Tanya's blog #2

Survivor

Here, Have a Tissue…

At the best of times, I can be confident, loud, joyful, *insert happy adjectives here*. You get the picture. I love to smile; it makes me feel good and brightens my day. Since being diagnosed with a craniopharyngioma (read my story!), I have learnt that smiling really is the best medicine, but comes with its emotional enemy: I cry a lot.

Do I need to “Grow-up”?

When I was first diagnosed with my many problems, I kept making excuses for why I was crying, for instance, “I have experienced a lot of trauma”, or “temporary sensitivity”. 8 years later, I’m starting to think that these excuses are getting old. The fact is, I tend to cry when I’m frustrated, like when someone doesn’t understand me, or if I’m angry at myself. It’s embarrassing, particularly now that I’m 22, studying a master’s degree, and I still can’t control my emotions when trying to talk to Student Finance on the phone because they can’t repeat back to me my phone number.

The worst trigger for me is when I get the feeling that someone doesn’t like me, or I’ve made someone upset. In these situations, I believe that it’s my fault that they’re responding like this – and it can be my fault – but even if I’m not the direct cause of their anger or annoyance, I’ll still feel that this is my fault. It’s all spirals.

My reasoning: “I’m here and they’re annoyed/angry; I’m clearly not able to make things better; ergo, my fault”. I convince myself that it’s my fault, then I get angry with myself, and Hey Presto! Tears! It has taken me a good 8 years to figure this schematic out, and now heeds the big question: How can I stop it? And should I?

The So-Called “Guidance”

No matter how many times someone tells you to “stop crying”, surprisingly, you often can’t. I often find that someone else getting frustrated at me because I’m upset, makes me more frustrated that I can’t stop. This is that spiral I was talking about. This brings me to the first coping mechanism, one that was given to me by my short-lived mentor at university: Stop the frustration from starting. I start to think to myself: “what started my frustration in the first place?”
You’ve all probably heard that one before though – technically, it’s hindsight. I soon realised that this wasn’t the best piece of guidance that could have received. You can’t go through your whole life without something annoying or frustrating you along the way. I mean, wouldn’t you think I would avoid it if I could? Often you can’t because you don’t know it’s going to happen, for instance, when you receive your tuition fee invoice from your university, only to realise they’ve ignored the initial £500 deposit you paid them months before *angry face*.
Ideally, this would be the best way: avoiding the whole situation altogether, but realistically, this is almost impossible.

Let’s get by with “Coping”

So, how do I cope when I feel like crying? BREATHE. When I feel that something is winding me up, I shut up, and breathe in deeply, then breathe all the frustration (and any bad language) out. Science fact! – breathing deeply activates areas in the brain that guide the “rest and digest” processes of the body, helping you feel relaxed. Shut out what people are saying to you: blank them out, stick your fingers in your ears if that helps, or just walk away (whichever is least offensive to them).

 More recently, I have been able to control my emotions a lot more. I feel that it’s because I asked myself: “Do I actually need to worry about this?”
If I’m in an argument and I know I’m right, I try to take the moral high ground and let them be. I feel a better person for it, rather than letting my emotions take control and hurting a friend in the act. It’s how I cope, think slowly about the situation.

I still struggle with my emotions, and no matter how many times people say it, I really don’t feel like an adult yet, because of this lack of control. I have been told that I am a highly sensitive person. I’d love to say that I have more mechanisms for coping with this, but I really don’t. I still think it’s a miracle when I can go a week without actually feeling teary. In the end, I feel that crying and getting emotional is better than throwing an angry tantrum and shouting the roof off a house. I could give you my whole notebook full of advice from parents, guidance books, mentors, and friends, but ultimately, it’s your life. And if you feel like crying, don’t be ashamed; it shows that you have a heart, that you are alive.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4605079/ : reference for childhood brain tumours and emotions

http://resources.beyondblue.org.au/prism/file?token=BL/0803 : PDF about tumours and emotions (AUS)