It’s a strange feeling, to experience something from two inverse perspectives. It happens all the time: the teacher suddenly becomes the student; the child is now learning to be the parent; the bullied turns into the bully. These are pivotal moments in our lives because they require us to step outside of our own shoes so that we may learn some life lesson that we’re supposed to. They tend to be agonizingly painful … but if we push ourselves to embrace what is happening, then we experience true bouts of self-evolution. If we don’t push ourselves enough, we get to experience the agony all over again when the lesson finds some other way to pop back up into our lives.
I’m finding myself in a period where the therapist becomes the client. It’s a weird juxtaposition because no one else is involved; it’s just me-with-my-psych-degrees stepping back and observing me-the-cancer-patient. Psych Degree Tarah recognizes that Cancer Patient Tarah has started to get depressed. All the signs are there. She’s lying around in bed all day – alternating between reading, watching mindless TV, and staring off into space. She stopped working out. She’s exhausted every time she has to socialize with anyone and avoids it as much as possible without arousing suspicion. She alternates between not eating at all and binge eating foods she knows she’s not supposed to have during treatment. She’s doubling up on her sleep meds just to fall asleep at night. She’s crying every day. She procrastinates in completing her tasks and responsibilities, then does them in a half-assed way. She’s less consistent in taking her immunity-boosting meds. She stopped researching different ways to improve her chemotherapy treatment, and she started thinking about not finishing chemotherapy at all. She knows she’s about to lose her job, yet she does nothing to find a new one. She’s irritable (more than usual) and not making much effort to look at the positive side of things.
Psych Degree Tarah has spent the last twenty-five years of her life counseling friends, mediating between her mother and father, validating lovers, pushing her students to do and be better, outlining steps her SMI patients can take to improve their quality of life, and listening to coworkers vent. Sometimes she got paid to do these things; usually she did it for free because she was good at it. But now, she’s facing the most obstinate, most difficult patient she’s ever had in her life: herself.