Support Tools: The Emotional Rollercoaster

When someone first hears the words, “You have a brain tumour,” it’s typical to experience many different thoughts and emotions. They may feel shocked, confused, or even numb. The majority of newly diagnosed patients will not have considered that something like a brain tumour could happen to them. Some say they didn’t feel anything in that moment; that it felt unreal and like a dream. Days and weeks later, people say they feel various emotions including raging anger, sorrow, fear, anxiety and worry. Sometimes patients experience all of these emotions at once, or in the same day. Tomorrow they may feel totally different.

This constant changing of emotions is known as “the emotional rollercoaster.” And just like the amusement park ride, moods can change from up to down and from low to high, often in a very short time period. When told bad news, we can feel angry, desperate, helpless and panicked; but when told good news, we can rebound and feel optimistic, hopeful and empowered. Patients can feel very frustrated and challenged by these ever-changing emotions, wondering, “Am I normal?”

Brain tumour patients need to be reassured that these emotional ups and downs are perfectly natural. There is no right way to handle a diagnosis and there is no particular way that a patient should feel. Every individual has their own response, depending on their personal circumstances. While it can be very difficult to weather this storm of feelings, patients need support as they express themselves. If emotions get to be too overwhelming, it may be helpful to seek counselling, attend a support group or talk to a health care provider.

Does the emotional rollercoaster ever stop? The answer is yes, for periods of time. Some patients find their emotions run high during treatment or while awaiting test results. Once treatment is finished, many discover their feelings to be more manageable and their mood becomes calmer. If you are struggling with your emotions and have trouble coping, here are a few tips.

  •  Get enough sleep - Exhaustion and lack of sleep can make emotionality worse. If you have trouble getting a good night’s rest, try some common relaxing bedtime routines like a warm cup of milk or taking a bath before bed.
     
  • Eat healthy foods - Many people find they become emotional when they are hungry or have eaten too much sugar. Carry healthy snacks with you in case you find yourself looking for something to nibble on.
     
  • Use relaxation or mindfulness techniques for worry and/or anxiety - Anxiety and worry can cause minds to spin and often trigger the emotional rollercoaster. Find ways to relax and clear your head; for some this may be meditation or breathing exercises, and for others can be as simple as taking a short walk outside.
     
  • Learn to recognize triggers - There are things in our lives that make us emotional and they are different for each of us. Begin to recognize and write down specific things that trigger strong emotions in you so you can avoid them when you feel vulnerable.

For more information about support on the journey with a brain tumour, please contact us:

Cheryl Bauer
Support Services Specialist
cbauer@braintumour.ca
1-800-265-5106/ 519-642-7755 ext. 400

Todd Goold, RSW
Support Services Specialist
tgoold@braintumour.ca
1-800-265-5106/ 519-642-7755 ext. 237 

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