Posted by: cg00n | August 19, 2008

The Comfort Zone

I have been feeling much better for the last few days although I still have nervous patches and I’m still feeling rather down most of the time.  The needle on my mood meter seems to be just nudging into the green above the depression area.  Day by day things are improving in a two steps forward, one back kind of way.  When things started to clear up I began to realise just how tense I was but I still can’t quite figure out where it all came from.   The two most helpful things I did, I think, were meditating and paying attention to my breathing.  Once I could get to some kind of island of calm I was able to make progress towards a more positive viewpoint.

A third thing that was also useful was the realisation that there was feedback between my head and my gut.  When I start feeling slightly nauseous my head begins to feel anxious and vice-versa.  If I bloody-mindedly get myself some stomach settling stuff I can make a good start on breaking the vicious circle.

Speaking of “the comfort zone”, an issue with which I have been feeling a little uncomfortable recently is the almost classic advice given to cancer patients; as a friend recently put it:

… you need to take a warrior attitude about your condition.   Take the attitude that you are NOT going to let the cancer win and you’ll do everything in your power to fend it off.

According to this Scientific American article, this may include:

Find the best doctor for your disease: Be willing to travel and always get second, third and even fourth opinions to make sure that you’re getting the best treatment.

I am not a warrior.   Just thinking about having to jet around the world looking for the best doctor and the best treatment in strange and distant places is almost enough to bring on another anxiety attack.  How would I decide which opinion was right, which treatment centre the best?  Ultimately I have to trust that I am getting good, competent care that will likely do the job.  Looked at another way, if I had been willing to travel and get multiple opinions every time I went for a regular checkup from my GP my potential melanoma might have been discovered at a very much earlier stage, but is it reasonable to spend my life and energy that way?  The word most often used to describe someone who would go to such lengths is hypochondriac.  What I am comfortable doing is trying to find a balance between quantity and quality of life.

I am genuinely optimistic (although not exactly manic) about the future, but I don’t think being aggressive would be a positive move in my case.  Your milage may vary.



  1. Good to hear you are on the upswing a bit again! I agree with not spending your life to getting lots of opinions and staying on high alert. Since almost anything these days comes with someone warning you it will kill you in some way I think one has to try and enjoy the life they have.
    Best wishes from my parents, H & M too.

  2. This is the third attempt to respond to your blog. Each time I opened another window to check out information, I lost this site. Oh dear, that’s learning the hard way! You are like family to me and I’m wondering if there is anything I can do to help you fight the melancholy.

    I’m so sorry you are battling these doldrums. I’ve had several friends who struggled with depression and I know something of the pain involved. Also authors and artists who have suffered this kind of sadness seem to have found an outlet through which they could lose themselves in some sort of expressive skill. Manual engagements may help alleviate some of the problem.

    You have known the satisfactions in building things such as your harpsichord and your Citroen car. Have you ever thought of wood sculpture as a way of hacking out frustrations? I discovered the fun of chiseling wood while doing my studies in Pennsylvania. From a dry section of tree trunk, I chipped out a large bird, with one wing up and the other one down in order to get away from pure symmetry.

    Instead of working from a vise on a workbench, I used a gunny sack filled partially with sand as a holding platform on a table outdoors. Then with sharp chisels and a wooden mallet, I cut away all of the excess wood. Birds and fish are easy subjects to start in sculpture. A turned head or a twist of the tail can add expression to an otherwise static form. With chalk, one can draw a view of the subject on each side of the block and then chip away the excess wood. This is a good way of forgetting one’s troubles, building skill and coming up with a trophy.

    Perhaps you can think of some similar undertaking for the sake of counteracting depression and at the same time making something to stand outside of oneself. You and those around you can find pleasure in such production. Or am I just dreaming? Must go now with warmest wishes for solutions to the problems that stand in the way.

    My love to you and the family, from Helen

  3. Oh, I guess this is where our opinions diverge. I actually am a Melanoma Warrior. As I was walking down a staircase to go to my first day of chemo, my father said “Go get ’em, Warrior.” That Christmas, he and my mother gave me a pendant that I wear on a chain that simply says “Warrior”. It is a daily reminder that I am battling this disease. I am not a public warrior. It is a personal battle. But, a warrior, none the less. You DO NOT HAVE TO BE A WARRIOR!! I want you to know that this is your battle to wage, however you choose. Some people do need the satisfaction of seeking every opinion and checking every source for the answer. I do, however, hope that you do strive to become your own ADVOCATE. By that, I mean that you ask all the questions and make sure you get all the answers. I mean that you take the Pathology reports and make sure that the Doctor’s explain what they mean. I mean that you take advantage of every resource that you CHOOSE to, to make sure that you have all the tools to make the right choices. That’s all. Just advocate for the best things for you.

    Now, as a clinically depressed individual, BEFORE my diagnosis, I find that the best thing for me is to write, write, write. It helps me to see what I am feeling. To review how I struggled and overcame the struggles.

    Whatever you do, find your own way, make your own choices, and know that whatever those are, They are RIGHT because you made them for you.

    I wish you peace in your days, nights and dreams.

    All my best,

    Ellen in NC.

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