Cancer and Grieving. An orphan's perspective. Part 3/3


| 1 Comment

There is nothing in the world like losing a parent. I am not a father I have never had children, I can only imagine that losing a child has to be right up there with it, but it's a different kind of grief. For the most part your parents are all you've known. They're your guidance and your cheer and a lot of the times your owner and despair. No matter what age you are losing a parent changes you. Unfortunately I lost both of mine due to cancer at an early age, 16 and 21, and losing my mother was the worst thing I've ever had to experience.

For me I think I grieve differently than most people. My mom had cancer for about 4 months and while I was optimistic, I think I was preparing myself for the inevitable. Even so, nothing really could prepare me for that day. For the most part it was a blur. It was the middle of the spring semester and I was at the hospital all weekend sleeping in the same room and the same clothes. My mom was asleep most of the time, her body trying to fight off an infection she got in the hospital due to constant cancer testing on her lungs. She fought hard over the weekend until eventually Monday morning her body gave in to her illness. She didn't have to fight to breathe and suffer that pain anymore. And yet I kneeled over that hospital bed and cried for an eternity. People try to comfort you in situations like that but it doesn't do anything, nothing will ever be the same again and you know it.

After that there was no time to rest. My mother's bills and estate had to be dealt with. She didn't have life insurance, only debts and two mortgages. That's what we had to make sure wouldn't come onto us. We had no idea how bad it was until our Uncle set to work uncovering everything and getting what information we needed. The house needed to be foreclosed on, that was a fact. There was no way my sister and I could cover the other half of the mortgage and all the bills that go with it. We had to get what we wanted from that house and leave it as is.

It's in these moments that we tend to reflect on our own lives. As I had to go through the house my parents bought, picking what I thought I would need and leaving whatever I couldn't take, I thought a lot about my life. Is this what I would want to leave my kids when I'm gone? How strange is it that 5 years ago my father and mother were saving for retirement and planning their lives as old people? What does any of this mean now? I thought it could and would motivate me to do better in school and try to do the most with the time I have left. At first it did and I thought I was ok because I was driven by that, but eventually everything comes back around.

The toll of everything hit me over time, and while I was working my ass off over the summer doing research I was also drinking it off too, never realizing the effects that was having on me. Not taking the time over the summer to look back on everything and evaluate my new life has crept into how I've been able to handle school work this semester. This is to say that I've barely been able to handle it, this shocked me. The me a year ago would have been killing it this semester but something wasn't right with me anymore. I could hardly focus on anything, nothing seemed important enough to actually do when I could get wasted or do nothing. It was a problem it took me too long to notice. As a man we're not supposed to have depression or be sad for an amount of time, and that's how I treated it. I put my head down and got busy. This turned out to be a pretty harsh mistake that came to bite me in the ass when my brain decided to handle the grief in another way filled with only distractions all the time.

It's only been recently that I've come to the realization that it's having an effect on my relationships too. I developed a thought process of keeping people at a distance to keep them from having to go through what my mother and family have gone through in grieving the loss of a person. Whether it's that I'm actually afraid of dying young or just the chance that I could lose another person I'm not sure about but I do believe that's something that my life experience has done to alter my normal ways of thinking.

Again I want to say that I wrote this three part entry because I know now there are other people like me who live in silent torment over this kind of loss. I'm not afraid to openly admit that this realization only occurred when I started going to group grief therapy; another thing that men don't normally like to do or admit to doing but is actually incredibly helpful. I wrote this so that people like me can be understood by others maybe a little better.

 

Brain Talk!

male-brain-scan.jpg

Neuroscience of Depression in Men

I learned in my own research of the topic of depression that there isn't much research on depression in men that didn't have the qualifier of gay, bisexual, specific ethnicity, specific region, impairment or age. In other words most papers that do look at depression in men are interested specifically in gay men or Asian men. Most studies that do look at depression focus almost entirely on women. I wanted to know if my reaction to the death of my mother was depression or not, without actually diagnosing myself. Unfortunately I didn't come up with much, even on the imaging side of the research, that dealt mostly with men without a specific qualifier other than sex.

What I do know about neuroimaging and depression in general is from this paper: A Meta-Analytic Study of Changes in Brain Activation in Depression. The conclusion this paper came to is that after studying numerous other imaging studies using different methods a pattern of brain regions could be found. However, and most importantly, there was limited overlap in findings between the areas focused on in the imaging studies. This means that Depression involves a number of complex systems and areas that cannot be pinned down to a simple brain model. There are significant differences even in the way these systems are activated in a depressed brain, nothing of which that can quantify within any particular method. They also noted that due to many studies not using consistent methods it was hard to conduct a qualitative analysis on the cognitive activation.

One system that was consistently overactive was the cortical-limbic regions that include the middle areas of the brain including the area used for fine motor movements. This implies depressed brains tend to overthink what they're doing more than control brains. It was also overactive in negative situations leading to the same conclusion. There is no good general neural system for depression or even biological explanation. What we do know is that it is incredibly taxing on the energy your brain consumes.


If you've read all of these or just this one I want to thank you for letting me share all of this with you

1 Comment

I think it's incredible that you have the courage to share your personal experience. I can't imagine the pain you have gone through. I'm sorry. I can relate however on the distractions. It's kind of crazy how little research there is on men's depression. I never really looked into it myself. It can't be easy to move on or even just deal with it in general. Something that has worked for myself and people I know is music therapy. I just did a blog post on it and got a lot of my information from thiswebsite. Check it out, maybe it's lame of me haha, but I swear sometimes it helps! Best of luck to you!

Leave a comment

Subscribe to receive notifications of follow up comments via email.
We are processing your request. If you don't see any confirmation within 30 seconds, please reload your page.

Search This Blog

Full Text  Tag

Recent Entries

My name is __ and I am an Addict
No matter how old I get I cannot stop the habit of biting my fingernails. I have tried everything…
Do babies remember traumatic events later in life?
The short answer to this question is sometimes, but the real story is the effect that traumatic events can have…
The Fight
Despite the incredibly advanced society that we live in with treatment for almost all of the threat posing illnesses,…

Old Contributions