In the Mood

Mood (psychology) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:  A mood is a relatively long lasting emotional state. Moods differ from emotions in that they are less specific, less intense, and less likely to be triggered by a particular stimulus or event. Moods generally have either a positive or negative valence. In other words, people typically speak of being in a good mood or a bad mood. Unlike acute, emotional feelings like fear and surprise, moods often last for hours or days. Mood also differs from temperament or personality traits which are even longer lasting. Nevertheless, personality traits such as optimism and neuroticism predispose certain types of moods. Long term disturbances of mood such as depression and bipolar disorder are considered mood disorders. Mood is an internal, subjective state, but it often can be inferred from posture and other behaviors.

There’s nothing quite like the affliction of cancer to create moods in people. While many psychologists maintain that moods are bipolar, that is they are good or they’re bad, I tend to believe that they span a broader range. One can be in a depressed mood, yet still hopeful and even cheerful. This mood is neither good nor bad, but a combination of the two with some other seasonings. Mood can be chemically induced; anyone who’s taken steroids as a part of their chemotherapy can attest to that. Steroids can make one irritable and even psychotic to degrees. The general character of the person influencing those degrees. While stereotypical women’s PMS has a reputation for mood swings, ther’s nothing like Dexamethasone to trump those swings, and in spades.

But on its own, the awareness of a deadly cancer can cause moods and mood swings. It’s not just a chemically induced state like neuropathy. After a while, my mood was fairly subdued, at times virtually non-existant and revealing me as flat and emotionally lifeless. Neither happy nor sad, angry or placid. I merely existed not unlike the vocal computers of science fiction. I can recall being neither hungry nor sated, neither interested nor uninterested for a time. My doctors were curious that I seemed to bypass the stages of grief, saying “Oh, shit.” and moving straight to resignation. But then again my character has always been one of pragmatism, perhaps even mildly sociopathic. This, said the psychologists, a function of an unhappy and emotionally abusive childhood. It didn’t make me dysfunctional, to the contrary, it caused me to be able to quickly attune myself to situations and then put them behind me, moving on fairly quickly. That’s not to say I went through life with the passivity of a cow, I didn’t. I was a fiery and spunky little guy, and one who didn’t mind getting into scraps. But I never held grudges, which gave a fortunately clean slate to work with. But cancer and its accompanying treatment took the wind from my sails, and for a time, completely.

There’s nothing special about me. Many, many people are like me and I like them. And so I tend to feel a little uncomfortable with psychological definitions. They’re often sweeping and so generalized as to fit only a small sample. Everyone who has to deal with Multiple Myeloma is well aware that our reactions to our therapy are as individual as our fingerprints. No sweeping generalizations can be made; only broad statistical information has validity, and even that comes attendant with a plethora of disclaimers. We do know, statistically, that people with multiple myeloma fall into three general categories, but within those three categories are a lot of variations. People with Multiple Myeloma either take benefit of therapy and attain remission, or they don’t take benefit, or somewhere in between those two poles. But inside those loosely fitted categories are the people that die, the people that don’t and the people in between. Drill down on those sub-categories and you find more triads; issuing up like fractals again and again as the focus becomes tighter and tighter.

As a result, most of the proclamations made about Myeloma treatment regimens are hogwash, oriented more towards promoting therapy than fitting ones medical assistance to their specific individual needs. Just about everything one reads about treatments is like rumors; claims that have taken a life of their own, growing and evolving into material that is forced into agreeing with the brochures with titles like “So, you have Multiple Myeloma. What now?”  It’s all crap because a brochure –or a person promoting its contents, usually doesn’t know very much about you when they tell you how you will fare under treatment. Even your doctors, manifold test results in hand cannot tell you how things are going to come out. That can only be determined by experience. My experience was that the first treatment regimen applied to me was lethal, and I was only snapped back from the brink by lucky circumstance. My second and third treatment regimens failed to have any benefit, yet manifested the very worst of the menu of side effects possible in treatment. Rather than provide simply no benefit, instead my treatments appeared to have accelerated my cancer, speeding its progression. My very existence is testament to the fallacy of commonly shared information about Multiple Myeloma treatments. Sometimes they are worse than merely ineffective.

My favorite fallacy is that people no longer die from Multiple Myeloma, but merely with it. The fact is that a third of its victims perish from it. So far all of the improvements in treatment still haven’t managed to change that statistic. It is very true that treatments have become less disquieting –they possess greater efficacy while reducing the discomforting side effects. But we shouldn’t get too carried away with the ideas of what our personal experiences will be because the same three categories of victims still applies and the same balance of fatalities endures. I call the various treatment chemicals ides and mibs because the majority of names ends with one or the other set of letters. The ides and mibs are getting better, but oddly, in spite of these improvements, the general statistical numbers remain static.

All of this sets the stage for moods in the victims of Multiple Myeloma. Amidst the anxiety and worry of knowing ones diagnosis is the violation of expectation in many. Remember, only a third of the people taking therapy attain the broadcast benefits. Another third only reaps some benefit and yet another third gets nothing for their trouble. This creates moods and those moods didn’t just issue forth like an unexpected spring delivering water to the surface of the planet. They were crafted by the psychic effects and affects of treatment with its successes and failures, comfortas and notable discomforts, and the general human trait of fearing the unknown with one’s death a viable option.

It’s important to recognize this truth. Not just for the attendant psychologists and social workers attendant in therapy, but for all involved in patient care and support, and in the patient as well. We can build better personal expectations that way for ourselves, and those supporting us can provide more knowing assistance than trying to apply promotional hyperbole. Mood is an indicator of the patient’s state of mind, and when properly informed, those supporting the patient can better recognize the patient’s current needs and do their best to fill them. The patient can better assess themselves and provide light where damaging darkness of ignorance lurks.