A man holds an umbrella in the middle of a dark rainstorm, and under the umbrella he is surrounded by a peaceful sky and flowers.

When Life Sucks 

Last updated: January 2021

I have had prostate cancer not once but twice … that sucks. I have been practicing social distancing for months … that sucks. I can still remember the “old days” when my wife and I went out to have dinner. We did not have to wash the dishes that night. Not going out for dinner …that really sucks.

Not too hard to imagine that many of us are feeling closer to the emotional edge these days.

Trying to stay positive

So how does this prostate cancer survivor react in ways that might help my physical and mental health? Because life just works this way, I have discovered that things always appear to get darker before the dawn, and given all the dark clouds I started looking for my “shades.” I just must believe that things are going to get better.

Next on my agenda is to stop and write down the many things that are going well in my life. Given I have been diagnosed with a Gleason 9, had my prostate removed, then had Lupron along with 40 radiation treatments, it would be easy to overlook the many things that are going well for me.

Looking beyond prostate cancer

Except for the cancer I am in great health and so far. The cancer is in remission. The sun was out when I got up this AM and walked the dog. A flock of Canada Geese flew over, and it was fun to watch and … the list goes on.

I urge you to pick out and document the smallest joys in your life. At the end of your day or week, read and reflect on your list.

Learning from setbacks

Because real life is never about unicorns and pink bunnies, I take time to look at my setbacks and ask what lessons I could learn from them. I ask, "How can my past mistakes, frustrations, or pains help me in the future? What changes could I have made or could make now to avoid similar pain points in the future?"

Rather than beating myself up for past mistakes and failures, I look for ways to sidestep them in the days, weeks, and months that lie ahead.

Bad days happen

I also decided that it is OK for me to have a bad day. But that privilege comes with certain rules. Specifically, it is ok for me to have the bad day, but I cannot inflict discomfort on others. You might notice this idea links closely with the last paragraph.

Taken together, the two remind me every day how I might avoid mistakes in the future. As a cancer survivor, it is easy to forget that others are trying to help. My “job,” and perhaps yours, is not to forget those who care about you.

Resetting your mental health

If things really get bad, my best advice is to stop using your head, and start using your body. Take a walk, make the effort to do something physical even if you cannot or have limited abilities. The effort alone should help you to reset your emotions.

Will things change when you get back? Perhaps not, and that is ok. The process might allow you to find new energy and clarity. I have found over the years that physical effort has a way of disempowering problems both real and imagined.

Every day offers each of us an opportunity to start anew. I hope you will join me tomorrow to watch the sun rise.

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