So I’m angry…and is that okay?

You know fucking what? I can wax philosophical about my change, I can dream about a different era, and I can (try to be) be a different person. But I will never lose my anger.

I won’t drop it until I’ve confronted it.

And I’m angry.

Ask anyone who’s met me. Look at my entitlement, look at my self-loathing, look at my derision. I’m an angry-ass bitch.

Though, who could really fault me- after growing up in such a hate-filled household? After having to hide the food I ate? The clothes I wore? The belt marks on my back? The loss of my childhood that I felt so clearly in 1998 (for starters)? I grew up in a pretty literal hellscape- one that ultimately led me to drag a mother out of it. But it took begging and pleading. And it took life-threatening actions.

So yeah. I’m an angry person. I have a lot of resentments. I take a lot of things personally.

I try not to do this anymore, because I understand that the things I take personally are a direct result of my fear of acceptance. I didn’t get that acceptance growing up. No one told me that I was ‘good enough, smart enough, and doggone it people liked me’. That was never a thing. I was always better than someone (because I could swim or run faster), or I was a piece of shit (because I couldn’t swim/run faster). I wasn’t smart enough. I didn’t memorize this monologue quickly enough. I didn’t do what you wanted me to do well enough.

I was not enough.

And now I have to be enough for myself.

And that’s really fucking confusing.

I think most people learn this as they’re growing up. They are part of a “normal” family; one that fosters growth, independence, and acceptance. Most people turn out okay. But not my family. And I shouldn’t harp on this, but it is a part of who I am and it will never go away. I will always flinch when someone moves quickly around me. Always.

So I’m angry about that. And after doing my inventory, I’m angry about the way that the treatment has affected me as an adult. So now I’m angry at a few people. It’s fostered selfishness in me. It’s made me lie. It’s made me afraid to be myself. I’ve let that shit make me terrified of who I might actually be, and that’s the saddest thing…thinking about who I could be.

March 25th (or thereabouts)- I was diagnosed with cancer. I chose to forego reconstruction. I opted in for drugs that destroyed my body. I let people inject me with  serums that put me into early menopause…before I was 30. I cried and writhed around in pain, I hurt people, I hurt myself, I lost my relationship. I voluntarily let people shoot me with lasers…

And I’m angry about this. So angry. I am angry about the fact that this happened to me. I am angry about the fact that my partner found it after five years of false alarms. I am angry that someone said they would be jealous of me having no tits. I am angry that someone said ‘cancer is a fun adventure’. I am angry that I lost a part of my body that people equate to attractiveness. I am angry that I will never look like an “ideal woman”. I am angry that I have lost all of my hair. I am angry that I look the way that I do. I am angry that I still have to drive to Fridley for radiation every morning and that I am always 30 minutes early because I’m an insane person who has no concept of time. I’m just so angry. About everything.

But living with anger is so time-consuming and, frankly, painful. I know that I can’t make this go away over-night, and I know that it might still rear its ugly head no matter what sort of serenity I might obtain. I know that I have said ‘if not me, then who’. I agree with that. I do know that I can only affect change where I am able- and this seems to be only in myself and the air in my tires. I can’t do anything more, and trying to do so is futile and (probably) harmful. It’s my body, and I should own it and love it. I don’t know how to deal with all these feelings, but I can take comfort in the fact that I don’t have to do it alone.

 


A special thank you to those that have been there: I know I am irrational and insane, but I appreciate you for sticking with me. Who would we be if we didn’t have our friends?

Hi hello yes hello

Someone (who is not my mother) recently reminded me that I have not written anything in a long time. And it’s true, I haven’t. It’s not for lack of having things to write about, but more that I am overwhelmed by the changes happening in my life. I have found it difficult to form a cohesive narrative to bring to you, dear reader. But I will try, and I will hate every minute of it because it’s not perfect.

First, just to get this out of the way, let me talk a bit about health updates. I decided to move forward with radiation. I had been back and forth and, really, had thought I was 100% decided on foregoing it. I was tired. I was not sure it mattered. I was certain I would get cancer again. Blah blah blah. But then one of my coworkers said something to me that really hit me hard. We had recently learned that we were both a part of a 12 step program (more about this in a minute), and she said “it’s like trying to convince an addict to seek help- they won’t do it until they know it’s the right thing to do for themselves”. And it clicked. I knew that I needed to seek that help because it was right for me. I want to do the most that I can do to be healthy for me. And so I asked my supervisor about scheduling it, fully expecting to be fired, but she agreed! This was my first lesson in learning to be assertive with my needs and wants- and it worked out! So, I’m doing the radiation dance. I drive 20 minutes to a stupid hospital and lay on a stupid table and kill myself to make myself better. It’s a real mind-fuck of a situation.

