Monday, 30 December 2019

BRiC's Collective Voice: Putting on a Brave Face; Dec. 5. 2019.

“A brave face spares the feelings of others”

For our discussion this week we looked at keeping a brave face. Why would we put on a mask? Naz explained that there are many dimensions to this. Firstly, there is an expectation from others that we should be brave. Secondly, we may put a brave face on ourselves to say that the “new me” is just as good as before breast cancer and possibly better. Thirdly, many equate strength to endurance. Putting on a brave face can sometimes be healthy but it can also undermine the fact that we are also vulnerable. We need both strength and vulnerability to build resilience. Admitting we are vulnerable is a sign of strength.

We found that putting a brave face on is very common, although some members told us that this was impossible to do given the trauma of diagnosis of breast cancer. Many of us felt that there was a need to protect the feelings of family and friends. For one member, it was a result of a lifetime of not being allowed to express her feelings openly by her family. There were feelings that others didn’t really want to know how we were really feeling - some even felt that they were boring others by talking about their illness. A common expression was “I’m fine, thanks”. Some of us felt that we would be labelled “weak” by talking openly - one member reported being “savaged” for not being strong enough. Some were worried about our livelihood so put on a brave face with employers so that we are not disadvantaged. For some members, a brave face was helpful, distracting themselves and preventing “thinking too much” about their illness.

So how do we put on a brave face? Some of us found distraction helpful, keeping busy, working or staying active. One member told us that she tries “grabbing life, filling every moment and never allowing quiet time”. The difficulty with doing this is that all the contained emotions build up “like a pressure cooker” and many of us commented that, at some point, it felt as if everything fell apart. Another member told us that, when this happened for her, she felt bad for not dealing with the bad times well. A brave face can only last so long. Some of us told us how receiving bad news, either about themselves or friends they had met through breast cancer knocked any brave face sideways.

So, what should we be doing? One of our members had wise words - she tries to recognise when she is experiences a tough time, acknowledge it and use self care. Self care can be simple but effective - being kind to yourself and prioritising your own well being and needs. Many of us find that talking to to others who have similar experiences can really help. We feel able to to confide in our feelings and worries without the need to put on a brave face. Some of us were able to access a local support group. We all felt the support of a group like BRiC made a substantial difference in our well being, despite the fact we all live in different parts of the country.

Sometimes you just need to take the mask off.

If you are a woman in the UK who has been diagnosed with breast cancer and would like to join our private group, please add your name as a comment below or send us a private message and we will be in touch x

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