When Colorado expanded their COVID vaccine eligibility to include all adults, I was thrilled. I spent hours that first day chasing leads for anywhere that still had appointments available, before a coworker hooked me up with a drive-up vaccination clinic he’d learned about through a FB group created specifically to connect people trying to get the vaccine with clinics and pharmacies that still had doses in stock.
Four weeks later, I was fully vaccinated and eager to start living a slightly safer, slightly freer life. My fiancé and I moved to Denver last summer in the midst of the pandemic, and I couldn’t wait to actually get to know this city I’d been living in for almost a year. And that’s when my mental health started to take a turn.
I’ve had a really rough year. Last August, I was laid off by the company I’d worked for for nearly eight years; by December I was in the deepest period of depression I’ve ever experienced; and in January I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
My chemo treatments ended in May, and I’m now (as far as they can tell) cancer-free, but what people don’t tell you about having cancer is that after treatment is over, it’s really hard to get back into the swing of “normal life.” For one thing, you’re not the same person you were before the diagnosis. You might have body issues you never used to have, or the things you cared about before might seem small in comparison to what you just went through. You might drift apart from friends and become very isolated. In my case, a big part of my normal life–the comfy game writing job I’d had for years–no longer existed.
Depression after cancer is a thing, and more people are beginning to write about their experiences with it, such as this heartbreaking article by Lauren Szcudlo for Gawker. (Content note: frank discussion of depression, and NSFW language.)
I’ve struggled with depression throughout my life, and I knew that if I did nothing I’d end up in a deeper hole than ever.
There’s a list of things I know I can do to make myself feel like I’ve accomplished something, to make myself feel better both physically and mentally: the physical therapy exercises I started after surgery; remembering to take my meds every day; going to bed at a reasonable hour; working on my personal writing projects; volunteering for something I feel passionate about (GeekGirlCon). The problem is, in the throes of depression, these things feel like an impossible chore.