it’s been a long time since i have actually slept through the night. insomnia and i have been best friends since i was probably thirteen. and even more so in the months following my cancer diagnosis. and i am no doctor but i would bet money that not sleeping plays a large part in the play i am currently staring in called “the emotional week”. and i know i play the main character. trust and believe, i am the main character in all of it. because here’s the thing. it’s been an emotional week. and last week, was also an emotional week. and something inside me tells me that i have several emotional weeks ahead of me. and emotional weeks for me are not linear. they don’t all look the same. sometimes, you can find me sobbing for forty five minutes over my bathroom sink. because the reflection in the mirror makes me want to scream and never go out in public again. because i can’t find my old reflection in the one that’s staring back at me. my new hair growth is exciting but it also just never feels over. it never feels the same. and other times, you will find me crying hot angry tears. because i can’t focus on something for more than seven minutes. or i can’t remember how to do something. or that i don’t have enough emotional strength or brain power to work on my dissertation. which is why i stopped working on it. and the guilt around that kinda low key eats at me every day. and sometimes, you’ll find me pretty content. and proud. and accomplished. for crushing an infectious disease and cancer in twelve months time. while in a doctoral program. and without psych meds. impressive. the range of emotions is quite exhausting. but lately, the world around me has felt quiet. and a little lonely. the spaces after everything is marked safe fill with silence. people stop asking. people stop checking in. people just stop in general. and the healing becomes quiet. which can make the healing process even harder. because it’s really hard to explain how i feel about my body. or how i feel about recurrence scares. it’s really hard to tell someone that you sobbed yourself to sleep twice last week or that you’re so tired from just existing sometimes. and my psychiatrist reminded me this week that much of what has happened to me in the last two years, will never happen to most people in their whole lives. impressive. wild, isn’t it? but sometimes, the space that’s been created for me to heal in- it feels massive. like i am supposed to fill it to the brim- with all these accomplishments in healing. but in reality, it’s quite hard to fill that space. healing feels like it’s taking forever. it feels like three steps forward and one step back. it feels hollow and hopeful. it feels unsteady and uneven. it feels easy some days and unbearable others. sometimes, it feels impossible and other days, like it’s just around the corner. it’s packed with grief and loss and trauma. it’s filled with triggers, spread out like land mines. and every time someone layers on another coping strategy, the space just begins to feel like it’s swollen two sizes. and in this space, the silence reminds me of all the moments i have felt alone in healing. and the past few weeks have placed me in familiar spaces of silence and isolation. and these quiet, lonely spots of healing are often where my mind and my heart begin to wander back to the times in recent years where the world just wasn’t the place for me. weeks of isolation. hours upon hours of unknowns. weeks of agony. grief in its purest and most original form. followed by grief layered so high. grief of a life. of a marriage. of friendships and relationships. of a whole person. a person that i had molded and shaped over the course of three decades. of a body that held me in hard times, rocked me in sad times, humbled me in high tides and raised me in low tides. grief of the loss of a clear head and simple soul. grief from head to toe. and while the acceptance phase of grief has circled back for a visit; there’s a lot of different patterns of grief that need to be unpacked. and the acceptance piece; it’s just a lot.
and right now, this space just feels quiet. and maybe that’s a good thing. maybe i need to be alone in it. maybe it needs to be uncomfortable and silent and lonely. but in the same breath, the silence feels loud. and it brings the imposter syndrome to a roar. it opens up all of the doubts and insecurities. they rush in to fill the void of everything else. so i begin to doubt the decisions i have made or begin to question everything i am doing right now. and everything feels so far in the past but also so fresh. the support groups aren’t meeting me where i am anymore. therapy feels stagnant. it feels like i am stuck. in this silent, uncomfortable spot in healing. where the trauma from the past meets the current & present. and there is just this . . . void. and at the end of the day, i don’t know which path to take. things from before cancer don’t seem to spark joy anymore. things from before cancer don’t seem to fit anymore. sometimes i feel like i am trying to fit a square peg into a circle hole. things don’t line up anymore and i am beginning to feel overwhelmed with guilt. that maybe i wanna study something different. or maybe i don’t wanna be a student at all. that maybe i want to do something different or go somewhere else. maybe i need to reevaluate the people in my life and reassess those who aren’t serving me anymore. i think what often gets lost in the leap from treatment to survivorship is the difference. every part of me is different now. and the adjustment to that might be lifelong. that there is this immense amount of grief and mourning associated with the loss of the person i was supposed to be. and all that comes with that. the brain, the motivation, the body. and this mourning of a person and a life that will never exist again. and how that has to be what shapes the new frame. and it’s been a lot of just accepting over the last two years. accepting the fate, the future, the diagnosis, the plans, the pain, the betrayals, the surgeries, the recoveries and most importantly, how people respond to all of that. and sometimes it feels weird to be this far into healing and still not fully understand it. to be this far into healing and not fully healed. it feels like i get stuck sometimes. stuck in the pain; stuck in the sadness; stuck in the grief. and it’s not intentional. it’s just that the swells of grief are immense some days and quiet other days. there are moments dipped in trauma and others that have been submerged. and more often than not, my body is looking for a way to funnel the trauma right in out of here. and it’s a lot more work than i ever imagined. it’s frustrating at times. it’s sad at times. it’s soul crushing sometimes. and all around me, the world continues to move.
and it’s funny because this week, my therapist told me that my healing looked vastly different from the appointment prior. because i am exhausted, i said. exhausted from all of this. the pain, the grief, the weight of medical issues. and sometimes, my exhaustion leads to defeat. and sometimes, it sparks a fire. a desire to get unstuck. to move the wheel and get off this ride. whatever it takes. because healing is happening. it just looks different. it isn’t easy and it doesn’t match what my brain mapped out in the beginning. it was not supposed to be like this but it is. and while accepting that isn’t my strong suit, i am working on learning how to accept the fate of the universe.
everyone has pain in their lives. everyone handles it all in their own way. some days, we can charge through it. and other days, it pulls us back. and i have made the decision that all of that is one thousand percent okay with me. my healing is mine. my trauma is mine. what i have been through and done is mine. it’s important. it’s worth being shared and talked about and it’s okay to still be here. stuck. it’s okay to curl up and be mad at the universe. stuck. it’s okay to change your mind about the world that existed before. it’s okay to want to be stuck and unstuck all at the same time.
life is just one long ass ferris wheel ride & the best view is when you get stuck at the top.