There are a lot of thoughts that I keep to myself. A lot of things I do not say because, well, I don’t want to scare the people I love or make them feel sad. I don’t know if that’s healthy or not. As I am going through those thoughts, I sometimes wish I could just scream them so freaking loud so that the entire world hears what someone with a diagnosis such as mine, might think or feel, so I don’t have to repeat myself. I don’t know how deep this is about to get. I don’t even know if I have the strength to put it all in writing. I do know moving past them, through them, and most importantly - accepting them - is a process I must navigate.
I am scared. Sometimes, most of the time, I don’t want to be told “Stay strong”, “stay positive”. You think I don’t know that? There is a residual, internal guilt that I feel when I feel neither of those. When I am doing my best to combat or balance my depression against my positivity. Does my fear and stress feed my illness? I have no idea but when I feel that way, I feel very guilty that I am making myself sicker. I feel guilty that, in that moment, I don’t feel strong or positive and quite frankly, I just don’t want to. It is utterly exhausting at times. Do I feel there is power in positive thinking? Absolutely. Does it heal? I don’t know - because I definitely think there is also this “pressure” that I put on myself to maintain that.
People tell me I inspire them. It’s a weird, awesome, and confusing compliment. Yes, I want to inspire people to live their lives, to be a giver and not a taker, to make sure those you love, know you love them. I want to inspire you to stay positive, to smile, to enjoy each and every single moment you are given. Am I actually inspiring you though? Because are you going out and changing the way you live as a result of my inspiration? I am not judging if you don’t, I’m just asking the question in hopes of making you think a little. Sometimes I wonder - who inspires me? Who lives with this diagnosis, or any diagnosis to this magnitude and inspires me? That’s a hard question to answer. It’s lonely and sometimes I’m just over here trying to make it to the next day without losing my damn shit. Most don’t realize that though because I DO want to encourage positivity. I want, more than anything, for people to see me living a beautiful life despite this illness.
I seek inspiration from others, I do, but it is hard when I feel like absolutely NO ONE understands how hard this truly can be at times. I can’t expect that the people I love or the people that I inspire to grasp that, and I certainly don’t want them to be in my shoes and be essentially forced to live in a way that tomorrow isn’t promised. Can you image how lonely it might feel sometimes to sit in this room by myself though? It is hard. It is hard to hear someone tell me to stay positive, stay strong, keep fighting, don’t give up…I honestly want to respond and say NO SHIT, REALLY???? At some point, hopefully not anytime soon, I won’t be able to do that anymore. There is a guilt I feel in that fear alone.
Let me tell you this…if that time comes…don’t for one second think I ever gave up. If you are someone that has said that to me, I don’t want an apology. You are encouraging me, and I appreciate that. At the end of the day, I can’t imagine how hard it might be to find the right words. Gosh, even saying that makes me feel guilty. I am the person that others are trying to find the right words to say too. Insert puking emoji here.
There are words, thoughts, feelings, fears, hopes, and goals - that all have their little space in my mind - that no matter how hard I try to explain it, I don’t feel like anyone is going to understand. I also have this ongoing battle in my head. Is that fair Jen? Are you being fair to yourself by holding that all in? Are you being fair to the ones you love holding it in, and never truly letting others - who love you - know what’s going on? The days I’m shut down, and I’m silent, or I just don’t want to feel anything, or the burden of putting my sadness on others. I sit on a balance beam with my arms stretched out - on one arm is that positive, happy, living each moment to the fullest attitude and on the other arm is the anxiety, the fear, and the depression that holds all of these thoughts. The ones I don’t want to share, because it’s a sad place to be and I don’t like or want to feel sad. Pretty sure no one does.
How can this be? How can this be my fucking life? I am 41 years old, and I am worried about how much time I have left with people I love. If that trip I planned is even going to be possible. How about saying goodbye to people you love, wondering if that’s the last time they will see me. I worry, more than anything, that they will forget or not know how much I love them. Did I say I love you enough? Did I show it in the best way I possibly could? What is the best memory they will have with me? Is it a good memory? Is it fair for me to get frustrated when my closest friends aren’t making time to see me? What if they feel guilty they didn’t make the best of their time with me? Are they ok with the last thing they said to me? Why do I even have to think this way? I feel and see people distancing themselves from me. If they love me, why haven’t I heard from them in months? My diagnosis hasn’t changed. How do you think that makes me feel? I think it’s a selfish move, but I also wonder if they just don’t love me the way I thought they did.
Wow. That was hard to say.
If this blog seems to be all over the place, welcome to my brain right now. I’ll change the narrative here and show you just how bi-polar cancer can make a person.
What truly inspires me is this…I am inspired by people who continue to work on themselves and grow. I sometimes wonder how someone can be so confident, so set in their ways, and almost so selfish to the point that they think they’ve mastered perfection. Personal growth is inspiring because I know how hard it is. I have done a lot of this over the last 8 years. I am constantly looking at myself and wondering how I can become a better friend, mom, wife, sister, daughter, etc. When I see others willing to put in, what I consider the hardest work of all, I am inspired. Had my life not flipped upside down 8 years ago, I can’t promise you I’d be here. Why did I wait so long??? Why are you waiting?
Never have so much pride that you think you are above growing and becoming a better person. You should always be a work in progress…for yourself and for the people you love. Self-work isn’t a sign of weakness…the collateral beauty is found in your journey to self-growth. The work to get there is hard. The challenges we face in giving our fears attention, while not easy, will give you a beautiful sense of freedom.
I can only hope…HOPE…that someone, even if just ONE person, will read this and find peace in knowing someone else might understand you. Maybe you got a glimpse of what it feels like to be someone facing a life-threatening diagnosis, whether its cancer, a bad accident, or hell - old age. Be kind. Don’t abandon those you love because you are afraid, instead make memories, send the text, call, and if crying is all you do, that’s ok too. If you are the person reading this that is facing a similar diagnosis - I hope you can open your heart, share your fears, your hopes, your dreams, with those you feel comfortable with. Maybe sharing those fears will give your heart and mind a little freedom. Maybe it will help those who love you, understand you a little better. Maybe, just maybe…you will give yourself a little grace and not carry the burden that balance beam of guilt vs. happiness puts on you. The struggle is real, and I am right there with you.
As for me, and as I continue to open my heart and share moments like this, I simply ask you to not feel bad for me. Inspire me instead. Love more, don’t let things go unsaid, be careful with your words, but say it. Whatever it is, SAY IT. Make memories with me. Take pictures, LOTS OF PICTURES. Take just one second, this second, this moment…to simply be thankful. Not for anything other than…THIS MOMENT. What can you do with THIS MOMENT to make the next one better?
That is magically inspiring and, to me, is worth its weight in gold.