Pause for Thought
The first few days after my surgery were kind of a sweet relief. No work. No need to be attached to my phone. No reason to feel guilty about not being productive. I could wear sweats and not put on makeup and sleep all day if I wanted to (and I did).
I've had a stressful year. I deserved a break and some rest.
But here's the thing I was warned about, but didn't pay enough attention to -- As soon as there was a true pause, then it ALL caught up to me. And there was nothing around to distract me from the gut punch and pain of each and every thing that has been stolen from me this year.
Perhaps this is all a little overly dramatic--but allow me a (few) moment(s) of wallowing, will you?
Suddenly I am in physical pain with limited mobility from a glorified amputation that I didn't want. I have foreign objects implanted under my skin that make me feel like a cyborg. I look in the mirror and I have a super-short, very gray haircut with thinning eyebrows and eyelashes, that ages me at least 10 years and isn't the "me" I recognize (although it probably matches the way I feel this week).
And that's just the physical.
Working from home and being self-employed is both a blessing and a curse. Yes, I have the flexibility to do my job and have kids at home all day, and have cancer treatments, and take care of my mom in the hospital, and be in Chicago with my family when my dad passed away. But what have the costs been? I had to quit a job that I loved to devote my time and mental and physical energy to cancer treatments. I largely ignored my kids and husband and sacrificed time spent with friends to use the energy I do have to push myself to work and try and earn as much of an income as I'm able in the midst of one tragedy and setback after another. Or, I had to shut down my business completely for weeks or months at a time to drop everything and tend to my own health, my father's death or my mom's health.
Everything COVID is infuriating and infiltrating every aspect of our lives in this already difficult year, making everything that used to be uplifting and fun and regulating and grounding, now a depressing struggle. We have not had a "normal" week since March (nor has anyone, I'm aware). Everything that used to be a go-to pick-me-up has been poisoned with mask requirements and social distancing and fear-inducing restrictions. Instead of feeling refreshed and uplifted and grounded by things like shopping and hanging out with friends, and going to church or school, or traveling and concerts and sporting events--all of those things have been poisoned with the stamp of COVID. Some of them we can still do, but that COVID stamp just puts a bitter taste all over everything, leaving me sad and more depressed, not uplifted and encouraged.
And then there's the cancer factor. My treatment has been successful, and that's good. But potential recurrence will hang over my head forever. It will be a filter over everything in my life moving forward, whether it ever returns or not. Unfortunately, recovering from surgery isn't the "last step" -- not for us anyway. Other people will move on (and they should), but Ben and I and the kids will be forever changed and affected by the trauma of this year. There are too many stories of people we know well who had great and promising results from their cancer treatments, but then a few short months or years later, it took their life.
It's no wonder we're exhausted and feel defeated.
I've been told I have a hard time expressing (or even acknowledging) my feelings. For me, it's easier and "more efficient" to shrug things off, let things go, focus on the positive, and do what I CAN instead of brooding about what I can't. But when everything stopped in the past two weeks, and I had time to sit and reflect on all that has happened this year, the feelings I normally refuse to allow began crawling their way up to the surface. So, I'm acknowledging them and expressing them while they are making themselves known.
I'm angry that I have to go through any of this.
I'm discouraged that there never seems to be an ending.
I'm scared that the cancer will come back and I won't be prepared for it.
I'm annoyed when my double mastectomy and reconstruction is compared to a breast augmentation.
I'm grieving that I can't call my dad anymore.
I'm worried that irrepairable damage has been done to some of my relationships.
I'm mourning the loss of my youth and innocence (or perhaps more accurately, ignorance).
I'm frustrated at the reflection I see in the mirror.
I'm resentful toward all of the things that took time away from me when I felt good this year.
I feel inadequate as a parent with no real way to help my kids navigate through all the worry and disappointment from this year.
I'm resigned to constant disappointment.
Honestly, I'm not sure I know what to DO with any of these feelings, other than trying to be transparent and authentic as I record this journey and process. It's uncomfortable for me, and feels like complaining and whining about things that can't be changed, which feels pointless and wasteful. Truthfully, my instinct is to ignore them and look at the bright side, be positive, and press forward--and most days I will. The past week though, I've been grumpy and depressed and self-loathing and wallowing, and I wanted to be honest about why.