The leaves I’m leaning over right now are the same colour as the vomit I’ve donated into the drain beside them. I laugh quietly, internally. Why am I thinking about leaves? Colours? Vomit? Why am I not even slightly anxious about the strangers watching me, possibly worrying about me, wondering if I’m ok or if they should or need to do anything to help me…or, in this post covid world, maybe they’re thinking about how to stay safe FROM me.
What do you think when you see someone unwell? Do you stay calm, slip into crisis management mode and think about helping? Do you get scared, wondering oh no, does she have it, have covid? Is she contagious? Is this some new horrible virus, the next pandemic? Both are normal reactions as is somewhere in between though the calm crisis management response is at least a little abnormal, a little wonderful, admirable and inspiring.
I’m not thinking about any of that, I’m noticing all the beautiful autumn colours of the leaves as they are squashed up against the sides of the drain and my chemo sickness slides down the grill over the top of them, beside them, disappearing into the deepest darkest London drain below. Wonder where it ends up? Does it pass under your house, my house? Or seep out into the underworld of this, vast, amazing city.
Gingerly, I unfold from my forward bend after what feels like half an hour. Only minutes have passed. I am relieved to see the open taxi door, the taxi driver’s patience as he waits for me to be ok enough to get back into the car. He hasn’t driven off; he doesn’t seem worried about me soiling his car, ruining his day. Thank goodness I splashed out on an exec car. I notice the slightly weird angle the car was holding in the street; the driver’s, unruffled (so grateful for that) rapid response (oh so very VERY grateful for that) as he had stopped the car when I had managed to whisper firmly stop now please, I’m going to be sick.
Shaky, trembling, feverish and nauseous, I did feel slightly better; certainly better than I had done all morning. I’d run late for a meeting, and then literally run to try and make it on time, only to find the person I was connecting with was sick too and had not bothered to tell his colleagues I was coming in. In the end, after breakfast on the house, getting something into my stomach to absorb the swathes of medication I’d downed and after a hopeful meeting with his apologetic colleague I felt safe again, listened to, cared about. I decided I had chosen the right venue for my upcoming shindig after all. The day wasn’t a complete disaster, in fact, so far most things had gone well.
Looking forward to being home and resting on the couch in front of the tv for the rest of the day, I crept back into the taxi, thanked the driver for his serenity and fluid driving skills, leant against the window and closed my eyes. I noticed how far I’d come, how I simply did not get embarrassed easily anymore, that feeling embarrassed, apologetic somehow, felt like a complete waste of my very precious time, energy and effort. I reminded myself embarrassment IS a valid feeling like all other feelings. Even though I wished we never had to experience embarrassment or shame. Those emotions crippled me in my early life and at various times throughout my teens, twenties and thirties. I had done anything to avoid embarrassment; the discomfort of being noticed in an unwanted way, of feeling shame, being caught out somehow, feeling the fool, of being judged naive, gullible or stupid.
Thank goodness I’m not so easily embarrassed anymore. I simply don’t care if I’m stared at while throwing up in the street, or when I do something wrong, make a mistake, am caught out, feel out of my depth or don’t know something. It’s easier than you think. Not caring doesn’t mean not taking responsibility; I still apologise when wrong, try to fix errors and am willing to quickly agree when I have misunderstood someone or something.
Yet remember, like me, you are human and just because you don’t know everything, or are sensitive and open enough to take something at face value and not realise someone is messing, teasing you, and above all you recognise you, me, we, ALL have, as much right, yes as much right as absolutely every other person…every other human being on this planet…to be here, to exist, to take up space, to have needs, wants, desires, have and use our voice.
We are as human enough as the next person therefore when I am being human, doing human things, like being unwell, throwing up, navigating chemotherapy, living life, craving being home on the couch…I don’t have to bother with embarrassment. I am already well and truly – ENOUGH.
I’m on a new treatment called DVD and it’s fairly heavy duty so no surprise I wasn’t going to get away unscathed. I want the regime to work. I need it to work if I am going to be able to hang about on this planet for a little longer; a little longer than the statistics still give me hope for. Anyway I’m here. I’m still here. I’m loving life, despite its challenges. I’m not going anywhere other than on travel adventures as much and as often as I can. I will be spending time with the most wonderful, special people I am privileged to have in my life, share this planet with as much and as often, as I can.
Happy holidays, Hanukkah and Christmas everyone regardless of what you do and don’t celebrate. I hope you are having an especially special break in whichever way suits YOU best.
Take care out there,
p.s. if anyone is hurting and needs support contact us at ComposurePsychology
Acknowledgements and References
Images: Me or courtesy of various artists on Unsplash.
