Posted by: julia on May 06, 2016
Okay, I’m back. And the good news is, I’m a week and a half past the mastectomy surgery (which went as well as these things can go) and healing up great. However, it’s taken me a good long time to get clear enough (physically and emotionally) to be able to put together a blog entry about what’s been going on since my surgery. First, of course, I was all sleepy and loopy from the pain meds and the anesthetic leaving my system, and it was hard to do anything, let alone write. Then, once that fog began to lift and my body started feeling a little bit better, my feels kicked in and I had quite a few days of (understandably justified) teary upset and depression. I certainly had anticipated some of the reasons why I might be upset and depressed (see last entry’s navel-gazing), but the actual, physical reality of losing the boobs and starting the cyborg process was now obvious to me in a way it hadn’t been (and couldn’t have been) before it was actually happening/had happened right there in my body. And yeah, I’d been right—amputating pieces of your body is definitely upsetting, no matter how ready you think you are for it, how justified you are in doing so, or how courageously you look ahead to future gain. Grief will not be denied and this was a grief-worthy event.
Honestly, the mental game has been (and no doubt will continue to be) the hardest part of both the mastectomy and the overall cancer saga. Physical healing is tough, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve been blessed with a strong constitution and enough leisure and disposable income to supplement that natural constitution with a whole variety of self-care activities. And yes, I’ve had the experience and lessons learned from my first cancer rodeo to guide me and help prepare me for playing the mental game of this new cancer experience. But when the body is compromised, and the broken-scared-anxious-despairing-worthless-pointless-hopeless-grieving feels crash in with a depressive tsunami, it is really, really hard to stay positive and courageous or even involved with normal life. Time seems to drag and it feels like nothing will ever get better and new normal is too far away to bring any comfort in the now. For a good long while after the surgery all I could do was keep going and try to find ways to distract myself from thinking too much so I could get through each day, and then eventually the days would pile up and I’d make it far enough to realize that things had changed and hopefully gotten better.
And that’s what happened. Eventually enough days did pile up, and my body healed up enough, and I let the feels tell me what they wanted to tell me and tried to listen respectfully without getting too caught up in the “always/never/forever” parts of them. Now I’m starting to be able to process what’s happened and talk and write about it and arrange my narrative(s) in a way that is beginning to make sense and have some true meaning to me. So I think I’m winning the mental game again. I’m still grieving, I’m still upset and uncomfortable, but it’s better enough now that I can also balance all that with the comfort and relief that increased involvement in the rest of my life brings. I am more confident now, given the evidence immediately available to hand of positive improvement over time, that I am not always going to be this broken and weak and distracted. I am still myself, and myself is still too curious and enthusiastic about life to be put down for long. (Myself is also impatient, which I recognize is a large part of the problem here but unfortunately seems to come baked in to my personality.)
Now the challenge is to continue to let myself heal and to be gentle with myself during the emotional ebbs and flows (especially when the backsplash from the depressive tsunami comes back in). Time really is the best healer, and it really will work if only I partner with it instead of resisting or attempting to manipulate it. As much as I dislike being backed into a corner, I know I have to commit to the “slow and steady” slog, because that’s my only choice here. But it will work. It will work. It will work. You can all remind me I said this.