I was a little hesitant to post this but I really want you to see the difference a week can make. I went on my first descents trip with the hope in mind that it would pull me out of my slump. I started a journal - just for my eyes - prior to me leaving. I really wanted to be honest in what I was feeling, where my head was at, and what my fears were. I was curious to see how that would change as the days went on through out my trip. Close to a week after my return, I posted how I was feeling and what my first descents family did for me. I am going to share both of those with you. Before I do that, it was really hard for me to go back and reread what I wrote before I left. I almost couldn't even comprehend that I was in such a bad place. It made me sad that thats how I had been spending my time, daily. So then I went back and read my journal entry post trip - and it lit me up to know that I had made that much progress in just one week. I am not going to say much of anything else other than this. First Descents is an amazing organization. What they have done for me and so many others is something I could never be thankful enough for. If you are not aware of first descents, please check out their website and read their story. www.firstdescents.org
So here goes...I am really putting myself out there by allowing you in to my personal journal and in to my very raw and real emotions with this one.
Thursday May 14, 2015
I am 2 days out from my FD trip. I feel like I have been waiting for this trip for so long and now that its here, I am scared and nervous. The shy side of me is nervous to be with 15 people I don’t know for the next week. The scared and fearful side of me is afraid of the flight, as always. I am excited to learn how to surf. I am worried that I won’t have the energy or strength to keep up but I will try my best. I wanted to document my current state of mind before this trip.
While I would love to come back from this trip a new person, I don’t want to put expectations on it. I am hopeful, which I guess could fall within the same category as expectations. Maybe not but here is where my head is at right now.
I wake up every day scared. I wake up every day convinced that I have cancer somewhere in my body and then I go through this entire process of telling myself that I don’t. Its overwhelming and consumes me. It strips me of having any happy thoughts. In fact, I don’t know that happy thoughts even come across my mind anymore. I have struggled to even convince myself that I deserve happiness at this point. Why did cancer happen to me? Why can’t I go back when I didn’t think about death every day. DEATH! I think about dying every single day of my life. That just isn’t right. No one deserves to live the way I have lived my life since the day of my diagnosis. I have no joy. I am not happy about anything. I am sad most of the time and it effects my marriage, my friendships, and most of all ME. I have struggled to admit that I am depressed. I don’t know why. I don’t think that there is anything wrong with being depressed. I just don’t want to be depressed. I don’t want to live this way any more either.
I have tried therapy, reike, acupuncture, working out, and a few other things. Everything seems temporary. I think this is the one time in my life that I just simply dont have the answers. I don’t know what I can do to make this better and I am starting to believe there is nothing I can do. This is just my life now. Sadness, living in fear, and feeling stressed out all the time. Again, no one should live this way. Laughing is a chore. It almost feels impossible and fake to squeeze a smile out. Its sad. I know it effects my ability to be a good wife and a good stepmom. Its just awful. I want to enjoy my life the way I used to. I want to learn how to accept the new me and accept that yes, life is different now, but it doesn’t have to be filled with misery. I want to get there so bad but I just don’t know how.
So I ask this. God, please give me the strength to release my fears to you. Please take me down a path filled with happiness and joy. Please show me and guide me in a direction that is surrounded by your love and grace. Teach me how to put my faith to you at all times. To release this idea that I have any control over my future so that I may enjoy the current moments of my life. Please make your presence in my daily life. Amen.
Friday May 22, 2015
We all left our awesome bungalow this morning followed by lots of tears and see ya laters. 15 cancer survivors who all shared one common bond with one another. The emotions we all experienced this week were nothing short of amazing. The more I talk to everyone - the more normal I start to feel but I fear going home and no longer feeling that sense of normalcy. The conversations flowed from the minute we got in to the car until the minute we got out of the car and departed to our homes.
I know we all shared tons of compliments for one another. Uplifting each others souls and unintentionally pointing out the amazing qualities to each other - that we ourselves may have forgotten existed. Those qualities we knew deep down that we possessed but ones that got lost in the translation of cancer. Every conversation was pure and genuine.
On the way back to the airport we were talking about cancer again. We talked a little bit more in detail about our specific cancers and started to talk about our friends back home and how our relationships are different. It isn’t just friendships though, its all relationships. You can express your feelings, your depression, your fears, and your hopes until you are blue in the face to someone who has never had cancer. You get a lot of responses of people who just feel bad and don’t really know what to say. So as we were sitting in the car talking…I stopped in mid sentence because there was a lot of huh huhs, and noises of agreement to what we were saying. I realized something…When we are having a bad day and we start to vent or talk about whatever it is we are talking about….we aren’t necessarily looking for answers. We are just looking for validation - and that validation coming from someone who actually REALLY understands….means so much more.
So now that I have been home for a few days…I finally had a chance to sit down and really process this amazing trip and what it has done for me.
What I took away from my week is intangible. I am not even sure there are words to explain the magic that happened on the beach, in that house, and at campfire everyday. Though I am speaking for myself, I am confident this feeling is mutual. For one week, we all had the opportunity to be our authentic selves. We all let walls down with each other that I am sure we have a hard time doing at home where we can sometimes feel “alone”. I am confident we all shared laughs like we haven't experienced in a long time. We each had our moments with one another where we would open up and cry - and most times those moments ended in laughter. We shared an energy that was so positive and encouraging to one another. It is something that cannot be put in to words. From the cheers that came from shore to those deep conversations that always ended in a smile and a hug. Yes, we all share one very unfortunate life event with one another…cancer…but if not for that life event we wouldn't have found each other. I am so thankful for each and every one of my fdgnarbars friends. You all know more about me than people I have been friends with for 20 years and theres something to be said for that considering we only had a week to get to know each other. I love you all like family. I miss you all more than words could explain but I have come home with a new outlook on life. Each and every one of you taught me something different about myself and I will take that with me each day I move forward in my journey. I am not alone anymore. I was - for a long time - but not anymore. I have first descents to thank for that. For one week, I was able to be 100% authentic. I was able to silly Jen again - the Jen I thought was gone because of cancer. Before I went on this trip - I was confident I was going through a grieving process. One that was centered around the loss of…me, and who I was pre-cancer. But she’s still there. That girl still exists and you all showed me that. I was able to laugh till my belly hurt - a feeling I haven’t felt since Nov 7, 2013. Though it makes me sad that I am not entirely sure when I will see you again…You are all in my heart and my mind forever. I will never forget the moments I shared with each of you and the inside jokes or the dubsmashes. Thank you for letting me be me and for laughing with me. My hope for us all is that we will continue to live the life we all deserve to live. My hope is that we can all find happiness in this life - and find the joy in each and every day. My hope is that none of us will ever feel alone ever again. From this day on - we have each other. #FDGNARBARS FOR LIFE BABY!!!!
I deserve joy and I will find it in every single day. I deserve happiness and I will remind myself of this daily. Right now, I am happy. Sadly, I forgot what that felt like. I have slept better in the last week than I have in 2 years. I went above and beyond what I expected of myself on this trip and it was a pleasant reminder that I am strong both physically and mentally. I have a new motivation every morning when I wake up and I now know I am 100% capable of pushing myself beyond my own personal limits. And last but not least…I will allow myself to be vulnerable. Thank you FD for restoring my hope, my energy, and my mind.