I've been struggling this past week with anxiety more than is typical for me. Things are going well, Howard is home for summer and we've been having a great time together as a family. There is nothing major going on that should cause additional anxiety in fact I SHOULD be having less...and so then that thought plays over and over in my mind causing an anxiety snowball.
Tonight I had a couple of moments to myself to decompress as I cleaned up the basement. The littles were sleeping and those who were awake were happily engaged in some activity otherwise. I've struggled with PTSD in the past several years and ended up seeking treatment for the flashbacks and lack of sleep I was experiencing, things have been significantly better, but this week things have been kind of tough.
We all know about flashbacks, suddenly a memory floods your brain taking complete control sometimes seeming so real that you struggle physically. You see the entire event replay so clearly in your mind. It is less common however to realize that our body remembers these events as well. It isn't only our brains that suffer from trauma. Trauma affects EVERY cell of our being. Those cells all have the capacity to recall the trauma.
This week I've been feeling a bit like I've been hit by a truck and as I spent time allowing myself to feel those feelings and figure out what was going wrong, I realized that this week, is the 2.5 year mark since my cancer diagnosis. Strangely as each of my six month oncology appointments approaches, my arm will ache and I find myself checking lymph nodes more often because I'm just so achy. My body remembers cancer. My body remembers a large chunk of flesh being cut from my left arm and sewn back together under great tension. My body remembers the lymph nodes being removed from under that same arm and the more I fight those feelings, the worse they tend to get. I've learned (with therapy) that the best way to cope is just to allow myself to feel the feelings, even if they're scary and even if it gets worse before it gets better.
This week I will head to the Clinic, have my oncology appointment and hopefully be 2.5 years "no evidence of disease" from stage 2 melanoma.
As I continued to process my feelings and give myself the space to just be present in them, I also thought about how this week is Isaac's eleventh birthday. Eleven years ago to this date I was carrying my second born son safely in my womb unaware that ANYTHING could go wrong. I had a nursery prepared, and we were so very ready for his safe arrival, when the bottom all fell out on July 14, 2005 and my world changed dramatically forever.
My body remembers. These memories are ones I am never quick to push aside. Unlike my cancer memories, these memories are ones I savor and wish I could relive just once more, I wish I could make better use of the time I had and be more prepared for what was about to come. I miss that boy something fierce and my body literally aches for him around this time each year. It is a bittersweet ache because while I still grieve him, that aching is proof that he lived and that he mattered. Sometimes I struggle to move through these aches and pains because in a different way it feels comforting to just revel in the tangible evidence of his absence.
For tonight, I will sit and just allow my emotions, mind, body and spirit to just be and feel all of the things I need to feel for now. Sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is just be, be gentle, be kind and be present with yourself and that is my plan this week. As I head to the Cancer Center this week and celebrate the 11th birthday of my second son, I will be mindful, gentle and kind.
I guess I share all of this to remind everyone, we've all got some type of baggage and trauma, and you sure aren't alone in that. The world seems to be going mad. God created each of us with the capacity to take care of ourselves but we weren't meant to do it alone, so as trauma continues to affect us individually and as a society, let's be a little more gentle, a little more kind and a little more present with ourselves and with each other. The world is a tough place, a kind word and a gentle smile go a long way. Let's feel all of the feelings and allow others to feel all of the feelings, let's judge less and love more, the body remembers, each cell remembers, let's give them good memories.