#96 How Getting Connected is the Remedy for Loneliness

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We say no one goes through breast cancer alone and yet one of the biggest struggles in breast cancer recovery is feeling lonely, misunderstood, and unheard.
 
Sometimes the expectation we put on ourselves to be the warrior makes it very difficult to be vulnerable and connect with others. But it is in that connecting with others that we actually find true strength.
 
We create a safe space where we can connect to others and doing that empowers us to move forward.
 

Resources:

Survivor loneliness of women following breast cancer

UCLA Loneliness scale

Revivify is now open for enrollment, sign up today: https://www.thebreastcancerrecoverycoach.com/Yes

Books:

                 

 

Read Full Transcript Below:

Hello and welcome to the BCRC podcast, I am your host LL and you are in for a great show today.

 

Now, over the past week I have done four webinars on How to revive your life after breast cancer. And I had so many women ask for more times to attend that I added a fifth webinar which, (at the time of this recording will happen in two days, on Saturday, July 18th at 9 am pst/

 

You can get details on the webinar at https://www.thebreastcancerrecoverycoach.com/Revive

Also, maybe even more exciting is that enrollment for REVIVIFY, my ten-week coaching program is open, and you can enroll until Sunday July 19th at 9pm PST. because we all jump in and get started Monday the 20th.

 

So, if you have been waiting for the chance to get into revivify, now is that time, and if you want to know more about it, you can get all the details at the bcrc.com/Yes

 

If you have been on one of the 4 previous webinars, then you know that I begin by talking about 3 of the top reasons why women come to me for support and why they show up for my webinars.

 

I ask if those reasons resonate with the women on the webinar and without fail, there is a resonating heck yes to one or more of the reasons I talk about. 

 

I bring that up today because if you are new to this podcast or you are new to this breast cancer journey, it is so important to know that you are not alone. 

 

When I talk about the reason’s women reach out... of those who responded across the 4 webinars...70% said they wanted to feel heard by someone who gets what they are going through.

 

70%!  that is a lot of women feeling disconnected and alone.

 

Sean Seepersad, author of the book, the lonely screams, said in an article in psychology today:

 

That breast cancer survivors may experience a profound sense of loneliness even if they have lots of supportive friends and family around them.

 

He goes on to say, and I don’t think this will be a surprise for you, that Part of the reason for the loneliness is because the person with breast cancer is experiencing situations and emotions that few others can understand, unless they have had breast cancer themselves. 

 

This is actually called survivor loneliness, a term coined by Mary Rosedale from a study she conducted and published in Oncology Nursing Forum where a small group of women who were 1-18 years beyond their breast cancer treatment were interviewed to explore their feelings of loneliness after breast cancer.

 

I found this description so powerful and spot on that I want to quote it to you here:

 

They described how they felt alone in the awareness of mortality and were invalidated in the experience of ongoing symptom burden, a changed sense of identity and connection, and an altered threshold for distress that pervaded their long-term experiences. 

 

 As they sought ways to lead more authentic lives, the women sometimes withheld truth or projected images they perceived as inauthentic, contributing to their loneliness.

 

Here is why this is so powerful. Projecting inauthentic images happens when we get a diagnosis, are showered with support, love, pink ribbons, pink walks and hats, bracelets and t shirts, we are called warriors and continually feel the need to proclaim how strong we are. When inside, we are feeling lost, scared...terrified and distant from those who were so close to us.

 

Now, I am not saying there is anything wrong with the support. Not at all. When we get a diagnosis of breast cancer, we need to be in that space, it is important because that first part of the journey is terrifying.  

 

We need all the support and encouragement we can get to help us get through how awful it is.

 

We feel like crap, we make decisions we feel forced into because we want to choose life, we feel sick, we get poisoned, burned, cut into etc. etc. so we need a lot of pink, a lot of cheers, a lot of love. 

 

And the truth is that when we get all that support it helps us have a higher chance of having a better treatment outcome...so all of those are good thing.

 

Now, sometimes, that is not easy to hear, because receiving all that support and projecting yourself as a pink warrior requires this weird mix of vulnerability and projecting an inauthentic image. 


The image of a warrior even if you feel like you want to curl into a ball and suck your thumb.

 

How can you be the warrior and accept help at the same time? It is that gap, the gap that I call the protective barrier, that opens the door for loneliness and distance when treatment ends, and we move into recovery.

 

This is reinforced nearly every time I talk to a survivor, every time I present a webinar and it was amplified again this past week when the news of Kelly Preston losing her life was publicized.

 

I received several messages from women who were upset by this news. Some managed it well while others found themselves spiraling into anxiety.

 

Many of us were familiar with her and of course her husband. And when we see this beautiful, talented vibrant woman who we perceive as having it all lose her life to breast cancer, It can put you right back in that place of oh god if it could happen to her it could happen to me.

 

And bam you can start feeling lonely and isolated.

 

Because you do not want to say that out loud and scare the people who love you and they might have even conditioned you not to express those types of concerns.

 

If you express or have expressed fear and friends and loved ones respond with “don’t talk like that” you can feel awkward being transparent about your feelings….they don’t do this to dismiss you….I promise you they’re already thinking it too and they don’t want to say it out loud and scare you or reinforce their own fears.

 

I could see it in my husband's face when he told me about Kelly Preston. She was just a year older than me and that makes it feel real too. 

 

And here’s the thing, if you follow me or listen to this podcast regularly, you know I’m not one to sugar coat things...so I’ll tell you, it’s ok to talk openly about death and understand that it’s neither morbid or thinking negatively.

