A mesothelioma diagnosis is life changing. The stress points pile up: dealing with pain, the time and energy it takes to seek out treatment, the discomfort and pain that can be associated with treatment, the financial stress of medical bills, not to mention the potential for there to be the end of life issues, and the emotions this can bring up for you and your loved ones. Basically, mesothelioma turns your life upside down. You will need to reach out for mesothelioma help in numerous areas. One of the most important things, and one that is often forgotten, is mesothelioma help for emotional stress.
Mesothelioma Help for Depression
It’s easy to understand why a mesothelioma diagnosis may lead to depression. The multiple stress factors of any cancer diagnosis coupled with the limited treatment options available for mesothelioma help could send the best of us into a tailspin. The mental and emotional burden of depression can be just as heavy and painful as the physical burden of mesothelioma.
Mild depression – just feeling a bit down – is very common and normal, especially among mesothelioma patients. The American Cancer Society encourages cancer patients to feel free to express their anxieties and not feel they have to show a “happy face” to friends and loved ones. Pretending to be happy doesn’t improve survival rate, according to scientific studies.
If depression becomes more severe, it can become a dangerous condition for mesothelioma patients. Be on the lookout for signs of serious or clinical depression: insomnia or excessive fatigue, unwillingness to participate in daily activities for multiple days in a row, confusion, heavy sweating, unusual restlessness, lack of interest in eating, large loss of weight or increase in weight, inability to find any joy in life, or thoughts of or plans to commit suicide.
Family members are not immune from depression either. After all, mesothelioma has turned their lives upside down too. It’s important to watch for symptoms of depression in mesothelioma caregivers as well as patients.
Depression is a common co-condition for cancer patients: as many as 25% of people with cancer also suffer from clinical depression. To complicate the process of getting mesothelioma help, some of the symptoms of depression can be caused by mesothelioma treatments or by the cancer itself. The American Cancer Society suggests seeking mesothelioma help for depression if you or a loved one experiences five or more symptoms daily for at least two weeks.
Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants to help relieve the pressure of depression. This might involve trying more than one drug to find the one that works for you. Physical movement or exercise and loving support from family and friends are also important components of mesothelioma help that can start to lift you out of depression.
Treating depression takes patience and perseverance. Drug therapies often need two weeks or more to have an effect. Changing your daily routine to get up and move when you feel tired and listless may mean starting with baby steps. Depression can be overcome, however, and it’s worth treating. This is one extra burden you don’t have to carry during your mesothelioma treatment.
Mesothelioma Help for Post-Traumatic Stress
The National Cancer Institute (an arm of the National Institute of Health or NIH) identifies cancer-related post-traumatic stress or PTS as “a lot like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) but not as severe.” The difference between PTS and PTSD is that the symptoms of PTS suffered by people who have received a cancer diagnosis tend to be less overwhelming than PTSD and easier to cope with and overcome.
Symptoms of PTS can include feeling manic, insomnia, detachment from reality, fear or scary thoughts that keep recurring, and checking out of daily life. These symptoms can start at any time and may be triggered after diagnosis or in the course of mesothelioma treatment. If you are troubled by some or all of these symptoms, you don’t have to suffer alone. You can ask for mesothelioma help to get relief.
Not all mesothelioma patients will develop PTS. Your likelihood of developing PTS is higher if you have a history of other traumas or PTSD. Veterans, who may be more likely to have suffered from PTSD or experienced past trauma, should be especially vigilant and ask for mesothelioma help if they feel they may be developing post-traumatic stress due to their mesothelioma diagnosis.
The good news is that there is a variety of mesothelioma help for PTS. One of the best ways to heal is through support groups with other mesothelioma patients who are having some of the same experiences and struggling with the same symptoms of emotional stress. Knowing you are not alone and sharing coping strategies can provide great comfort. Medical centers with mesothelioma treatment programs generally offer patient support groups as part of their care package. These centers recognize the wealth of mesothelioma help available within the community of patients and the healing power of helping others.
Mesothelioma help for PTS can also include therapy sessions with an experienced counselor, meditation, and medication.
Mesothelioma Help for Anxiety
After a mesothelioma diagnosis, even if you don’t experience PTS or depression, you may find yourself coping with increased anxiety and worry. Anxiety can leave you feeling sick to your stomach, panicky, restless, or dizzy. You may experience an irregular heartbeat or have trouble breathing. Once again, you don’t have to suffer through these symptoms in silence. There is mesothelioma help for anxiety and stress.
Depending on the severity of your symptoms, your physician may offer you the option of anti-anxiety medication. You may also find valuable help for anxiety and other forms of emotional stress through alternative treatments. You can use alternative therapies alone or in combination with medication.
Cancer Research UK reports that meditation has been shown to lower both mental and physical stress. It can also help with anxiety and depression. Studies of cancer patients who were given meditation instruction showed that they found it beneficial.
Meditation takes many forms. You may practice by sitting silently and trying to clear your mind of all thoughts or by focusing on one thing, such as your breath. There are guided meditations, which help you relax your body and your mind. There is a power in sharing meditation with others, so you may want to take a meditation class or join a group. Some healthcare centers have begun to offer meditation groups for patients. You can also meditate at home. There are a lot of meditation instruction and guided meditation videos, podcasts, and apps to help you.
Sessions with a therapist or social worker to talk through your emotional stress can also provide important mesothelioma help. Many people find that the ability to talk freely about their true emotions and get support from a compassionate professional provides a tremendous amount of relief from depression and anxiety. Even if you have been reluctant to seek this type of help in the past, you may want to consider it now. It may be just the mesothelioma help you need to deal with emotional stress that could otherwise overwhelm you.