my greatest fear is dying alone. no, not like by myself. but like alone. in life. i absolutely hate being alone. and honestly, i have already lived my greatest fear. two years ago. on march twenty third. i walked into an emergency room and was told if i hadn’t, i would’ve died alone in my bed that very night. i fought hard for so many hours. signed my life away on so many consent forms. declined to see a priest because i didn’t want to expose anyone that didn’t need to be exposed. held a thumbs up to anyone outside my door so they knew they didn’t have to come in and be exposed. i planned my funeral service from that hospital bed. wept and sobbed myself to sleep every night. it was my greatest fear. loneliness. in a big way. and loneliness is just something i have never handled well. as a kid. as a teen. as a young adult. and now. it’s just not a vibe as i like to say. but it’s weird. because even surrounded by dozens of people or the army of those who love me in my hard moments, i can still feel immensely lonely. and honestly there is a lot of loneliness in this body. and a lot of loneliness in this space. survivorship. there is a lot of pushing and shoving. and that’s challenging as someone who has just survived something really big and really traumatic. the pushing and shoving. where people are uncomfortable with where you are in healing. so they try to come from underneath you to push you out of where you are. trying to shove you into corners of healing that just don’t fit. and it hurts. and it feels rushed and hurried. and it just makes the space of survivorship that much lonelier. right now, i am finding myself back in this lonely space. where it’s me and what happened to me. me and my cancer diagnosis. huddled together. trying to make space for each other to exist harmoniously without ruining everyone else’s good time. and honestly, i kinda knew it would be like this. that it would feel uncomfortable and scary and sad and lonely. to be a survivor of something this big and this terrifying. to be forever marked and scarred by it. but trauma is something that should be allowed to exist. and it should be a place where no one interrupts. and that no one can try to pull you out of. because it’s honestly, kind of a holy ground. and i know that sounds weird but bear with me. sometimes my trauma is the only place that feels safe. it’s what i have known for the last two years of my life. because when people begin to take apart your experience; when they literally begin to disassemble it like it’s decorations at the end of a party; that’s when it feels lonely. that’s what makes it feel like i have been left behind.
and believe me, no one wants it to be different more than yours truly. i remember being in this exact position just two short years ago. begging to be understood and wrapped in grace as i healed from a forty two day isolation period and a virus that was killing people by the thousands. no one knew what to do or what to say. so we just didn’t talk about it. but the grief and trauma and anxiety and loneliness were bubbling over tenfold. and there were people that tried to push me into more comfortable corners then too. and it felt exactly like it does right now. unfair to be silent. unfair to be judged. unfair to be ushered into spaces that don’t fit me and my new experiences. and now here i am, a little over a year later, in what feels very familiar. it’s that part of healing where i am pushed between being uncomfortable in my own healing but also making sure others aren’t uncomfortable. and one of the things i am slowly realizing is that my comfort is what matters here. not anyone else’s. and right now, things have been feeling a little lonely. actually a lot lonely. i feel like my existence is unmatched. that there is this layer of my old self that has been shed that people are still expecting to resurface. like my trauma and my experiences are so overwhelming sometimes that people disappear. that what holds me together now is knowing that i lived through it. but for others, that is exhausting. there feels like there is this invisible pressure. to be okay with everything. to move forward with everything. to literally put the past behind me. to forget the trauma. to ignore the experiences. to move along. but it has unequivocally seeped into every crack, crevice & layer of who i am.