 

In my personal experience and my experience working with other survivors, getting to that place where you are not afraid to talk about death as a part of life, not as a terrifying taboo... Can help you have a deeper appreciation for life now and for living in the moment.

 

That feeling of secretly dealing with this fear or feeling like it’s not ok to talk about your very realistic fear can keep increasing that feeling of distance which results in feeling like you’re not heard, or your feelings are being dismissed and you’re all alone.

 

Rosedale said one thing she found in her study was that even though all the women interviewed experienced feelings of loneliness, they also felt
a deepened sense of empathy and connectedness to the suffering of others. And even in the clearer understanding of how fragile life is, they felt a strengthened vitality of connection to their loved ones.

 

Because the truth is when we feel like something is scarce or there is an urgency behind it as we often do when we are facing our own mortality those things that are important become even more precious

 

Another study published in the oncology nursing forum looked at the impact of psychosocial support on women with breast cancer. They took a small group of women and had half of them participate in a group intervention. The other half were left to cope on their own in whatever way they were already doing.

 

They used different diagnostic tools to assess how these women felt after six weeks and then again after six months of intentional support.

What they found was that women who had support had lower loneliness scores, more confidants and a higher sense of satisfaction with the people that were their confidants than the women who did to receive support. I’ll post a link to that loneliness scale in the show notes for this episode

 

Going back to Sean Seepersad. He says that what brings the power to these survivor groups is that when you are in the space with other people who share your fears, desires, hopes, and concerns. You can be authentic because they “get it”. And they are not going to judge you or tell you to stop talking like that because they are too afraid to hear what you have to say. 

 

I see this in my Facebook group all the time. Someone will post about how they cannot stop thinking about getting cancer again and others will pop right in with me too or I get it, or they will share an experience of how they deal with that fear.

 

In my group coaching calls for revivify and empower I also see this all the time. Someone will bring up a sensitive topic because they are at the breaking point and they need to get it out and inevitably someone else will thank them for saying it because it has been on their mind too.

 

That is why I picked this topic for this show. When I see hundreds of women reaching out to join in a webinar for support and 70% of them wanting to be heard I have to come on here and say to all of you collectively, I hear you and we hear each other.

 

Do not keep doing this alone.

 

I know I know you’re not a joiner, a hear it all the time...I was on a call with a woman the other day who I could see and feel needed to connect with other survivors but she kept saying I’m just don’t do the group thing and so I told her...you can join the breast cancer recovery group and just linger. You do not need to post or comment...just hang out.

 

See what other women are saying. Because I think sometimes in just seeing it, it helps you to feel less isolated, less like you are the only one who is feeling this way.

 

It is not uncommon for me to hear women focus on how rare or how aggressive the cancer they had was. And I want to offer that once you move into recovery, it is no longer about what kind of cancer you had.

I mean of course you must follow your Doctors directions and do your diagnostics and follow your plan. 

 

But aside from following medical advice

 

If you want to feel empowered, connected, anchored to your life now, understood and even capable of inspiring others...you must put out the effort to connect.

 

To regroup your life. To move past the loneliness. 

 

You must be forward thinking and ask yourself what I am doing now to get me closer to my future self, to the woman I want to be and the life I want to live. 

 

There is a book that I love called Think forward to thrive, written by Jennice VIlhauer PhD. 

 

In it she says that feelings are a response to what we have been thinking. 

 

This is in alignment with what I was taught by my own life coach and what I teach to others.

 

VIlhauer goes on to talk about how you may not be aware of your thoughts, because that does take a lot of raining and practice. But you can generally tell what your emotional state is, and this is a quote

: your emotional state indicates what you are giving attention to, even if you are not aware of it.  When you are experiencing a negative emotion ask yourself:

What am I thinking that is making me feel this way?”

 

I cannot support this statement enough, and I am sure the women in my empower group would agree.  Because thought work is behind everything, we do in both empower and revivify.

It is so critically important.

 

 I think we lose sight of that and can easily get caught up in the medical terminology and circumstances of cancer because it’s scary and traumatizing.  But that is when we wind up feeling frustrated and lonely and often not even realizing that we have lost sight of working on the solution. 

 

The solution is what you are thinking and how you are connecting to yourself, your thoughts and your support system.

 

In my webinar I tell attendees that you can look outside of yourself for inspiration and guidance, but you must look inside of yourself for answers. 

 

But in this situation, I am going to give you a key answer.

If you are feeling lonely, disconnected, unheard and misunderstood...connecting to other survivors will help you feel better. It will give you a safe space to talk about things that other people utterly understand.

 

If you are not ready or able or interested in a physical group, find an online group like mine, the breast cancer recovery group. You can dip your toe in there and start seeing how it feels to hear from other likeminded women who want to live a fulfilling life after breast cancer.

 

If you want to hear more about the four pillars that I teach for breast cancer recovery, at the time of this recording, you have one more chance to join in on a webinar on Saturday July 18th. 

You can join that free through my website or by going to the bcrrc.com/revive

 

And if you’ve been waiting to get into Revivify, my 10 week coaching program, it is open for enrollment until Sunday, July 19th at 9pm pst and I would love to have you jump into this mindfulness based course that not only works through the four pillars of breast cancer recovery but touches on every aspect of your life, how you’re thinking about it, taking action on it and how you can move forward to thrive.

 

You can enroll now at the bcrc.com/Yes

 

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