A Blog about Career Changes, Madness, and My Awful Brain

Friday, October 12, 2012

I'm Awesome, but Not Okay.

I know it's been a while since I posted, and all five of you who actually read this blog are probably wondering why it's taken so long for me to update.  The truth?  I just haven't felt like it.  At least a couple of times I've had some topics that I thought might be interesting to talk about, but I didn't want to 'do work'.  For some reason, when everything is going fine, blogging seems like work to me.  When I'm having a really bad time or need to reflect, the need to write comes back, and I once again show up here and write another depressing post.

Right now it's late, I can't sleep, and I'm having one of those bad brain nights. So I go online, do some googling, and try to find some articles that make me feel better....or maybe, if not better, at least not so damn alone.

The problem, kiddies, is that I'm doing really awesome....but I'm not always ok.

For those of you not on my Facebook......well, I finished my treatment at the end of June.  Other than an eventual stoma reversal, I'm clean and clear as far as cancer is concerned.  About 6 weeks after, I had a nice vacation in the mountains where I managed, with as little strength that I had, to do some hiking and canoeing in the Rocky mountains.  Since then, my energy has been steadily improving...I got a pass to the gym and I've been doing a lot of walking and some running and biking.  Now it's been over 3 months since my last chemo, and although I still get bouts of fatigue and aches and pains, I like to think I'm doing pretty good.

But big parts of me are so messed up.  Nobody wants to hear it.  Everybody keeps telling me how great I look, and how awesome I'm doing.  But inside....I'm so fucking angry.  I'm so fucking tired. I'm so fucking happy to be alive, and at the same time furious that I should have to be happy to be alive.

I don't think you have to have cancer or some other horrible disease to understand some aspects of going through it.  There are things that even people who have had a generally charmed life can understand.  You can understand pain.  You can understand the negative feelings associated with the loss of control of your life. You can understand the fear of getting cancer, or of cancer reoccurring, because....fuck, who isn't scared of hearing the C word?

What people really can't understand, what somebody who hasn't gone through some life-threatening serious illness like cancer can't get, is what a BURDEN it is to be a survivor.  And that burden comes from both expectations that people have about what a survivor ought to be like, and expectation we survivors have of ourselves.  I know...you are reading this and wondering....what is he talking about?  Does this diatribe have a point? To get my point across,  I'm gonna have you do a little exercise.

First, imagine right now that somebody told you that you have cancer.  Visualize it. Imagine the scenario in your mind.

Second, imagine that you survived.  Imagine that you lived through your immediate diagnosis, and have been given a new lease on life.  However, you don't know if you have another 20 years, or another 3.

Third, write down all the things you would do after.  All the changes you would make in your life. Would you quit your job?  Would you take up some new hobby that you've always wanted to, but never had time for?  Would you treat your family and friends differently?

Those dreams, those changes...those are your burdens.

Maybe you are not like me...I don't know.  Maybe you are living your perfect life and would never dream about making any changes.  If you can honestly say that you went through that exercise and changed nothing, then good for you.  You are perfect.  Fuck off.

But for me, and for some of the cancer survivors I've spoken with, there is a real pressure to 'make the most of your life'.  And I think it's important to tell you, kiddies, that it's not YOU who are putting the pressure on me, or other survivors.  It's something WE do to ourselves, because we WANT to have better lives, more meaningful lives.  But if you don't have the energy or strength or courage to make those changes when you are healthy and well, what the hell makes you think you'll have them after you have had the shit beat of out of you?  It's a burden wanting TO BE MORE, but not having the energy or mental wellness to be able to do it.

If that was it, then it would be almost manageable.  But while I'm beating myself up for not being able to do all those things I dream about, other people are either  too busy admiring me or getting flustered by my weakness and fear to understand how I really feel.  And I don't know which feels worse.

I've had people tell me that I inspire them, or that I am a hero......and the truth is that I don't feel it inside. It's not just some sort of false modesty.  Everything I did while I was going through my treatment was for me.  It was for my survival. It was still immensely selfish, if not in a negative sense.  A hero is a person who puts themselves in danger for others, not for themselves.  But there is a pressure to take on that role as well.  To inspire people.  To make them admire you.  To hide away your tears, so that they can see your strength. Because you so desperately WANT to be strong.  You want to fill that role because you don't want other people to know how weak you are.

And then, when the pressure get's to be too much, when the burden becomes something I don't feel I can carry anymore....well, I complain.  I'm only human.  I get damn sick of my life sometimes.  I'm sick of the pain, of the fear, of the pressure......I love my life, and I'm so glad to be alive, but sometimes I hate my life and I wish I was dead.  I'm not suicidal nor would I ever choose death over life, but I'd be lying if I don't sometimes wish I could just be done with it all.  But nobody ever wants to hear that.  Nobody wants to see that weakness.  They either cut you off and tell you you'll be fine, or tell you to be quiet.  Because you should be happy to be alive. You should feel lucky to have survived.  Well, excuse the fuck out of me that I don't always feel goddamned lucky.

Everybody listens to you when you are sick, but very few people actually hear you.  And the fucked up thing is that unless you have been sick, you aren't gonna get it.  You think you understand, but you don't.  You'll either feel sorry for me, feel guilty for pressuring me when you're blameless, or think I'm being a whiny, attention-seeking, neurotic bitch.  But a guy's gotta try.

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