Let’s see…what else? My hair is growing back. My eyebrows are making a valiant effort. My eyelashes fell out a few weeks ago, but they also seem like they’re growing back. I had my port removed, which was a fabulous early birthday present. I got to watch the surgery! If you’ve never watched surgery performed on your own body…are you even living? This. Thing. Came. Out. Of. My. Body.

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And I got to keep it!

So, aside from the gross body crap, what has been happening? It’s hard to explain, I think. The last time I wrote, I wrote to you from my lowest low. I literally hit my lowest low, grabbed a shovel, and started digging even deeper. Who does that?

Me!

I do!

I do, because codependency is a motherfucker, and those of us that suffer from that unfortunate personality trait will kill themselves and anything around them before they realize that they are insane. I feel like I should change the title of my blog to Obesity and Malaise (and Codependency!) because that’s the real issue here. It’s amusing to me because I could never see it. I always thought ‘that word describes my mom and sister’s relationship’, not realizing that I’ve displayed that trait in every single serious relationship I’ve ever been in. Who am I to criticize?!

So I found Al-Anon. Actually, my ex found Al-Anon for me and then snuck a Big Book into the things he packed for me. When we were together, I had wanted to go to a meeting. I wanted to go so that I could “understand him better” or know “more ways to support him”. When I walked into my first meeting, I sobbed. I spent the majority of a month sobbing, but this was different. I felt this feeling (eww, gross) that I was doing something for myself. That I was there for myself. That I deserved to be there and to be happy, and it seemed like this program, and these people, had a pretty good idea of how to achieve that. Part of what I’ve learned is that this is taking care of yourself, not other people.

And so here I am. I’m working my twelve steps. I am being honest. I am being open. And guess what? It feels fucking horrendous. That forth step- the one where you lay out all your faults and all your transgressions? It’s awful. Seeing my part in why I’m so perpetually unhappy and so unfulfilled is AWFUL.

But it’s also liberating.

Because I have the option to be different. I can choose to be a better person. I can learn from my mistakes, now that I see them as such. I have that freedom.

And really, that’s what this is all about. I’m finding freedom in being myself. I’m finally being myself. It’s a real ‘take me or leave me this is who I am la la la la’ situation.

So take me or leave me.

Some Feels

Let’s talk briefly about this shocking phenomenon I experienced yesterday.

Not only did I feel a feeling, but I was able to identify it! Yes, I realize this probably sounds like such a small accomplishment and you’re probably rolling your eyes like holy shit it took her 30 years to get in touch with her emotions, but this is a big deal for me. The simple act of being able to put a name to what I’m feeling is a huge accomplishment for a person who has routinely stuffed their emotions so deeply down into the dank, dark recesses of their cold, dead heart.

And what I felt was pride, in myself and in what I was doing.

Let me explain. I recently moved in an apartment of my own. I haven’t lived alone since I worked in Korea (2010), so this is a relatively new experience for me. It’s been marginally terrifying in the sense that there is no warm body next to me at night , but it’s also been fairly liberating. I’ve made a lot of changes in my schedule, picked up some new hobbies, and am, in general, doing quite well.

Yesterday, when I returned home from work, I walked my dog, made dinner and pre-made my lunch for the next day, did my laundry, and was ready to go to a meeting by 6 pm. And I have no idea why this made me feel as accomplished as it did; perhaps it’s because I’ve been relying on other people to help me with those things, and I now physically feel like I have the capacity to do them for myself. Is that a self-care thing? I don’t really know. But I felt proud of myself, and I can’t tell you the last time that has happened. I know, it seems trivial.

2017 really was not my year – divorced, house sold, cancer, surgeries, more surgeries, job moves, break-ups, etc. Up until about a week ago, I was so focused on the resentment that I held for all of these things (oh gods woe is me why is this happening to meeee). True, that list sucks a lot of balls, but I see now that all of it is what I make of it. I can choose to dwell on how “shitty” 2017 has been, or I can focus on changing myself to better handle those situations when they arise. Instead of perseverating on the “why mes?”, I can ask “why not me?” (this shit is going to happen to someone, after all) and then figure out how best to deal with it.

ANYWAY.

This has been your gross personal revelation for the day. I guess feelings can be okay.


**Cancer Update**

I finished chemotherapy last Friday! It is such a relief to have my Fridays free of poison. I am still deciding on whether or not I should/can do radiation, as it’s a huge time commitment and is physically exhausting. Everyone and their mother has an opinion on this, and I could probably write a lengthy post about how well-received opinions about my body are, but I’m trying to remember that they’re only coming from a place of love.

I do appreciate that people love me and want me to be around for a long time. Contrary to popular belief, I want that as well.

Me.

I realized today that I am a badly broken and damaged individual, and it has nothing to do with cancer. I haven’t seen that as clearly as I have today.

It is not something I want to be.

