What are tips for finding your new normal?
Are you having trouble recognizing yourself?
Struggling to let go of who you were, and embracing who you are now?
When your world has been tilted upside down and nothing seems to make sense anymore?
Whilst I am not sure that I have any of the answers, I have been there, at the bottom of my own life.
Desperately trying to acknowledge the fundamental seismic shift and accept you are losing who you were.
A little like a phoenix from the ashes, we need to rise, overcoming life’s challenges, and finding the new normal. Your new normal. Finding yourself, again.
My Journey to Finding Myself Again
On the 29th of June, 2004 – my world tilted, unrecognizably. I became a statistic, simply a number on someone’s spreadsheet. Aged just 20, I was diagnosed with advanced Papillary Carcinoma of the Thyroid. To you and me, Thyroid Cancer. Which, should you have to get cancer, it is on the “good” list.
Quite often a simple operation, possibly followed up with some radioactive iodine, but with a very high survival rate, 85% of patients are expected to survive thyroid cancer for 10 or more years.
In my case, this has indeed been true, I have been attempting to get rid of the sucker for over fifteen years.
However, it is still no less brutal to be told you have any sort of cancer, no matter how high up on the Nice List it features. Psychologically, it is impossibly difficult to comprehend being told you have cancer.
Regardless of mortality rates, I mean let’s face it, we all focus on the negatives in these scenarios, survival rates aren’t where the eyes linger, it’s the death bit we have to face. From that day forth I was now a cancer patient.
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My Identity Changed With My Diagnosis
My nasties have spread far and wide. On to both my lungs, my chest cavity and I have forgotten what it is even like to have any lymph nodes. My last operation was in July 2019, fifteen years almost to the month after the first one.
Whilst I knew it was never going to be a walk in the park, I haven’t “bounced back” anywhere near as quickly as I had planned.
I am a planner you see. I break things down into blocks, things that need to be achieved before, say a certain date. Usually my next flurry of hospital appointments.
Sadly, I no longer have the full use of my left arm due to nerve damage and, with great remorse and even greater anger had to accept that may always be the case. As my life motto states:
How Do You Go About Finding Yourself Again?
First off, finding yourself again does not come with a rule book, nor does it manifest in the same way for each of us. No matter what the cause of the shift in your world has been, the work that is needed to be done to find contentment, happiness, and attempt to make peace with losing who you were, is off the scale.
And I, my friends, have done a remarkable job of fluffing that up. I am not yet at peace with losing who I was. Nor, I do want to do things differently, for example, accepting I can no longer deadlift my one rep max (145kg for anyone who may be interested).
I probably have to add, having managed to break my own foot TWICE in two years, I haven’t actually been able to lift that a while longer than I care to admit. But, I did it, and no matter how long ago it was, it was a bloody achievement. Anyways, I digress.
Finding My New Normal
I am hoping for a time when I become at ease with my new “normal”. But right now, I actually want to stamp my feet and shout from the rooftops about how shit my life is, in the vague hope it might make me feel better. What a grown-up I am (not).
But, let’s face it, folks, no amount of screaming and shouting is going to help. It hasn’t helped over the last 11 weeks. In fact, I have been so very miserable, it physically hurts.
Couple that with the nerve damage, I haven’t wanted to get out of bed, let alone leave the house. I have barely been there as a wife, a mother, a sister or a daughter. I have been painful as a friend, and even lost all the usual love I have for writing.
So the scheduler in me decided on a plan of action. I gave myself a deadline.
How I’m Finding Myself Again After Cancer
This time last week, I declared a truce with my nerve damage. I would love to say I waved a white flag, but as I am currently a One-Armed Bandit, that would be nigh on impossible! If you don’t laugh, you cry and all that.
Below are few ways I have used to try to cope in the hope it will help me to turn the corner, maybe they can help you too if you need them, and get you on the path and finding yourself again too:
#1. Accept Your Current Situation
This sounds obvious huh, but this is such a tough thing to do. To actually take a step back and accept what is going on.
In my case, I was resolute to fight, argue, and shout about the nerve damage caused by my last operation back in July. It is so easy for people to say “well, at least you’re still here” or “they got so many nodules out, that’s great!” Or “try to find things you can do, rather than focus on the things you can’t”. No.
No, I don’t want to do that, I do not want to accept that the nerve damage is here to stay, possibly permanently. I have not been ready to accept this, until now, almost 3 months into my determined, if unrealistic “fight”.
You see, in my case, you can’t fight the cause, the resulting nerve damage, or even the journey the universe has put you on. You can, however, dig deep, address the current situation, and accept it, then go about finding yourself again.
In accepting where you currently are, you open up your mind, body, and soul to overcoming life’s challenges.
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#2. Accept the Limitations that the Current Situation Imposes
My current physical impediments have plagued me since I came round from the general anesthetic. Whilst I know that the damage to the nerves could have been far, far worse, I guess I had gone into the operation thinking it wouldn’t happen.
It hasn’t been severe in the 8 other operations, and whilst the use of my left arm and face has been diminished somewhat, there has never been such pronounced nerve damage until now.
Nerve pain is like nothing I have ever experienced in my life. I have had an emergency c-section, the aforementioned 8 operations including my sternum being split, broken my own foot twice (the idiot that I am, I kid you not) and even given birth on gas and air, but this, wow, this is something else.
To all those nerve pain warriors out there, I salute you.
