i met with my therapist just a few days before the holidays began. it felt like one of the most important times to sit down and talk with her. and you’re probably wondering why and that’s because my life is starting to feel a little deja vu like. with omicron slowly creeping closer and closer to my small inner circle, the post traumatic stress is at an all time high. and sometimes i think people think that i am joking when i say that i still have lingering trauma from the early months of twenty twenty. but it’s definitely here. and definitely something i have to cope with. every single day. and so for about forty minutes of my hour long therapy session, i practiced reminding myself out loud that i am not currently infected with the virus. i do not have an active infection. i am not fighting for my life against the virus. i am vaccinated against the virus. i am alive. oof, that last one. sometimes that one feels challenging to say. not because it isn’t true. and not because i don’t believe it. it’s just hard to say after all that has happened. and sometimes the things that are happening around me or the things that other people do, create this high level of panic to bubble. and it causes this mass hysteria to build inside me. and i find myself awake at one o’clock in the morning, with tears pouring down my face as i hover over a virus at home test kit. true story. where i begin to cower like the days after entering recovery. constantly worried about it and constantly panicked about reinfection. i prayed for a vaccine for a year. a whole year. i waited and prayed that the people i loved would keep my story tucked in their minds and stay safe. and now, we are just circling the two year drain. and the viral uptick is happening. and people are still spreading misinformation. and people i know have it. and it feels real and it feels big. and i could literally cry right now just thinking about the pain of the last two years. and that’s the spiral. the one my therapist says i keep trying to go down. not intentionally of course. it’s just a little too close to home. it’s just a little too real again. and the spiral; well it’s easy. the first spin of the spiral is easy. familiar. hopping into it only takes one comment or one news headline.
and there are days that feel calm and normal. there are weekends that feel stress free and don’t come packaged with anxiety about the world around me. and i remind myself consistently that healing isn’t linear. that my traumas are healing. in their own time. at their own pace. and sometimes the spiral opens directly underneath me. because something has happened and it’s impacting my ability to heal. and maybe that’s what needs to be known. is what healing from trauma looks like for someone fresh out of hell. it’s painful. it’s triggering. it’s overwhelming. it’s challenging. sometimes it even feels burdensome. it’s easy to begin to restock the shelves of your inner self with all the ins and outs of what’s happened and what’s hurting. because it feels like it’s too much to share. that it won’t be held properly. that the wrong move or the wrong words will cause everything to splinter and shatter. because how other people carry my trauma and my healing directly impacts my trauma and my healing. and sometimes it’s easier to just stuff it in the way back closet & ignore it. until it surfaces at eleven o’clock on a sunday night. in the form of tear stained pillowcases and a box of tissues. but in all seriousness, no one understands it. and that’s okay. and let me remind you that by saying no one understands it, i am NOT saying that no one cares. those aren’t synonymous. can’t stand it when people make my feelings about them. but what i am learning after a very long first year of remission is that healing looks different from the inside. how my healing looks and feels and sounds is probably not how my healing looks to you all. and that’s because what i share is what i share. and i get that. but the nitty gritty; the really ugly; the painfully painful parts. those are the ones that are right here. nestled into the crevices around my heart. they are the things i carry. and will carry. for the rest of my life. and because i am still at a point in my journey where if i talk about cancer for more than like ninety seconds before tears consume me- it’s pretty safe to say that i am still in the thick of it. and sure, i could break it down into the sum of its parts. for sure. the long version & the short version.
and here it is. i battled an infectious disease alone for nearly six weeks. when no one knew what to do or what to say. my family was afraid of me. i was afraid of me. and i spent a very, very, very long time alone. i know what is feels like to be dying. and it’s an experience i am unable to forget. i have been in the throes of trauma induced nightmares. many nights awake after watching other people die of the same infectious disease. i have been to four hundred and sixty two pages worth of doctor visits. four hundred and sixty two pages. that’s my medical record length from march twenty twenty to now. i have been told i have cancer while alone in my bed. i have met oncologists alone. surgeons alone. did five rounds of chemo alone. i lost all of my beautiful hair. i had one third of my body amputated. i have been riddled with sores and pain. i stopped eating for six weeks. i had my abdomen sliced open eighteen inches across. and was open at the waist for sixteen weeks. i had stage two breast cancer at the age of thirty one. one of the friends that i thought would be around forever walked away from my life ten days after i started chemotherapy. i moved into a new apartment. my dog had a knee replacement. i stopped working. i waited for a vaccine for a year only to see the world reject it & call it fake. i have buried three friends who battled cancer at the same time as me. survivor’s guilt is crippling. i waited and waited and waited to have my body revised. for my scarred and stitched frame to feel whole again. only to be diagnosed with something caused by the drugs i took to save my life. and now here i am. in the third year of the pandemic. with the numbers surging and the mask mandates returning. swabs every single week. cancelled plans. trauma returning. and i find myself in an interesting place. one that is strikingly similar to the spring of twenty twenty. where my trauma is present. and it’s mine. and it very well may never fully heal. but around me, there are people who are comfortable to walk over it or saturate it in insecurities. there are people who feel comfortable enough to stop asking about it and there are people who don’t even believe it to exist. and there still seems to be this place where i cannot comfortably hold space; just me and the shit that i have been through. that fear and worry and anger and betrayal can’t be present. that the past is in the past. and yeah, elsa says that. but she also says let it go and that doesn’t pass the vibe check. because how can you let something go, when it is a literal part of you? how can you push past something that has taken everything from you? how can you swallow your traumas and lead them to the darkest parts of your belly so that they don’t come out in front of everyone? because it literally feels impossible. it feels impossible to try and hide the person i am now that my trauma has changed me.
i guess what i really want is for my trauma to be welcomed. like i am not suggesting you set a place for it at the dinner table. it doesn’t eat. but it doesn’t deserve to be ignored or shoved to the side. sure; my trauma is uglier than some. but it’s mine. and it’s a pretty large part of who i am. and i know that nobody really signed up for that. but without my trauma, would you call me brave or strong or resilient? probs not. and that’s okay. but what i have been through is what i have turned into. this is me. and while i have been working really hard to slough my traumas off of me; it’s not really working. they are here. and they are a part of my story. they broke me. they built me. they reframed me. and sure; they are sad. and that’s okay. because it’s about accepting that i cannot exist without them. they are the stories that carry me.
so i guess right now, i am looking at the traumas that i hold inside of me. one stemming from a lot of time dying alone. and the other deeply rooted in the failure of myself to my body. and i am spinning in the world that exists around me. and often blaming myself for the existence of these traumas. and i guess i just want the world to lay off a bit. to not hurt so much. to be easier on my heart. to not remind me of my failures and faults. to not question me and the traumas i hold. to just hold space.
there. it. is. just hold space. let me be this person that i am. with the ugly parts of my life. believe me. i know how ugly they are. let me be angry or sad or anxious or in grief. let those things exist. not on a timeline. not on a clock. not on a calendar. just hold space.
we all need space held. for the bad days. for the obnoxious moments. for the flat tires. for the sleepless nights. for the sick babies. for the moments. any and all of them. and sometimes, holding space is almost like holding someone’s heart.
i am holding space for anyone who needs it. xoxo.