I’m going to take steps to fix that and right my wrongs. It is going to take time, though, and as an action-oriented individual, this pains me. I want it to be fixed now. I want to be proactive now. I want that serenity…now.

But that’s not the way mending broken things works. It takes time, it takes (considerable) effort, and it takes courage (not something I have a lot of it, it would seem).

I had another realization this morning, shortly after making a stupid mistake (and probably a harmful one), while listening to an Al-Anon speaker. The realization is that I’ve been searching for validation my whole adult life. I grew up without it, things happened, and the lack of validation piled up like a mountain. And if you know me, you know I don’t like climbing, or even being outside. That mountain seemed insurmountable and was likely too much for me to bear, so I sought that in relationships. I wanted someone to tell me that I was lovable, that I was worthy, and that I was truly okay. I wanted them to shoulder that burden because I was too exhausted and mentally incapable of doing it myself.

Gods. That’s a lot.

I don’t understand yet why it’s not enough to hear myself say those words “you are kind, you are intelligent, you are beautiful”, but it’s not. I want to know why, and I am going to work on that. Part of me believes it, but part of me is not enough. All of me needs to take that on and shoulder that weight so that it’s never placed on someone else. That is unfair. I see that. All of my problems are my own and only I am responsible for fixing them. I hope that, over time, I can learn to take only the responsibility that is mine, because that’s the only thing I can do. I want to figure out who I am, as opposed to relying on someone else to do it for me.

Naming emotions and feeling them is difficult for me. But I guess what I feel now is fear. Fear of being alone- the fear of being alone with myself. I’ve done a masterful job of escaping that these last few years, but I can’t run any longer. It looks like it’s going to happen whether I like it or not. Perhaps over time, I will learn to like who I am. So you’re right and I am so very sorry. But this is probably a gift in disguise. I suppose it’s only a gift if I see it that way, and I do.

I fucking hate getting dirty and messy and sweaty, but it’s time to climb this mountain.

You know, I had this realization in the car this morning. My mom and I were sitting in rush hour traffic where 394 turns into 94 (I say this as if any of you know what I’m talking about- it’s a bad habit). We were at a complete stop for nearly five minutes which would normally make me drop a couple of F-bombs and drive my anxiety through the roof, but I was able to just sit there calmly and wait. And in this Twilight Zone-like state, I realized that there is no point in being angry at a situation that I can’t change or have no control over. And then I realized that I’d heard that somewhere before…

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

It’s been made so very clear to me recently that the only thing I can change in my life is myself; I can’t change other people, I can’t change situations, and I can’t change for someone. Really, all I can do is take some time for self-reflection and make changes based on that.

During our final conversation, the ex told me that I needed examine myself and my behavior. Of course, he said this out of anger and to hurt me (congrats buddy, it worked), but he’s not necessarily wrong. I do need to take a hard look at myself and process some of the things that have happened in my life that have shaped who I am today. I’ve been working on it in therapy and thought I was making some progress. Part of me wants to laugh and say “obviously, it wasn’t enough lol”, but I know that’s wrong because again, we can only change (for) ourselves. I hope my insurance pays my therapist really well because boy does she have her work cut out for her this Saturday.

I think one of my biggest flaws is my insistence on putting others before myself. I don’t mean in that martyr/St. Theresa sense, because I’m definitely not the nicest person in the world, but I do often go out of my way to put other people first and care for their needs before my own. I think we’ve talked about this before…but I see now how that’s really just a coping mechanism to help me avoid dealing with my own shit. It’s much easier to throw myself into a person, to get completely lost in them, than it is to address how I might be feeling, or what my wants and needs are. I also have a strong inability to identify my own wants and needs. My guess is that I’m incapable of it because I don’t feel validated. This was a new one for me- my therapist brought it up in the context of my relationship with my mother. She asked something (I don’t remember what), but I said something and then back-pedaled because I felt guilty. She then asked me the same question, but about myself- if I felt validated by myself. I burst into tears because, no, I can’t give myself validation. It was such an odd response for my body, but I guess that’s like…having feelings or some shit. Gross.

Along with that comes my poor communication skills:

  • I can’t communicate my wants and needs.
  • I can only communicate via writing.
  • I will sometimes lie to avoid a reaction that I (my brain) perceive to be a threat to my safety.

Allow me to explain with an example. Early on in our relationship, when we were dealing with some friends who treated my partner poorly, I lied about seeing them. I said I was going to the gym, and I did, but it was also to see this friend and spend time with her. I understand now that I should have been up front about that and not worry about the reaction, but I was afraid. I knew it would cause an argument. The funny thing about that is my behavior caused an argument anyway. Silly Elspeth. When we talked about it in therapy, I realized that it stems directly from the abuse I experienced growing up. I mean, it was so bad that I had to hide food, have my friends bring me clothing to change into at school, etc. I grew up thinking that it was okay to hide these things because that’s how I protected myself. Does it make it okay now? No, but at least I can see that.