In the premise of finding yourself again, I guess for me, this was the starting point. Only one week ago did I attempt to start accepting my limitations, and eventually I am hoping to forgive my body for not bouncing back.
By accepting these limitations, I truly believe you can make great strides in finding yourself again.
#3. Acknowledge Losing Who You Were
I would say, that this is about where I am in my journey to finding myself again. Not only do I need to acknowledge the changes that have occurred to my body as a result of this operation, but I also need to accept the toll of having cancer for so long has had on both my body and my well being.
At 20 something, an operation though daunting, seemed relatively achievable to absorb in my stride. At 30 *cough cough* something, this was not the case. The huge downside for me is that I had set myself up for my own fall.
Based on my unwavering belief that I would be able to take it in my stride. Heck, I had even gone so far as to think we would be going on holiday 2 weeks post-op. As it turns out, it is now 3 months post-op and I can almost feel the sunshine.
The dreamy warmth on my shoulder is literally keeping me typing right now. I will have to pack a selection of SPF’s though, as I can’t feel the skin these days, I burn without realizing and that’s not good for the ginger in me!
Losing who you were will not define who you will become, it will aid you in your quest.
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#4. Begin Finding the New Normal
It is so incredibly tough to find a new normal when all you want is getting back to you. But instead of looking back, pining for some lost life, the shift in my brain came when I began to look forward. I am now looking forward to finding myself again.
That’s not to say I haven’t grieved my old normal. I have, and I guess, if truth be told, I probably still am.
As Christina Antis wrote for Scary Mommy:
“Finding yourself again takes time, years, and patience. But, it will happen and no matter how you feel, you’re doing better than you think.”
5 Easy Ways to Finding Yourself Again
#1. Do Something You Truly Love
Take some time out of your day to absorb yourself in something you really enjoy spending time doing. There are many ways to induce endorphins, the feel-good hormone, to flow around your body and improve your mood and wellbeing, and not just by exercising!
- Eat Chocolate – yes – this is top of the to-do list for once! Cocoa beans contain mood-boosting substances such as phenethylamine which is an organic compound that gives your body an endorphin boost! The same can be said for eating your favorite food, now it doesn’t get better than that!
- Laugh until hurts. Counterintuitive as this maybe when you’re not feeling yourself, it is a great natural way to boost your endorphins and your mood. Grab a bestie or a favorite film or book, and get those cheeks grinning.
- Paint, create or make music – it doesn’t matter what the final product is, the process of absorbing yourself in something positive that you love doing can really raise the number of those little endorphin buddies of yours!
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#2. Accept Help When It’s Offered
Whether someone can mind the kids for you long enough for you to take a shower and wash your hair, or someone does the grocery shopping for you so you don’t have to, anything to lighten your load and lift your day.
Finding yourself is a journey, not a destination.
#3. Make Some Future Plans
No matter how small, just make a plan, maybe see an old friend for lunch or clear out a drawer or two.
Having something to look forward to can help in finding yourself again.
#4. Try To Get Some Sleep
A rested mind and body can help you make bigger strides forward. Sleep aids such as lavender can induce a calming effect, making for a more rested slumber.
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#5. Leave Your Comfort Zone
Try something new, take yourself out of your comfort zone, anything from a new recipe or making a new friend to a new gym class, trying something new is great for the soul.
Looking Forward to Finding Yourself Again
I am endeavoring to make plans, see people, catch up with old faces, and relearn how to live again, not just merely exist. In general, I am such a happy soul, but I had forgotten how to laugh. I had forgotten how to embrace life, and enjoy it.
No longer am I canceling plans, avoiding leaving the house, or wasting the day away until it is an acceptable time to wear PJs. That being said, my favorite thing to wear has always been pj’s so I would be lying if I said they haven’t been donned whilst I waffle away to you lovely lot.
Happiness is something I had forgotten how to feel. An emotion I could see in others, but with no ability or drive to join in. I have struggled so very much these last few months, I have forgotten who I am, let alone trying to move forward. But that’s just it, the crux in all this. I am Me. I was put on this path to be myself.
“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde
Printable Self-Love + Care Quotes
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Finding Yourself Again is a Journey
Whilst the journey to finding the new normal is not without its challenges, rise up, and meet them. Dig deep, it really does take every cell in your body and every thought in your mind to conquer the tilt that has happened in your world.
But upside-down life isn’t all that bad, it just takes some open-minded navigating and some guidance from those whom you love, and who love you.
It is a path that is hard to walk alone but rarely does you find yourself in complete solitude. Look around you, reach out, take the helping hand when it is offered.
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As A.A Milne wisely said, “You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think”.
It is not only cancer that causes these seismic shifts in our worlds. Sadly there are so many different circumstances that leave you trying to find yourself again.
Never give up, I promise you there are brighter days ahead. It is worth overcoming life’s challenges to be able to see the light again.
I hope you’re bathed in both love and light,
How will you find yourself again?
More About Guest Contributor
Wife, Mama to Twins and #BossBaby and undeterred fighter of The Big C. Often found drinking coffee until it is acceptable to drink wine. Writer, Creator, and Doer. Generally happy unless too sleep-deprived, easily remedied with a hug from my tribe. A supporter of other women, let’s straighten each other’s crowns. Disliker of wasps, spiders and horror movies. I am a fully-fledged wimp. I waffle (a lot) but endeavor to raise a smile. Find me here Parenting Fail and Pigtails.