i constantly feel like i have to remind myself that you grow through what you go through. that growing and healing are supposed to be messy and uncomfortable and have those moments. it’s a constant conversation between me and me. that what comes on the other side of all of this, will be worth it. like i mentioned earlier this week, whatever is meant for me. and right now, i am deep in the ugly parts of grief. and maybe from the outside looking in it doesn’t appear that way, but it’s true. i am at that ugly stage in grief where i begin digging the grave. for the parts of myself that can’t continue on with me. the parts of myself that are stuck here and can’t march forward with me in the healing process. and this part of grief is a very anger driven part. it’s a lot to leave behind. and a lot of acceptance. and it’s very hard to put pieces of yourself into a place that you know you won’t be able to revisit or change your mind. but not everything can come with us into the next phase of survivorship. and this pattern of grief, well it’s different than anything else i have experienced. there are large parts of me that want to bury the whole experience. throw dirt over it all and walk away from it. most of that is fueled by anger. that if we just bury it and walk away, it’s behind us. but we also know that burying things and not healing from them just makes it worse. and this whole grieving while healing process is a lot on a person. it brings up a lot of other stuff to the surface. and suddenly you find yourself swimming in old traumas mixed with your current traumas. and all your brain and body want to do is heal. and it just feels impossible some days.
but for some reason, i keep pressuring myself to just lay the damn dirt down and walk away. but then i find myself in full tears driving home from chipotle two nights ago. and maybe you’re asking yourself- why on earth is this girl crying? and honestly, sometimes i ask myself the same question. because my life is richly blessed. and i am overtly aware. but driving home, i just found myself in this weird lonely place. where my head and my heart didn’t communicate well. my phone felt silent. it was too quiet in the car. even though i had been craving silence since eight am. but loneliness and sadness and anger. just sat there. deeply rooted at the bottom of some place inside me. and for whatever reason, it all surfaced in that short eleven minute drive home. and here’s the thing. i am angry. at the universe- duh. but also i am angry at myself. and my body. and the girl i called my best friend for twenty years who stopped talking to me ten days after my first chemo treatment. i am sad too. sad because of my body. sad because of the last eighteen months and the moments and memories taken from me. sad that i am tired more lately. sad that i am not the same girl. and for awhile, i used to try to talk myself away from these feelings. ashamed that i was still mad about something that happened in the past. but i realized recently that my feelings are my feelings and they aren’t raining on anyone else’s parade. and that i am allowed to feel some type of way about the way cancer ravaged my brain and my body. and that i can feel sad that when i look at myself in the mirror, i still can’t recognize the girl looking back at me. even though we’ve been staring at each other over the bathroom sink for nine months. it’s been nine months since i woke up to a frozen baltimore skyline. with my abdomen stitched eighteen inches across and chemotherapy a past but not distant enough memory. it’s only been nine months since the word survivor left the lips of a nurse on the fourteenth floor of my hospital. where i stayed for days alone, because of the raging pandemic outside my window. and inside me, nine months later, trauma still resides. in the hollows of my former self. filling the places that used to be occupied by who i once was. so here i am, working through the anger and the sadness. the feelings that creep up and tackle me from behind. it’s been that kinda week. or month or stretch of months. where i falter back and forth between places of gratitude and resentment. and honestly, the space in between these two places isn’t vast. they basically border each other. i can wake up grateful as hell. to be alive at thirty three. after the battle of a lifetime in a covid icu wing. to be the only person alive after eight days there. to just months later, beginning the battle against breast cancer. beaten and tired from the battle before. but i can wake up grateful to be alive after all of that. and be in full sobs by lunchtime. because my body looks broken and beaten. stitched awkwardly. almost resembling a drawstring bag. and feeling like i look like a linebacker right off the football field. a minnesota viking linebacker. and i cried again today after i hung up with the surgeon again. another nine month wait. with an august twenty twenty two date marked down. eighteen months will have passed. from amputation to revisions. and my heart cracks a little wider this time. trying to grasp a deeper understanding of why the universe keeps shattering my hopes and dreams of peace and healing. why i must carry on and march on forward looking like this, in this body. why my suffering and trauma doesn’t excuse me from more heartache. why i must keep waiting to be whole.
and ever since my world began spiraling wildly out of control two years ago, it sometimes feels like that is just how it will always be. chaotic and unfair. and that it may never be my turn to be who i want to be. in the rebirth of myself. in my second chance. in survivorship. and i want nothing more than to bury it all. to open up the ground and stuff these insecurities deep beneath the soft dirt of the earth. to stomp on the grave itself. to wipe my hands of it all. but it’s damn near impossible. to hold a funeral for something that keeps living every single day. and so each day, i keep rolling with the setbacks and disappointments. and those around me tell me that i am patient and brave. a true warrior. that the light at the end of the tunnel is there. it’s just someone added extra miles to said tunnel. and i can hear them. but it’s so hard to be brave and patient. instead i am angry and sad. that this nightmare continues. that the heart i am trying to heal keeps cracking wide open. that the things i want to bury are still riding on my back. and to carry them is heavy. believe me. to heal without being healed is asking a lot. to heal while actively in grief and navigating the loss of yourself is also a lot. and i want it all back. the parts of me that disappeared. the parts of me that months and months of isolation and trauma stole from me. the parts of me that dissolved when people left me in a time of crisis. the parts of me that don’t match the memories anymore. the hair, the skin, the body. and the phantom pains have started to creep in. pretty normal at the nine month mark. where your brain and the rest of your body begins to recognize that your amputation is permanent. and your brain and your body are sad. and so these new foreign parts ache and sting and burn. almost to remind me that i am not whole. that what’s missing will never return. and for nine more months, i will live in an unfinished body. one that aches for the original frame.
and sure, this mess of a post is probably sadder than what you might be used to. i get that. but life really has been some kinda rough lately. and i always feel compelled to stomp my sadness down. because my life could be so much worse. but then i remind myself that sadness and anger and grief are feelings that simply cannot be buried. they cannot be suffocated under the dirt of the earth. they are those feelings; the ugliest feelings of all; that must breathe. they can’t be buried until they have truly died.
and so this place that i am in- it’s a strange place for healing to happen. my heart is very fragile. my body feels very incomplete. i feel very lost in survivorship. i feel lucky to be here and grateful to be here. and sad that it took all of this to be here. and my brain makes me question if i made the right decision. and my heart tells my brain to shut up more than once a day. and the dirt is at my feet. the shovel is there too. and the desire to bury it all and rise above, well that’s there too. and i think right now, i have to work through this new avenue that has opened the cracks. i have to hold these feelings and process them. and it’s another part of healing that i wasn’t expecting. and that’s okay because one day, it’ll be buried. neatly and on my terms. with a grave that can be visited when the times are right.
but until then, i will continue to soften the dirt and spade away the weeds. one day, maybe next year, after the final stitches are sewn and my body can heal for the final time- we can take a shovel and dig a final resting place for the things that broke me.
and i can bury & rise.