[ First published on June 28, 2015 ]
Note: I debated for months whether I should reupload this particular post. I don’t honestly like seeing how weak I am, but this is something I keep telling myself I should do for my future self. So, my dear reader, one of my many moments of weakness:
I made the mistake of denying my emotions, believing that if I don’t deal with them head on, they would go away.
“On the contrary, iha, you gave your emotions more power over you,” my counselor told me.
I wanted this cancer blog to reflect only the good things throughout my treatment (and my life following it). What I didn’t realize, however, is that if I kept writing both the good and the bad, I could be looking back today at everything I’ve written and see how far I’ve progressed. That, by itself, is something that I should celebrate.
I realize that only in hindsight would I be able to appreciate the process that I went through and the small triumphs that I was too blind to see at the time. So here I am again, writing.
Who Do You See?
Before this post, the last update I wrote was in August last year. If anyone is reading my blog without access to my personal social media accounts, you’d probably think the worst happened to me. I’m still alive. Riddled with battle scars in every sense of the phrase, but still alive.
My third chemo session hit me really hard, and each session afterwards just went from worse to worst. The physical side effects–and I’m not discounting the hellish ordeal I went through here–I can deal with. The only good thing about the side effects is that they end. After a week, I’m up again and feel almost normal.
The mental and emotional effects, however, continue up to today. And this is the honest-to-goodness truth: I was brought to my lowest of lows and I am still sprawled on the floor.
I have never felt so weak, helpless, lost, scared, and anxious in my entire 27 years of being alive. My demons overpowered me so much that it became difficult for me to express myself.
Verbal communication has never been my strong point. When I tell people about what I went through, I would often hear them say “you don’t look sick” or “you look good.” I’m assuming that is a good thing, but it would always be met with silence and a polite smile as I know that is far from the truth.
Sometimes, I don’t get it. Was I not explaining myself well when I said “it’s hard for me” or “I’m scared”? Should I always be in tears when I tell a bad story? How am I to properly convey how scary everything is?
I thought writing would give me catharsis, but even that proved to be difficult. If I’m being honest with myself, I stopped writing because of 3 reasons:
- I didn’t want people to see me suffer;
- If there’s a cancer patient reading this blog, I don’t want him/her to feel scared after reading what I’ve written; and
- I didn’t want to see my negative emotions come alive by writing about them.
Taking Off My Masks
I’ve been talking to an amazing counselor who has been helping me deal with the mental and emotional issues I’m experiencing.
You see, it always perplexes me when people tell me I’m strong or brave or anything along those lines. Thank you, I appreciate the fact that you believe I’m going to push through this with guns blazing.
But many times, I just want to post on Facebook and say: “Nope, I’m not strong! I’m not brave! You have no idea how many times I fell down and wish I could just stay down. At least then, it would end. At least then, I would stop suffering.”
I told my counselor the three reasons I gave above, and this is what I got in return:
1 and 2. You talk about your emotions for yourself, not for the approval of other people. The goal is to release your feelings. If you get a positive response, that’s a bonus. If you get a negative response, that is only their perception which you cannot control.
3. Not talking about how you feel does not make your emotions any less real.
I have to deal with my emotions, yes, but I have to accept them first. Acknowledge them, and never invalidate whatever I feel. I think I skipped that crucial first step. The reason why people think I’m strong is because I give them the wrong signals, acting like I’m just breezing through everything.
I perceived weakness (e.g. fear, worry) as something that I should repress. After all, cancer patients are supposed to be on battle mode 24/7, right? Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
I have put up so many masks that plenty of people around me do not know who I am. But ask anyone in my core support system, the people I talk to on an almost daily basis, and you will know that I am nowhere near strong nor brave. They have seen the ups and downs of everything, as well as my propensity to quit.
However, I’ve learned that if I only accept the positive side, I will only be accepting half of who I am. No words can describe how ugly my negative side is, but that is still part of what makes Tricia human.
So this is me taking my masks off:
I’m scared. I worry a lot about death. I’m scared of failing. What if now that I decided to fight back, that’s when life decides to screw me over and kill me? There are times that I get angry at my situation. There are times when I wonder if you really do mean it when you said you’ll be there for me. Will you be there at 3 in the morning when my thoughts overwhelm me, when I’m crying inconsolably, when one pillow is not enough to muffle my sobs because I don’t want to see that look of worry on my family’s face? That’s when I need you most—when I feel like I’m just one person out of the billions in the world, and I have no idea why this had to happen to me. Where were you when I needed you? There are times when I wish everyone would just stop, let me breathe, and not expect me to plaster a smile on my face throughout this whole ordeal. And there are times when I want to tell you to just hold me. I don’t need your words. Please, just hold me. Make the demons go away.
So you see, I’m not the Superwoman you perceive me to be. I’m really just human. No superpowers, no uncanny ability, nothing.
Hopefully, a year from now, I will look back at this post and give myself a pat on the back for everything that I have and will endure.