This post is hard to start... that's why it has gone unwritten for these many weeks. Here I go.
This blogging project has forced me to hold up the mirror, to be brutally honest with myself and with those around me, even when I'm not posting what I'm writing. Blogging also allows for a certain degree of bullshit, for leaving out the details that are too hard to admit, too embarrassing to see in print, to share with the world. Sugar-coating. By leaving things out (and sometimes making things sound better than they are), not writing, I am lying to myself and to those who care about me most. This is where I come clean. Deep breath.
I am not OK.
Before you freak, my body is fine. Like, more than fine. My blood work shows wonderful things, I am firmly in remission (that is SO INTENSE to type), those donor cells are growing and flourishing, my organs are strong. The strength in my joints and muscles is returning, and rapidly at that. I am going to yoga again. My hair is long enough to actually get bed-head. A super-gross drug side-effect I was having a few weeks ago has subsided. My nurses and doctors often comment positively on my progress.
My spirit? My heart? My soul?
They feel weak. So, so weak. This is the part of the journey that I was not prepared for, the survivor part. Sure, I was told this would be challenging, read accounts from other patients (though most of those focus on the physical challenges, and there are still many), heard the lectures from nurses. Nothing NOTHING could have prepared me for the intense feeling of loneliness and isolation that came as the dust began to settle. Sure, on paper I'm doing exceptionally well but guess what? There is no blood test for lonely, for sadness, for confusion. None. Spirit, heart and soul cannot be strengthened easily with yoga, pilates videos and hand weights. Oh, no. That shit is so much deeper.
Chemo week was a breaze in comparison to this (the sedatives may have had something to do with that...). Now look, chemo was hell, it was fucking horrendous. Yeah, I was all like ' this isn't as bad as I thought it would be', and it wasn't, but it still sucked balls. However, there was a defined end in sight, a goal, an achievement if you will. I knew when it would end, that the end would bring hope and new life. One hundred days of waiting? Well, that clearly has a time limit. My recovery is now measured in months and (god help me) years, not days. That reality should be joyful, happy, miraculous, AND IT IS, but it is also supremely terrifying. The morning that I woke up and realized that there lay nine months between me and the moment that I could begin teaching again, I curled up in my bed and sobbed. I stayed there all day. For several days. Didn't answer the phone, hardly ate, they were some of the darkest days of my life. These have all been dark days lately (this fucking weather isn't helping either), not always black, but certainly tinted in shades of gray.
These feelings are so intense that it has taken me weeks to even acknowledge them honestly, let alone dip my toes in the idea of actually dealing with them. Admitting to yourself that you are depressed is nothing compared to admitting it to those around you, to asking for help. Looking at yourself and saying "I cannot live like this. I am drowning.". Not constantly feeding others (and yourself) the "I'm doing well!" line or hiding behind my tendency to follow up every painful emotion with a bullshit "...but I'm alive! Look at how well you're doing Laura! (or any number of other positive statements deployed to basically pour glitter on the wound to make it look like like... a fucking wound)". It is not always the best thing to 'look on the bright side', not always practical. That, as I have discovered, can lead to ignoring the issue and suppressing the pain. Energy (happiness, pain, fear, anything) cannot be destroyed, it can only be redirected. Taken in, acknowledged and used in the same measure that it came. All of that pain and sadness and fear that I have been shoving down for months is bubbling up. Maybe it's PTSD, maybe not. Whatever it is, it sucks.
It has only been a few days that I have been able to talk about how I'm really feeling with anyone other that P (that blessed man), so many tears have been shed, so many more still will be. It is as gut wrenching to say these things out loud, forget about posting these things on the friggin' internet (which is insane coming from someone who has written about wetting the bed). Ultimately though, it has been a small spark of relief. Typing this feels surprisingly good, a pebble of weight lifted. To reach out but also to dig deep and start to sort through the muck and mire. To do some fucking work. Reaching out as I go deeper has taught me that the wisdom of others is quite a salve to my heart right now, more than ever. What a sweet, wise community of friends I am blessed with, what a caring family.
The other night as I was catching up with a dear friend over the phone, she gave me this piece of advice: "You can't go around this stuff, you have to go through it." She is so right. I have been trying to go around this. Now I am taking (baby) steps through this hell. I am firmly in it, I will be for...well, I don't know, however long it takes I guess, but writing this is a step, maybe only a shuffle, but a movement in the direction of out.
Where do I go from here? Well, I don't know. What I do know is that this isn't working. That changes have to be made and I'm the one that has to take the proverbial bull (that bastard) by the horns and work. And I am, in small ways for now. I guess this is the one time when seeing only the trees and not the forest is OK. Another dear (and very, very wise) friend advised me to begin setting goals, small ones to start, silly ones even, and writing them down. She said that it may be satisfying to cross things off as I go. This morning, I did just that. They were small goals, definitely silly some of them, but she was right. it gave me that sense of achievement that I desperately needed to cross them off as I went through the day. The darkness was still with me today, but the sun broke through the cracks just a little. Maybe tomorrow it will be a millimeter brighter, maybe it won't. What matters now, I suppose, is that I see the darkness for what it is in this moment, and that keep the resolve that I DO NOT wish to live in it.
This journey is so much longer than I saw from the top of that mountain but I am in it for the long haul. I'm trying to find the tools to work through it and this is, in its absolute simplest form, hard. As long as I am in the business of setting small goals, I might as well go ahead and say that I am setting a goal to write here at least once a week. That is a goal I can stick to. Posting that on here may keep me honest to that goal. I hope that it does.
Thank you for reading this, I wish that I could say that this is all sunshine and gratitude, but that would be a lie. And lying to the people I love is no fun.