Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Chemo Brain...The Struggle IS Real!

This has been a real struggle for me lately. And I wrote this at 4:00 am today, and haven't proofread it because I'm headed to work lol :)  

I used to be sharp, quick-witted, on top of things, and FUN. Maybe I'm wrong lol, but I used to be super fun to be around! Now I feel like a drag. I'm sure I'm not totally a drag, but I just don't feel like "myself" anymore. 

Plus, I used to know (...ok mostly) EVERY SINGLE song title and artist of EVERY SINGLE classic rock song. Now, I'll recognize a favorite tune, and I'm lost  Grasping at fragments of no avail. 

Seriously, did all my knowledge just get fried along with the cancer cells???!???  And how much of it is Tamoxifen, if any???  

I used to love talking and conversing with people. Now, I'm not sure I even know how to have a conversation! Ok I care about this person, but what should I ask them or tell them? And then oh no, they asked me a question...questions are good, but can be a real struggle. 

Very often nowdays, it seems like I can't find an answer. I get paralyzed. It's like I sense that the answers and pieces to answers are up there, but it's as though I cannot find them, grasp them, and use them. Have you ever seen on of those machine thingies at like, a fair or what not that have a chamber you stand in and there's a fan ok the floor and it blows money up all around you, and whatever you can grab onto and keep hold of you get to keep? This is exactly how my brain feels: the bills are my thoughts/memories, swirling around my brain, and I'm desperately trying to grab on to any that I can, hoping it's of value. 

No wonder I'm exhausted by lunch time!

So many things seems so daunting, and I get stuck. Simple, little things like calling to order something, or scheduling an appointment. I think, "how can I do this?" I know I just pick up the phone and call, but then what? Then there will be questions, and I will have to come up with answers. 

And this is where it gets tough. 

Questions are a real struggle for me. I'm finding it increasingly hard to open up and talk to people. I always appreciate it when people ask me questions like "How are you?" and the like, but answering is absolute mental hell for me. And I know HOW CRAZY and dumb it sounds; I'm fully aware of that, which makes it even MORE frustrating. I love that people care about me and ask questions, but why can't I answer them??? What little communication skills I DID have before chemo are long gone, it seems...

Some examples: 
  • How's the swelling in your arm doing? Oh yes, my lymphedema...thankfully it's very slight, but it does cause numbness and tingling sometimes. I'm already sick of wearing the bandaging to bed; I'm very thankful my insurance is covering a custom sleeve! But how is it doing? Um...well...AND THEN I GET STUCK. It's as though my brain can't take knowledge of how my symptoms are today, and how they have been recently, and integrate them to form an answer. So I fumble, I ramble, hate myself, and move on. Lol no I don't hate myself, but it is darn frustrating. And these sleeves and gloves...I mean, as sexy as they are, they're not my FAVORITE daily accessory...
  • How was your date? Hmmm, let me think...(ok, who even has TO THINK ABOUT this??? First dates are usually pretty impressionable...) was I even there?? I remember being there, but how DID it go? What on earth did we talk about? Did we talk?!? Oh yes, because I remember thinking about how...well, how SOMETHING, BUT what??? I'm sorry, what'd you ask me???
  • How do you feel about X,Y,Z? I.e. A movie, musician, person, date, place, etc. Feelings??? What are these feelings you speak of??? I seem to have a vastly diminished capacity for developing new feelings. If it's something I've cared about deeply for a long time, that's still there; but developing new feelings (i.e. dating, new people in general, events and happenings, etc) seems to be something I just don't do anymore. This one is bittersweet though...I used to get excited about so many things in life, even little, simple things. Now, I don't remember the last time was when I was really, truly excited about something. Even when my doc told me I was cleared of cancer, I didn't feel EXCITED, or even super happy. I was pleased, yes, but not ecstatic like I used to get. On the flip side, I used to get soooo worked up about things that upset, not so much (unless it's an insurance company or a crazy patient...that'll still do it). That part I'm VERY thankful for...but I miss excited, Spazzy, goofball, silly crazy Natalie. And I don't know how to get her back.

Now, please note I am not depressed or anything (thankfully). Frustrated, yes, but happy with life and thankful to be alive.  I guess if I had to put one word to how I feel in general, it would be NUMB. I just feel numb. You know how if your hands are numb, and you go to use them (i.e. pick something up, write, etc), it's more of a struggle to use them...that's exactly how my brain feels, ALL THE TIME. I know it's there, and it's working, but I can't quite FEEL it, and I'm just going through previously learned motions. I often feel as though I'm watching myself go through life. It's literally like I am watching myself from behind (and to the right...what's up with that?!? It's the strangest sensation)...there's a feeling of disconnect from both my mind and my body, and I'm not sure how to get everything back on the same page. 

I've been doing good with reading my Bible, but I can definitely sense the Holy Spirit gently reminding me to come rest in His presence, in prayer, to find peace.