The Black Dog and BRCA2

21 Mar 2017 by Krystal Barter

Pink Hope Outreach Ambassador Lisa shares her personal experience of depression and generalised anxiety disorder combined with carrying a BRCA2 gene mutation.

Lisa

So guess what. I have been diagnosed with depression and generalised anxiety disorder in June of 2016. I always knew I had it. I just did nothing about it. I thought I was fine and that I could beat this thing on my own. The stigma and the embarrassment of telling people prevented me from getting help. I was worried that I didn’t think straight or rational or happy thoughts. I didn’t want to end up in a mental institution. I didn’t want to lose my family, my kids, my job, my friends or my freedom. That was until, one day I cracked. I wasn’t sleeping or eating properly and felt like I was sinking into quick sand, in a giant black hole at my feet. Some say it feels like being weighed down with all the world’s problems at once and being unable to get up off the floor due to the weight. Seems like an apt description to me. Others know it as the black dog.

So as you can imagine, BRCA2, depression and generalised anxiety disorder do not mix. My main fear is cancer and the unknown future. I wish the BRCA2 gene mutation came with an instruction manual (a bit like kids really), and it would say: “if you do this, this and this, then you won’t get cancer. Or on the 12th of ‘X’ date 2023 you will or will not get breast cancer.” Unfortunately this is not the case in life, is it! But don’t we all wish it was. A crystal ball into the future would be handy……

So my thoughts like to play a little game of fear mongering and over exaggerating everything. What if I get sick? Will I die? What will happen to my family if I die? I am sure that many of you reading this, who either know or don’t know they are BRCA1 or BRCA2 can relate. General worry and concern for your health and safety is a natural human response. We all want to be safe, happy and well. We all want to be there for our husbands, wives, kids, and to live a long prosperous healthy life.

What is not normal, is not sleeping every night and fretting that every little pain or hurt might be something more sinister and then telling yourself “I have cancer”. To the normal person this would seem ridiculous and crazy. If like me you have an anxiety disorder your blow everything out of proportion and it’s about ten times bigger then the situation actually is. On a bad night I have had my funeral planned right down to the flowers and songs I’d like and my kid’s financial future planned for when I’m gone. As if that’s not enough to contend with, then when I am so tired and overwhelmed from the anxiety, that’s when my brain shifts a gear into depression and hopelessness. Then I feel constantly tired, overwhelmed, and never good enough for anything and my confidence falls to an all time low.

None of this is normal and if any of you reading this feel this way then I want you to see your general practitioner immediately. Trust me, it’s totally worth it. Now I’m on the other side and medicated, I am now beginning to understand what a normal person feels like. Because for the longest time I imagined myself as normal. Doesn’t everyone think like I did? Apparently not. Planning your funeral and death due to a breast or ovarian cancer you may never get is apparently not normal. Nor is losing night after night sleep worrying about it.

I’m on the road to recovery now. I still have my bad days. But I have more good days now. My sleep is sorted, finally, and I no longer fear going to bed. As that was when I was at my worst. I have to monitor what I eat and when I eat (no caffeine or stimulants before bed), I also need to have a good night’s sleep and keep to a good bedtime schedule (no going to bed a midnight) etc. Otherwise if my sleep drops I go downhill fast. I also need to exercise at least three times a week. My Zen Do kai has been great for this. It involves focus and physical hard work which assists me greatly.

Please take my warning and get yourself checked out if you have any concerns of your mental health or those around you.

No one needs to suffer from a mind medical condition that can be treated. No one will think badly of you. And if they do then they are not true friends. You are welcome to contact me further to discuss my story should you wish to. I am an open book about my mental health.

A Bit About Me
For those of you who don’t know me, I am 35, I live in Melbourne and I’m BRCA2 positive. I’m known at Pink Hope for hunting down other BRCA2’s and high fiving them. I’m the only one in my family who has the gene mutation. So I like to think I have BRCA2 sisters when I find others who have it. I found out at the ripe old age of 22 I am BRCA2 positive. I was one of the first in Victoria to find out about the BRCA2 gene. (Fun fact that one). I work as an insurance broker five days a week. I have two kids (6 and 7), and an awesome dog Dredd the greyhound. If you know me well, you know I’m obsessed with him, just check out my Facebook page. And I have Zen Do Kai karate keeping me busy, I am a black belt. I also have Pink Hope. Who are a support and a friend when I am in need. To give back to Pink Hope, I help out where I can and attend all events where possible. But most importantly I feel I need to welcome new people to the organisation. Make these people feel welcomed and listened to. Hear their story and compare notes. I have no answers for any one. Whether they should get testing or not. Should they have surgery or not. This is not my decision to make. But I am happy to share my story and experiences. My ultimate goal through Pink Hope is to meet and greet and be supportive to those who need it. If you want to find me, look out for the chatty, very short red head. (Who’s high fiving people.)

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