Today’s #SameHere Hero: Mia Bermann (While I’ve known her and her fight for a number of years, reading back through her story certainly opened my eyes up to yet another area related to mental health where we are failing patients. The treatments of “physical” conditions affect our mental health in ways that are being neglected.)
“I believe genetic predispositions played a large role in my mental health – as well as physical traumas I’ve experienced, and continue to live through. I was sexually assaulted in June of 2007 and kept that to myself until 2009. Needless to say, when I finally opened up about that experience, the ‘wound’ was already hemorrhaging, and it was a major crisis. My anxiety and depression manifested itself in poor sleep, weight gain, self-inflicted social isolation & major social anxiety. Most recently, my battle with cervical cancer (diagnosed September 2016) has both helped and harmed my mental health.
Though I am DEFINITELY stronger mentally than I have ever been in my life, some days, I’m just sick of being tired & tired of being sick. Cancer is a very isolating illness, in that unless you’ve been there, you can’t ENTIRELY relate. I think that being diagnosed with cancer at 29 is a unique experience – if I’m being kind. It’s also a super crummy circumstance that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. Every time a nurse reads my chart and looks up at me with pity, and says, “but you’re so young!”…it’s actually pretty awful and makes me feel worse. My whole oncology team, all the way to the techs, I absolutely love. However, if I don’t bring up my anxiety and depression, they don’t ever touch on it. They’re so focused on the physical aspect of cancer, that my mental health falls by the wayside, to be dealt with ‘after.’ At least I can speak for young adults when I say that when you’re going through a ‘physical’ trauma like this, you’re so focused on keeping a positive mental attitude during treatments, that you don’t realize how much you’re actually neglecting your own real feelings, and how much that can affect you down the road. I can’t tell you how many times in the hospital we hear – ‘Oh we’ll see what the social worker’s schedule looks like for this month.’
All this said, no one can fight this battle alone – the physical or the mental. Without my unbelievable therapist (that I see outside of the hospital/oncology unit), family & friends (and my dog, Lila – no joke), I’d be completely lost. Therapy, yoga, some medication (not ashamed to admit that), and being extra aware of keeping my people-pleasing tendencies in check have been the keys to me keeping my mental health in check. I hope that my story can reach other young adults with cancer or other ‘physical’ ailments and make them feel less alone – and convince them to work on their mental health while being treated. So, #SameHere and I’m happy that I can proudly say I have a nicely shaped head despite what the chemo has done to my hair ).”