Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Blogging my way through therapy and back to my life

I started therapy today. The first session was primarily an evaluation, but we did get into a few things, which surprised the therapist as I guess it usually takes longer. But this isn't my first time, so I know how it works for the most part. And I'm motivated to get better and get back to actually living my life, not just sort of existing my way through it.

We discussed my goals, how I've been feeling, why I think I'm in the place I'm in. And I realized that I've been thinking the reason for the current depression and feelings of detachment stemmed from grief - that since 2011 basically piled so much crap on me that I couldn't cope, I had this backlog of grief I needed to work through. But today I realized that's not true. While I miss my grandfather and my stepdad desperately, grief is pretty normal. Everyone dies, and everyone grieves when they lose someone they love.

No, mine is all about cancer. I've given it both too much and not enough credit all at once. I told myself that I'd had "cancer lite" since mine was caught early and I didn't need chemo or radiation, so I hadn't been through as much as my friends who needed either or both, or my friends who've had recurrences and are Stage IV. I compared my experience and dismissed it as "less than" others. By doing so, I couldn't allow myself to grieve, to really deal with it.

At the same time, I've given cancer power over me. It took my breasts, rearranged my body, and now I have lymphedema. My body will never be the same. I've allowed my identity to become wrapped up in these facts - I've withdrawn from friends because they ask what they can do and I don't have any idea how to answer, and because I don't know how to let go and just BE anymore. I put on my ever-present cheerful public face - the face that's so good that only my husband and son can truly see through it - and lie. I lie that I'm okay, I lie about the depression that's eating me up. About the ennui that's my constant companion. It's lying by omission, but when it comes to friends, it counts as lies. The problem is, I don't know how to remove the public face and be honest. I walk out the door and it snaps into place as easily as putting on my glasses.

My therapist held up his pen and asked "If this was a magic wand and I could wave it and you could be whoever you wanted, what would that look like?" I started to cry immediately and said "You can't - it's impossible." He asked if I meant that I'm not willing to work for it, and I said "I can't ever NOT have had cancer. I can't have my breasts back, I can't not have lymphedema, I can't make the pain stop, I can't be who I was before. That's what I want, and it's impossible." And that IS what I want. And this depression, this ennui, is because I have not really, truly, come to terms with the fact that I had cancer, because I believed that it wasn't as "bad" as my friends, that they somehow deserved more than me, because they're going through much worse. And if I never come to terms with having had the disease, I can't come to terms with the treatment, or my life as it is now. I can't learn to accept that this is the new normal, and that I can be happy again.

The therapist gave me some papers and some homework. Some of it seems obvious, almost juvenile in its simplicity, but since all I seem to do is overthink and not allow my emotions to connect anymore, I need it all explained to me in small, simple words. I need someone to hold my hand, someone who's not emotionally invested in me like my husband, son and friends, and tell me I can do this, I can get through this, I can be okay again. Someone to tell me that cancer didn't steal ME away, that I'm still in here rattling around. That I can reconnect with my friends, who I miss so much. And that I deserve all of this.

More as it comes to me - I always forget how hard this journey is, but I'm trying to remember how worthwhile it can be!