Navigating Relationships and Your Mental Health After a Diagnosis

The moment you receive a cancer diagnosis, it can feel like everything in your life flips upside down. It’s one reason why 15-25% of cancer patients experience depression. We’ve become a society that focuses on so many stereotypes and “what ifs” when it comes to cancer that it can take a toll on your mental health.

It can also impact your relationships and how you move forward in your life.

Obviously, how your mental health is impacted can depend on the severity of your diagnosis. In any case, however, it’s important to make your mental wellbeing and your relationships a priority. Yes, taking care of your physical health is crucial. But now, more than ever, being in the right mental state and having people you love around to support you will make a big difference.

So, how can you navigate relationships and your mental health after a diagnosis?

Accepting Your Emotions

It’s not uncommon for people who receive a life-changing diagnosis to go through a whirlwind of emotions. But, you might feel as though you have to keep them hidden. There are so many things to go through after a cancer diagnosis. To keep looking forward and pushing ahead with treatment, you might think that you don’t have time to acknowledge your emotions.

That kind of attitude can be damaging. It can lead to depression, anxiety, or even PTSD. To effectively cope with your diagnosis, you have to allow yourself to feel.  Face your emotions,  no matter what they are. When you don’t, you’ll start to notice things like muscle tension, fatigue, or more aches and pains than usual. You might also start to recognize that certain things trigger powerful emotions more than others, and they become harder to bottle up.

When you try to push your emotions down, you’ll add more stress to your life. As a result, your mental state can continue to spiral, and it can cause even more turmoil in your relationships. Whether you’re married, dating, or dealing with friendships, your mental health state can have a big influence on how you feel about those relationships and how you treat people who love you.

Recognizing Problems in Your Relationship

It’s not uncommon for people with mental health conditions to feel tension or strain in their relationships. If your mental health is suffering after your diagnosis, you might already be noticing some changes. Some common issues that tend to occur include:

  • A lack of communication
  • Distractions
  • More frequent arguments
  • Misunderstandings

It’s also common to experience a lack of intimacy when you’re struggling with mental health issues. For example, anxiety can cause pain during intercourse for women and may contribute to erectile dysfunction for men. Depression can lead to a decreased interest in physical intimacy or even emotional closeness.

Take a look at your actions and attitude. Are you pushing people away or playing the role of the victim? Whether you’re in a romantic relationship with someone or you’re thinking about how you act around family and friends, any connection can struggle with the wrong attitude. You have to be willing to adapt to your diagnosis, highlight your best assets, and let the people in your life surround and support you.

You should always be on the lookout for issues in your relationship after a diagnosis. If you’re experiencing problems, consider your mental health state, and how the two might connect. Having strong relationships is important for your overall well-being, and you’re going to want someone there with you as often as possible so you’re not alone on this new journey.

Seeking Support

Another reason strong relationships are so important after a diagnosis is because of support. Having a support system can help you to:

  • Continue with a sense of normalcy
  • Maintain your emotional stability
  • Keep a positive attitude
  • Get the rest you need while having things looked after for you

Friends, family, and even a spouse or partner should all be a part of your support group. If you allow yourself to reach out for help, you might be surprised by who is willing to be there for you.

If you find that your mental health is still suffering, consider talking to a therapist, counselor, or psychiatric nurse. There is currently a mental health care provider shortage across the country, though options like telehealth and community initiatives are making providers more accessible to everyone. Talking to a mental health professional will make it easier to open up and expand on your feelings. You’ll get to the root cause of your anxiety or depression and learn the skills necessary to manage your symptoms.

When you receive a cancer diagnosis, you’ll need to put your time, energy, and drive into beating the physical disease. To do that, however, you might need to focus on the strength of your mental state, first. Keep these ideas in mind for navigating relationships and your mental health, and your entire treatment experience can be a more positive one.