A Blog about Career Changes, Madness, and My Awful Brain

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

When the Will Power is lost.

I'm sitting here at 12:30 in the morning, and despite access to some pretty good drugs, I still can't sleep. Well, let's call tonight one of my weaning days....in order to not affect the efficacy of the medications I take, I abstain every now and then from one or two of them. Tonight I didn't think it would be a problem because I was so tired, but I've been laying awake for the last hour. Plus, I really felt like posting and when I get the bug, it's like an itch I can't scratch.

Today I wanted to talk about willpower. I've talked about it before, but I'm not sure I really understood what it was until lately. Despite all of our scientific advances and knowledge about the brain, I think even the best of us scientists often get caught up in separating ourselves into our bodies and our spirits (or souls, or whatever). We all do it.....and I think a big part of the reason we do is because we hate the thought that so much of us is biologically determined. We love the concept of free choice....even though it doesn't seem a logical result in a lot of the results we get from science (quantum mumbo jumbo nonwithstanding) or even logical when you throw a god in the equation (oh predestination...how can you have a choice when the big guy in the sky knows your fate?).

The reason I'm bringing up "the spirit" is that that's the place we usually put our willpower. You can't faulted when your muscles give out. You can't help it if your so winded you have to stop running. These things belong in the physical realm. We may be angry that we are so weak, and accept responsability that excercise would have helped, but we don't often give our psyches a beating when we reach our physical limits.

But those spiritual limitations....we find those a great deal more disconcerting, don't we kiddies?

You can't help it anymore...you need to eat that last piece of cake. "I'm such a fucking pig".

You can't muster up the will to study a couple of more hours you know you need to. "I'm so freaking lazy".

You know you need to finish that report for work but you watch TV instead. "I'm never going to get promoted because Im such a bad employeee."

I'm very much like this....I've always been proud that I had that extra little willpower that I needed to get things done. Sure, it's failed on occassion, but there was always a rationalization for it. For the most part, when something is hard and I don't want to do it, I just WILL myself to sit my ass down and just get it done.

After my little work and accident crisis, I found my will power really challenged. I knew I should be spending more time looking for work and asking for interviews, but a lot of times I just couldn't do it. On other other hand, sometimes I did. It was tough, but in the end, the will won out and I did apply for some jobs. I also applied for school.

But this week...well, I finally accepted something with my entire being that I previously only sort of believed. I finally accepted that willpower is absolutely physiological.

During my chemo, I've had a lot of pretty shitty side effects. Nausea sucks...even when it's controlled well, you can still feel it there, under the surface, ready to come out if you miss a med. I've had only slight neuropathy, though it is a bummer. The fatigue was especially bad this week, where walking three blocks feels like a marathon. But the worst thing the chemo did to me...the worst thing it took away from me, was my will power. Sapped it from me like a fucking milkshake. Even when I had the energy to do things, sometimes it was my will that gave out first.

Let me put it in perspective. I've written papers while sporting insanely high fevers. I've gone for long walks with the flu. Colds barely keep me in bed. But last night, my will power....the things that keeps me going, was absent. I. COULD. NOT. DO. ANYTHING. And for a little while, I hated myself for it. I had emails to check. I have a lab report to finish. Hell, all I needed was to text someone. I couldn't. And it messed me up. Because I thought I was different. I thought that I am a person with a strong will. I thought that I should be the exception, even in chemo, even with cancer.

I want you to ask yourself this too. Do you think you would be the exception? I think that if you ask yourself honestly, you do believe that you would be able to handle being sick with your will intact. You may see someone with cancer, or amputation, or parapalgia struggling; and though you feel empathy for their struggle, you think you could push through it better. If you don't, you're a better person than I....because I thought the will was inviolate. Transcendant.

Fuck that. It's just another part of your brain. And sometimes, it does give up on you.

But it comes back. I'm not here to depress you, kiddies. I tell ya...it comes back. Today I sent the email I had to send. I started studying for an exam that's a week away. And I'm almost ready to start my lab report.

I guess I wanted to share this subject with you for two reasons:

1)I want you to stop kicking yourself so hard when you have a lapse in will. It is physiological....it's a finite resource. Hell, eat some sugar, and try again. Your brain may just need glucose.

2) I wanted to vent my frustration on people who don't get it when I was having my bad day. I know they mean well, but sometimes telling a guy who is fatigued and has no will power that "you just need to muster up some will and maybe get outside or do something to make you feel better" is frustrating.

With all that said, I am finally starting to feel a bit better. The first 3 days of chemo were pretty crappy and made me sick, but the bad shit.....the fatigue and weird feelings...happened days later. Now, I'm in the getting better phase, right before I get my next drop of poison.

I want to thank everyone whose been going through this with me. You guys have no idea what it means to me to have your support and your messages. I'm especially touched when people send me stories or tell me about their friends who read my blog and get something out of it. Sometimes I forgot that there are more than just 5 or 6 of my friends reading it.

And please....if you know somebody who is suffering through cancer or who could benefit from reading my shitty blog, please feel free to reshare it.

Love ya.


1 comment:

  1. I think the opposite. I usually think – “there is no way I could do what that person is doing”. For example – I don’t think I could handle having cancer and going to school. What I usually find out is that I can handle a lot more than I thought I could and most people can.
    When my daughter was a baby and I was still “happily married” I would look at single parents and think, “no bloody way I could do that”. Then I became a single parent while still pregnant with my son. I still didn’t believe I could do it. I had no idea how to make it to the next week – I would look ahead and see years and years of impossibilities. How would I manage my career, what would I do if the kids got sick, how would I survive extra-curricular activities? But you live one day at a time and somehow you figure it out. Now, 17 years later, I can look back and say, “I did it and I did pretty good, definitely not always with grace, but too fucking bad, I still did it”. Did I do better or worse than other single parents? Hell, I don’t know. It is not a competition. We all do our best.
    I am not saying that single parenting and cancer is the same thing. What I am saying is, you have no idea what you can do until you are doing it, and sometimes you won’t even know you did it until later – when you look back and think “yeah – that was fucking hard – but I did it”. Half the time you won’t even know what you are doing – you just do. Maybe today not writing that lab report seems like a huge deal – but maybe later when you look back you will see – that day I needed to just do nothing – to just be – and it was okay.
    I tend to think of the physical and the spiritual as siblings – sometimes they just really piss each other off but when the chips are down – they are there for each other. If you are pushing the spiritual side too hard – the physical will come in and say “I don’t think so buddy” and vice-versa. I never really thought about where will power came from – but now that you have me thinking about it, I think it might be a team effort.
    You will do this – you will do it your way – your way may not turn out to be what you are currently envisioning but it will still be fine. When you need to feel sorry for yourself – you will. When you need to get off your ass and do something – you will. When you need to be angry – do that too. It is not going to be easy but I have complete faith in you – as does everyone else.

    Sorry for the long comment!