOUGH, LET ME BE FUCKING ANGRY FOR A MOMENT AT THE INJUSTICE OF THIS WHOLE BLOODY YEAR OF HELL.

One person said

break given.

One person said

I hear you.

Thank you to those two people who were actually listening.


And so, where to from here? Not back to Facebook, I think, other than to post this. Fuck the daily song, fuck the record of daily workouts, fuck the poems that I've been posting every day to try to put something other than celebrity bullshit and personal whining into my friends' feeds. I need a break from supporting other people and brightening their days. I'm exhausted from pouring my energy into a bottomless pit of other people's needs. Someone needs to put a trampoline at the bottom before I throw my whole self in, hokey pokey style.

To those who really want to support me, who participated in that thread and have just realised they missed something: it's okay. I forgive you for missing it. My act probably is that good. I probably have had you fooled. Now, wake up and listen: I'm on the fucking edge. 

Perhaps I'll head to the telephone when I'm done here, to give the social worker one last call. Perhaps then to another counsellor from my past, if I can't get any response. The rational brain is still ticking, despite the slow internal burnout.

I've already been out on the bike, eating up 11km as though I was standing still because I'm so much fitter than I used to be.

It didn't stop me feeling angry, though.

A walk in the bush. Some time at my sewing machine. A bit of bird-watching from my balcony.

There are plenty of things to feel happy about, if only I could get past the anger. But right now, I'm not going to play my usual game and tell you about them so you can relax and think I'm okay and not worry about me. There are plenty of good things in my life, but maybe my real-life support system isn't one of them.

Time to toughen up and keep marching, till I find a debriefing station.