© 2022 Janine Hayward www.psychingoutcancer.com. All rights reserved.
Posted in Covid, Myeloma Treatment, Psychology for Cancer, Symptoms and Side Effects, Uncategorized Tagged with: Bortezomib (Velcade), Cancer, Chemotherapy, Daratumumab, Dexamethazone, DVD, emotions, Myeloma, Nausea, Psychology, RIchLife, Steroids, Treatment
I have learned a lot about generosity over the last few months. Generosity is something I now realise I have made difficult for others at times and I have not always felt comfortable, when in receipt of it. Generosity can be a strange thing. It can feel like receiving a compliment: pleasant, appreciated yet also sometimes awkward. Awkwardness can depend on how often or intensely delivered the compliment is, and how much I believe it is well intentioned, genuine or even believable. Most often, generosity, offers for help, people taking the initiative to think about someone’s needs and meet them without asking, is very much appreciated and immensely supportive and loving.
Other times though, over-generosity is experienced. This is generosity where what I might be saying about my desire or needs isn’t heard, or is heard but ignored in some way. It can feel disrespectful and invalidating, and take away my independence. I can then be left with conflicted feelings of guilt for not being appreciative enough and annoyance at not being listened to, or believed, about knowing my own needs better than another. It occurs to me that older adults or people living with learning or physical disabilities may feel like this on a frequent basis. This feeling hasn’t often happened to me yet, though has occurred often enough to finally make me stop and think, about how I might impact others when trying to give or be generous. It has especially made me think about my relationship with my parents and extended family regarding giving. It hasn’t always been easy to work out how to give in a way that meets everyone’s preferences or budgets (so people are not left feeling embarrassed or like they need to match the budget when being generous themselves) and still leave a lovely sense of giving, and an appropriate sense of pleasure and gratitude in the receiver.
My logic about it making sense for me to pay for something, during times when I have earnt more or been on a favourable exchange rate or simply wish to be generous as a way of showing love (like feeding people), doesn’t always fit with others desires to pay their own way, use the monies they have put aside for exactly this type of expenditure and retain control over the product, service, experience and spending for themselves. Ironically too, these are preferences I also value and wish to exert when someone is being overly generous with me. Of course, talking about it honestly is a good remedy and preventative measure; one that will be put to the test in upcoming months as Mum and Dad visit. The last thing I wish them to feel is undermined or disrespected in any way.
Generosity is not all about money or gifts, it can also become too much when it involves doing things for others. Doing things that another person doesn’t want or need, or doing something that only partly fits a person needs, can be difficult to receive. The receiver can find themselves having to manage the other person’s feelings; how to be grateful and appreciative while considering whether anything is said about ‘please don’t do that again’ or ‘that’s so generous and unfortunately I can’t use/eat/keep it’. Instead of feeling helped and supported, the very person the giver wished to support, can be left feeling with ‘another thing to do’, ‘anxious’ or ‘overwhelmed’ and at worse wanting to withdraw from and push away a person or others’ offers of help.
Studies show that there appear to be many motivational, cognitive, and situational factors that influence helping behaviour and altruism1. Giving and receiving is not as simple as we might think; arousal and emotions are involved. Both givers and receivers don’t always get what they hope for.
Whereas giving a gift out of guilt is linked to the giver feeling more of a connected relationship, receiving a gift, given out of gratitude, is linked to feeling a more connected relationship. Giver and receiver experiences can be very lopsided in each generosity interaction.2
Similarly, to selfishness, too much selflessness may lead to rejection. It can be viewed by receiving others as undesirable, causing discomfort by highlighting gaps in their own virtues or be deemed to be socially rule breaking.3
Generosity is a curious beast, worthy of reflection and application of open communication to ensure it doesn’t slip over from loving support to being unhelpful and disrespectful. Hopefully my understanding evolves over time and becomes easier, more balanced and my levels of giving become appropriate and intuitive.
1 Dovidio, J. F. (1984). Helping behavior and altruism: An empirical and conceptual overview. Advances in experimental social psychology, 17, 361-427.
2 Chan, C., Mogilner, C., & Van Boven, L. (2014). Gratitude, Guilt, and Gift Giving. NA-Advances in Consumer Research Volume 42.
3 Parks, C. D., & Stone, A. B. (2010). The desire to expel unselfish members from the group. Journal of personality and social psychology, 99(2), 303.
Editorial Support: Stephanie Kemp
Illustration: Sapphire Weerakone
© 2017 Janine Hayward www.psychingoutcancer.com. All rights reserved.
Posted in Psychology for Cancer Tagged with: arousal, Cancer, emotions, Generosity, Myeloma, Psychology, Receiving Help, Reflection