Another silly behavior I exhibit is the inability to be alone. I think I’m scared of the idea because, you know, I hate myself. Before this gigantic shitshow happened, I really thought it was easier to be partnered with someone, and it was a source of joy for me- I was happy watching them be happy. I am now very excited to be alone af because a) let’s be honest, there’s no way I’m trusting anyone with my heart ever again (lol) and b) because I clearly have a lot of work to do. Also, I can already hear you saying “not all men”, but let’s not. I have a vibrator. So here’s to focusing on me. All the time. All. The. Time.

Okay, that’s all the self-reflection I can handle for now. I need to go cry in the bathroom.

 

PS: If you know where I can buy some courage, let me know. Is there a courage black market?

Me rn.

Me in the shower:

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Me in the car:

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Me at work when someone asks how I’m doing:

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Me when I get home from work:

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Me when I watch Donnie Darko because I want it to comfort me, but it’s super depressing and really has the opposite effect:

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Me when my cat wakes me up at 3:30 am to eat my hands:

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Me at all other times:

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It’s like the world is cutting onions and my body decided to not be dead inside.

I HATE FEELING FEELINGS.

U-P-D-A-T-E

Hi, friends.

I keep hearing that it’s been awhile since I wrote anything. Is that true? Has it been awhile? I’m sorry.

I think when we last spoke, I was deep in the throes of my final round of Adriamycin/Cytoxan, which is to say that I was being ripped end to end by some poison that I pay professionals to infuse into my bloodstream. The drug made me constantly tired and really ill, but I lost 12 pounds and reached my goal weight (thanks, chemo!), so it wasn’t all garbage! It felt a bit like a “milestone” or something to “celebrate” when I finished those four treatments, and I was almost excited to move on to Taxol- the once weekly drug that my oncologist built up as ‘not that bad‘.

I’m now six rounds of Taxol deep, with another six to complete, and I’m feeling pretty good. By pretty good, I mean I’m not vomiting, I don’t experience nausea, I don’t have to be left alone in a dark room for days on end (a piece of me enjoyed that part), and I’m no longer addicted to potatoes. Soup is not the only thing I can eat! I don’t have to endure Neulasta, which boosts your white blood cell count, but makes you feel like even a sneeze in your general direction is the most painful thing that’s ever happened to you. And I no longer rely on my 29-going-on-78 pill-box to get me through the day which is a real breath of fresh air- if that fresh air is still polluted, but only slightly less so.

The reality is that Taxol has actually not been that bad. Sure, my fingernails look like I’ve been living in a sewer and surviving off the garbage that rats don’t find fit to eat, but I’ll take it. And sure, my eyebrows finally fell out, but that just seemed to add to my sexy alien appearance. I even got cat-called as I walked into the cancer center last week! #blessed (Men are pigs.) But at its worst, Taxol has given me a wicked case of acid reflux and has run me into the ground, physically and emotionally. I didn’t know I could feel so exhausted at 6:30 AM when my alarm is going off…but again, it could be worse! I could have a shitty brain that doesn’t cooperate and intentionally mangles words and phrases, just to really goad the English major in me.

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Actual photo of my brain.

But, I suppose I should be honest and say that my writing has been slacking because I’ve been out enjoying life- something I never thought I’d take pride in typing. There’s been much less time spent dwelling on things recently, and while I think that part of that has to do with the “bitch, you got cancer live ur lyfe” attitude, I also think that I might just be happy.

SHOCK.

HORROR.

I know, I know. I didn’t expect it, either! What sort of demonic entity could drag me away from the safe haven of the Internet that I so dearly love? Could it be that I am just now understanding the concept of immediacy and participation? Because here I am, looking forward to getting up, looking forward to doing things with people, and looking forward to living this crazy life with my chosen humans. Naturally, there are still a ton of things to bitch about, but why do that when I can wake up to Justin and Mini-J: two people as thrilled to be going to the state fair as they are about Halloween? Who would have ever thought I would look forward to something like that? But here we are.

Don’t get me wrong, the irony of a death-invested person just coming to this conclusion is not lost on me. I know I have a lot of work to do once this time in my life is past (and if it passes without my passing??!!). My goal of becoming a mortician and assisting people in their end-of-life care is still very much alive and, as a I wrestle with my own mortality, is much more meaningful. I’ll get there; just not within the timeline that I had originally anticipated. Such is life, no? In the meantime, I’m staving off that pre-30’s meltdown (what’s 30 when you look like you’re 20 but feel like you’re 60?) and growing my hair out.

 

A special thank-you to everyone who sent me kind emails and bath bombs. You’re the bomb. Literally.