Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Right on Time

Remember in my last post when I said that I needed to get through the heaviness and find the lightness that I knew was to come??

I found it. :)

I can feel that heaviness leaving me and replacing it is sort of a rush of happiness and contentment.  An expansion of my view of the future.  The feeling that doors are opening in front of me and the uncertainty of what the next few years will bring tastes sweet and hopeful. 

I’ve started my classes and my internship and the greatest gift that I have received is that the response to my return consisted of mostly, “welcome back” messages, or “I’m glad that you’re doing well,” a few people asked how I’m feeling.  But for the most part, the surprise and awkwardness of coming back from this was short-lived and very supportive.  I’ve been back for about 2 weeks and it already feels normal to be here doing all of these wonderfully normal things.

Right now almost everything that I do makes me feel lucky.  Even the silliest things, remind me that a month ago I didn’t have this privilege.  I feel lucky to be in grad school (although that doesn’t mean I’m not beyond excited to graduate).  I feel lucky to slug it out in my internship for a small stipend that doesn’t even cover my rent.  I feel lucky to walk in the freezing cold to the tiny gym at Pitt and spend my 30 minutes sweating on the elliptical.  I feel lucky to watch Friends with my roommate.  I feel lucky to make dinner for a friend.  I feel lucky to wash my own dishes.  I feel lucky to feel soreness in my muscles from exerting myself.  I feel lucky to feel tired from doing something rather than fatigued from a medical condition.  There’s definitely a big difference. 

I think part of what makes this mean so much is that not very long ago, my health was improving, but I still felt sluggish and down.  Even though my counts were going up, I didn’t feel good.  The thought of coming back to school felt daunting and scary.  I think part of me didn’t want to come back at all. 

A few months ago, I was searching the Internet for some post-chemo exercise plans (which as it turns out don’t really exist, but I really think they should), and I found an article on post-cancer depression.  It was written by a NY Times journalist who was blogging about his experience surviving testicular cancer. 

“After more than a year of diagnosis, treatment and waiting, it’s almost as if, finally and unexpectedly, my psyche heaved a sigh and gave itself permission to implode.”

His words described exactly what I was feeling.  That tiniest feeling of validation to what I had been thinking was all the push that I needed to know that I wasn’t alone.  And I wasn’t crazy for feeling depressed after having gone through this.  The article states that nearly 25% of cancer survivors face depression.  I didn’t even finish the whole blog post before I picked up the phone.

Going to see a therapist was one of the best things that I did for myself during this time.  I got to be completely honest about my fears and feelings without worrying about upsetting the other person.  It was a huge part of the healing process for me, and I am so glad that I took the time to dig into what was making me so sad.

Because honestly, this feeling as I write this right now, is totally worth it.  I feel great.  And it is so much more than my counts going up.

I think there is a little tiny part of me that didn’t want to write about going to a therapist.  There is a part of me that wants to be the type of person who just skates through tribulation in life with ease, and without professional help.  And the truth is that I could have survived this experience without counseling, sure.  But I would not feel as I do now.  I would feel physically better, without a doubt, but the fogginess of depression would still be with me.  And I would push through it, because I’m stubborn, but it would be hard.  And maybe I would have days where I ask myself, am I depressed? Maybe I should see a counselor.  But I never would.  I would just push forward, through the heaviness.

Do you see the difference?  Sorting through my sadness in Michigan means that being in Pittsburgh today, I am here.  I am not haunted by the nightmare I just survived.  I’m not falling asleep still shaking from the experience.  I am not anxious.  I am not held back by suppressed emotion.  I am present. 

I found this quote on Pinterest (obsessed, I admit), and I think it pretty much sums up this feeling.  Being back in school feels right in a way that I can’t quite put my finger on.  It feels like it was supposed to be this way all along.  I am exactly where I need to be, when I need to be there. 

Your journey has molded you for your greater good.
And it was exactly what it needed to be.
Don’t think that you’ve lost time.
It took each and every situation you have encountered to bring you to the now.
And now is right on time.

As always, thanks for reading :)