October can remind us of losses to our body, life roles, peers and other uncomfortable experiences we have yet to heal fully from.
There’s no doubt that wherever you look in October, there will be pink. Whether we like it or not, reminders of breast cancer are everywhere. Pink ribbons, cookies, celebrations, fundraising and other numerous events and promotions are more than I can count. For some, this month is a joyous month, but for others it can be an uncomfortable reminder of common feelings such as fear, grief and even some guilt for those we have lost in the process of our own journey of healing. If nothing else, take this month to evaluate and nurture your own needs. It is perfectly fine to get in touch with your own feelings and needs this month. To honor those who may not find Pinktober comfortable, I decided to reflect upon my letter to the editor from a CURE issue last year and share my former thoughts with some slight changes.
To my fellow Pink Warriors, I am reminded this month of something we don't often touch on enough in October. Grief! It is a natural feeling, but is best dealt with when felt. October can remind us of loss to body, life roles, people we love, people we were and roles we held. Isolated moments of anxiety can lead to anticipated grief over events we haven't experienced or may not experience. It is OK to cry. In fact, we sometimes can't begin to heal emotionally until we cry and allow ourselves to move beyond what has been not just a physical, but also an emotional loss.
As a society, we have possibly become programmed to think that if we hurt, we need to pop a pill or avoid what is uncomfortable and fill ourselves up with something else. Avoiding emotional needs may not be helpful in the long run. In general, and to support lifestyle balance, we need to learn to feel again. A pill, drink or drug isn't the cure. Cry if you need. Grieve, and then eventually come back to the moment by being present. Live! Learn how to breathe to promote a sense of peace, meditate and stay active. Grief is only a concern if it turns into a clinical depression, which impacts energy levels, motivation to live, appetite, sleep and general interest in daily living. If that is the case, seek counseling or an evaluation. But otherwise, I encourage us as the survivors we are to nurture our mind and body this month. Create a happy playlist, give yourself a warm and healing hug (a real hug with no holding back) and be selfish by doing something special for your very own “me time” and find someone you can talk to about your feelings without judgement.
I bring this up again for those who struggle to find their place in the month of pink. Breast cancer awareness and the process of healing is not a one-size-fits-all and it is perfectly fine not to even celebrate or feel the need to support events if they conflict with your emotional needs, values and beliefs. It is possible that one of the most important things you can do this month is to continue to check in with your needs and then, if your energy level allows and you choose to be part of the promotion of awareness, feel free to do so, but don’t feel obligated. I most certainly have a better understanding of events I find of value and benefit for myself and others as part of a month of awareness, but I am ensuring my month begins by checking in with my own needs to be in a good place for anyone or anything else I might be supporting.