and earlier this week, a core memory literally gut punched me on my drive home from work. a memory that hadn’t surfaced ever before. and i found myself wiping slow tears as i merged off the highway. trying to blink away the memory of my face filled with sores hooked up to a home hydration iv pole. alone and terrified. with an open port access for seven days. with my skin peeling and bleeding. my malnourished self just barely alive. and that moment feels like forever ago but it also feels so new and fresh. to remember yourself in a place of ultimate vulnerability and pain. in a place of absolute agony and fear. to feel alone in your illness. alone in your battle. alone in the fight for it all. and right now, survivorship feels lonely. i feel alone. i feel broken. i feel like my trauma and my cancer and my story don’t belong anywhere. that it doesn’t matter anymore. that it’s not important anymore. that it’s a record that shouldn’t be played. and as i laid in my bed, crying into my pillowcases as my husband just rubs my back and soothingly says ‘it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay’- this ugly mantra flashes neon in my head. the one that says ‘and nothing was ever the same’. and it just makes me cry harder. crocodile tears. i can’t remember what it was like before. the ugliness of the last two years is thick right now. and maybe it’s because there is a lot of unresolved trauma. maybe it’s because i have been playing the comparison game a lot lately. maybe it’s because i am just sad and alone in all of these big feelings. maybe it’s all of those things. but the truth is, nothing was ever the same. not an ounce of it. not the way my hair frames my face. or the line of my jaw. not the scars on my chest or the ones on my legs. not the way i can fall asleep comfortably. or the way i process noise. or the way i watch television. there are foods that instantly bring me back to the days of chemo. and there are clothes that will never fit again. the way my body never feels safe or whole. the way my legs ache at the close of the day. the way my brain can’t remember certain words or things. or that i will never not be afraid. that i missed big moments. and lost good people. that cancer took my friends from me. and at times, my dignity. it humbled me and really shoved me back ten steps. and it was never the same. and that loss is such an immense loss. and there is just a sense of loss that radiates through my whole body. loss in so many different forms. and i find myself actively asking the universe to change the way i am navigating the loss. or losses. and instead, the losses begin to creep into my subconscious. where my dreams become nightmares of my real fears panning out right before me. standing in front of people who are pointing and laughing at my scars. a woman telling me my breasts look infected. holding my newborn baby only to realize i can’t breastfeed. someone shouting ‘mutant’ at me at the beach. my actual worst nightmares. so lately, things have just been feeling, ummmm, what’s a good word for it? overwhelming? big? colossal? i don’t even know what i am saying right now. because one of the things that i continue to say out loud to myself and to my therapist on a weekly basis is that it wasn’t supposed to be like this. i wasn’t supposed to be dying in a hospital bed two years ago. i wasn’t supposed to shave my head or start chemo. or watch a friend of twenty years walk out of my life forever. i wasn’t supposed to bathe in apple cider vinegar or battle mrsa three times. i wasn’t supposed to miss the moments in my marriage or have my breasts amputated just after turning thirty two. i wasn’t supposed to miss that many sunrises and sunsets and birthday parties and breakfast dates. it wasn’t supposed to be like that. and in turn, i feel the exact same way about healing. it’s not supposed to be this hard or take this long. it’s not supposed to make me cry every night. it’s not supposed to hurt like this anymore. it’s supposed to be easier. and my husband just keeps sitting here, rubbing my back. reminding me that it’s okay to be here. even though i hate it here. i hate it here in this part of healing. where things feel ugly and overwhelming and exhausting and painful. here where the trauma comes in tsunami size waves and where every part of healing feels the same. heavy and hard to hold. it wasn’t supposed to be like this. it wasn’t supposed to take so much away from me. it wasn’t supposed to change me. it wasn’t supposed to push me this far into a blank space.
nothing will ever be the way it was. nothing will ever be the same. and that, that is the loss that exists in this space right now. it wasn’t supposed to be like this. the trajectory of my life. the path i was on. it wasn’t supposed to be like this. but it is. that’s the hard part. the rest of the walk, the journey, the days. this life is now supposed to look different and it’s a really big deal. i am not sure who i am supposed to be. or where. or with who. it’s hard to lay new roots down. it’s hard to trust that the universe will not violently rip them from the soil. it’s hard to think that i won’t have to start all over again someday. it’s hard to put my faith back into the world & back into the universe. it’s hard to hand my strings back to the puppet master. because it wasn’t supposed to be like this. and i know i really don’t get a say in that anyways. but man, i really hope it’s supposed to get easier.
and i suppose i can hang in there. i suppose there is always sunshine after storms. always rainbows after rain. always a sunrise after darkness. i suppose it’ll be okay.