Saturday, 15 December 2018

Weekly Discussion Summary ~ Our Strengths and Weaknesses

“Vulnerability and strength are two sides of the same coin: you cannot have one without the other.”

This week, we listed three strengths and two weaknesses in our discussion, including the ways we might address our weaknesses.

Many of us found it easier to focus on  our weaknesses, perhaps indicating a general negative bias. We have all been diagnosed with breast cancer, some of us primary breast cancer, some of us with recurrences, and some of us secondary breast cancer. Our discussion confirmed that our diagnosis changes us and we talked about lessons learned, weaknesses turned into strengths and vulnerabilities transformed into resilience. We have faced our mortality, undergone harsh treatments, our bodies and minds irrevocably changed. Yes, we have suffered, but we have also grown, found strength in sharing, overcoming, enduring. 

Many of us see ourselves as caring and kind, tenacious and determined.  We are good problem solvers and fiercely loyal to family and friends. We are generous, independent, smart, passionate and creative. We are conscientious and we never give up. 

We may come to appreciate the small, simple everyday things in life more, we may find we can let go of insignificant worries more easily. 

We see our weaknesses as often stemming from our sadness and our experience of loss. Inevitably in our group there is loss, as the reality of breast cancer is that women are robbed of their lives too soon. This can lead to feelings of guilt - why her, not me? and a sensitiveness that leads to holding on to deep fears and sadness rather than expressing our feelings. This is where a safe, confidential space to share (provided by our closed private group) can be so important. 

Many of us find it hard to put ourselves first, even though our need for self-care may be huge. Treatments and ongoing medication may leave us fatigued and with numerous side-effects that are difficult to explain to others, and so many of us battle on every day feeling low and tired. Many of us have demanding jobs, family responsibilities, caring roles, and so on, and today's society demands a lot from all of us.

It's hard to slow down and find time to look after ourselves in a world that values busyness. Self-compassion is a value we advocate in our group, but it seems that many of us find it extremely hard to practice it. By contrast, some of us are worried that our self-care is close to laziness and we are good at avoiding chores in the name of needing to rest! 

A few of us have given ourselves permission to be happy. So many of us see ourselves as responsible for everyone else's happiness, which of course we cannot control, and so we never rest because we cannot control how others feel. If we are to address this tendency, we must put ourselves first and attend to our needs before others - the well-known idea that we must put on our own oxygen mask on the failing plane before fitting others' masks. Sometimes we need all of our energy for ourselves, we may need to ask for help, we may need to listen to our bodies and treat ourselves with the kindness we show others. 

Resilience can come from acknowledging that it isn't what happens to us that matters, but how we react and what we can do about it. If we are wise and insightful, we can exploit our weaknesses and move our vulnerability towards strength via blending, melting and moulding. It is not easy and for many, our breast cancer diagnosis brings fatigue and low mood, perhaps depression. However if we can sit up and take notice of the moment, acknowledging the beauty and joy in the everyday and succumb to a craving for life, this can carry us forward. We may seek a bucket list of new and exciting experiences, we may look for quiet moments of joy. As Naz reminds us, vulnerability and strength are two sides of the same coin: you cannot have one without the other.

If you are a woman living in the UK with a breast cancer diagnosis and you would like to join our private group please send us a private message via our public Facebook page.

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