I’ve been contemplating writing this blog ever since I was diagnosed. It’s a subject that actually means a lot to me, and it’s been playing on my mind for quite some time.
Any life threatening situation can have a massive impact on your mental health and it’s so important that we talk about that and start a conversation… so for those who don’t know what survivors guilt is, here’s the dictionary definition.
Cancer and Guilt
A traumatic experience like cancer has put so many things into perspective. Cancer has the power to change so many things about you, and the way you think: good and bad. Survivors guilt is one of the many side effects that I have suffered with, and I haven’t spoken about it.
Ever since I was diagnosed, I knew that my odds with the treatment were good; the chemotherapy had great statistics. However, I know that you have to take statistics with a pinch of salt, because cancer is a statistic that I fell under… a statistic no one wants to fall under.
My guilt first appeared when I was surrounded by people with cancer; whether I knew them, saw them, spoke to them during chemotherapy. The Churchill is a cancer specialist hospital, there’s no way that I could avoid it even if I wanted to. When people hear that I had cancer, people would then go on to tell me about someone they knew with cancer, and if they survived or not. I know people don’t know. But hearing this, wasn’t what I wanted to hear at that time. There was no escaping the stories, cancer is everywhere; social media, the news, tv shows, adverts, word of mouth… it was impossible to escape for a little while.
I started feeling guilty because I survived and they didn’t. And that is still hard to come to terms with. Even if they had a different type of cancer, I would still feel guilty that I’m here and they aren’t. Why have I been blessed of staying alive and they haven’t? Why didn’t it work for them and it worked for me? Why is the world so cruel? These are questions that I know the answers to, but I still can’t wrap my head around it because I really feel the pain of that person who didn’t make it. Sometimes, I feel like I would have rather died to save a life, but the world doesn’t work that way.
I know that I can’t change the outcome of people’s lives. I barely have control over my health.
So what can we do about survivors guilt?
Accept your feelings because you don’t want to be battling your brain everyday and cause unnecessary damage to your mental health.
Grieve, go through the stages of grief. All your feelings are valid, and you have every right to take time out to grieve those people that have died. You are only human too.
Act on your guilt, the world is full of so many negatives – so why not turn that guilt into something positive? Use your platform to raise awareness, campaign, put some good into the world and help leave their mark on the world.
You aren’t alone, many people suffer with survivors guilt, it’s a form of PTSD, which is the most common mental health illness to suffer with after a traumatic event/accident.
Ask your GP – as always, your GP can provide you the medical help you need. Don’t ever feel like a burden, get the help you deserve.
Enjoy life… as hard as that may sound, you now understand how fragile life is. A life can be taken in a matter of seconds, minutes or even years. It’s precious. Enjoy the life you have, because you only get it once.