To mark World Mental Health Day, we're highlighting the often overlooked emotional impacts of prostate cancer. We spoke to men with the disease about their mental health challenges and ask what their, our Specialist Nurses' and your tips are for maintaining your emotional wellbeing.
It sounds obvious but can so easily be ignored: the diagnosis and treatment of prostate cancer can take a huge mental toll. From the initial shock of hearing the 'C-word' to the helpless feelings during treatment that your life is no longer in your control, the range of emotions men go through can be vast. So what can you do to help manage these difficult feelings?
Rod Coverley powerfully described his suicidal thoughts after he was first diagnosed. "I’d never thought about committing suicide. I was a confident, strong, successful person," he says. "But I felt like I couldn’t do anything, like someone was taking my life away from me."
In the midst of it all, he found our publications and website a lifeline, helping him feel more reassured and less isolated.
"As I read through all the information, the thoughts of me taking my own life went away because I found I was not alone," he says. "Those negative thoughts stayed with me for a long time. But I still have my life and my wife. I’m active and I’m fine."
For Will Trubridge, the demands of balancing a physical job with hormone therapy left him tired and susceptible to mood swings.
"I just couldn’t do as much as I was used to," he says. "People at work kept offering to help me lifting stuff or doing things for me, and I found myself shouting at them to leave me alone and let me do it myself. I just wanted to be normal. Things came to a head when I had a meeting with my Director and I just started crying."
He was subsequently diagnosed with depression by his GP and given anti-depressants as well as therapy, which helped him and his wife open up about their feelings and their relationship. He also found complementary therapies, like reflexology, beneficial.
"It won’t do anything for my cancer, but it certainly helps with relaxation and emotional wellbeing," he says. "And when you’re emotionally strong, it’s easier to cope with hardships, isn’t it?"
Richard Buckley also found talking therapy helped him deal with his anxiety and depression since being diagnosed with prostate cancer, and mindfulness proved useful too.
"Living with the fear of cancer coming back made me feel on edge. It’s a feeling of constant uncertainty that’s difficult to describe," he says. "After the counselling, my wife and I went on an eight-week Mindfulness course at a Maggie’s Centre. It definitely helped and I started to feel better. Personally, I didn’t want to take depression medication so it was good to find other things that helped."
He recommends taking time to trust your body again and rediscover who you are. "Take your time to recover, physically and emotionally," he says. "Find the things you enjoy in life and keep doing them. Someone once told me, ‘You’re more than just your cancer.’ It really stuck with me – to be able to move forward, I needed to see myself as a person, not just a patient."
It can be good to hear others' experiences of dealing with prostate cancer, and many men say they find it cathartic to share their own. Our Online community is a great place to talk with others in the same situation as you, or you can talk to one of our trained volunteers who have experience of the disease through our One-to-one peer support service.
Of course, our Specialist Nurses are always available over the phone or online if you are feeling down or worried and are finding it hard to deal with things. And you can ring the Samaritans if you need help at any other time.
Our Specialist Nurses came up with these 10 tips for keeping the blues away, from getting outside to random acts of kindness. What tips do you have for maintaining your mental wellbeing, and what have been your experiences of depression or anxiety because of prostate cancer? Let us know below.