Where doing I start? It’s been too long since I sat down and just wrote. There are so many things I want to tell, but some things I’m not ready to share. This past year has been one like no other. My Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last September. A fight against cancer is a fight like no other. It opens your eyes and heart to so many things you never thought of before and makes you question things you thought you already knew. I can proudly share that my mom completed her chemotherapy, radiation and had a double mastectomy. What they don’t tell you is how much cancer changes everything. Even after the treatments stop, she’s still fighting.
I have grown so much over the past 14 months. Looking back now I realized that I had to fall apart just so I could put myself back together…on my own.
Last year, when my mom was going through her treatments for breast cancer, I lost touch with some people who I thought I was important to. But some no longer wanted to be friends with me. That broke a piece of me. So, I respected their wishes and I cut all ties. I still remember that day like it happened yesterday. It was a complete shock and caught me off guard. Well…my wonderful anxiety thrived on this and told me that I was to blame. It was my fault. That I am the shitty friend. And that is when I started to question if I was a good person because when I was at my most vulnerable, when I needed a shoulder to cry on, people were leaving my life. My mental illnesses unfortunately flourished on this feeling of being abandoned, left behind, forgotten about. I lost count of how many times I went to bed crying because I was watching my mom, the strongest person I know go through her battle with cancer, and my support system was falling apart. As the months went by the texts from friends became more infrequent. I’d reach out to them, they’d ask how I was, I would be honest and then I’d hear nothing back. No response, no concern, nothing. I felt so…forgotten about.
There I was, facing this battle with my mom, dad, and sister. It was something we never imagined we’d be doing. Us against cancer. We watched my mom lose her hair from the chemotherapy after she started days after Christmas. Our new normal revolved around my mom, her appointments, treatments, medications, etc. My dad would drive her to the cancer center, and it was almost like she was going to school. We’d help her get dressed, (as she was still recovering from her lumpectomy and chemo does A LOT to one’s body) pack her backpack and off she went. She had to do it all alone because of COVID. But she never complained, and she did it like a superhero, she showed up every day to fight.
In case you don’t know…I live with anxiety. Every day. I live with depression. Every day. I take medication for both. And I think…a lot. I spend a lot of time in my own head. My anxiety enjoys telling me that when something goes wrong it is always my fault. My dog got sprayed by a skunk a month ago, at 2 AM, after I let her outside. Instant anxiety attack. Because my anxiety was screaming at me telling me it was my fault. I am the one who let her outside. It was my fault.
The anxiety I live with makes me feel a variety of emotions and yet on the other hand my depression can make me feel nothing at all. I can go numb. Numb to the outside world. Numb to whatever is going on inside my head. It is like a never-ending battle back and forth between the two.
And then March 2021 came. And I broke. Everything that I had gone through finally caught up to me. I was mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausted. Living with my mental illnesses, watching my mom go through cancer treatments and living in a pandemic finally broke me. I was broken, with not very many people to turn to. I learned that even the strongest friendships can be broken. That people can cut you out of their lives with no explanation. That just because you were there for them doesn’t necessarily mean they will be there for you.
Because I broke, I also learned so much about myself because I re-evaluated my life. Cancer has shown me that life is too short. It is too short for shitty one-way friendships. It is too short for not doing what makes you happy. It is too short for you not to love who you love and it’s too short for you to not love yourself.
I am still putting the broken pieces of myself back together. And I am in no rush to do so. I realized that my health and happiness is the most important thing. That it’s okay to let go of the people who don’t fully accept you for who you are. Or that your life is better off without certain people in it. I’m allowed to put up walls and protect my well-being. I’m allowed to take a step back and say no, if something is causing me more harm than good. I’m allowed to keep my distance from selfish people, who take my friendship and big heart for granted. I am allowed to live with my mental illnesses and deal with them the best way I know how. And continue the battle against them, while always working on becoming the best version of me. I want to live in the present moment. I don’t want to hide. I want to be accepted for who I am, and NOT let my diagnoses define me. I want to love life. All of these may seem silly for you, but they are hard for me to do.
It is not easy to fall apart and then re-invent yourself. It is not easy to be vulnerable. It is not easy to be me. I unfortunately had to learn the lesson that I can do a lot on my own, even when I don’t want to. I have learned that I can pick myself up off the floor after I have fallen. That I can validate my own feelings. That sometimes no matter how much you give someone, they don’t have to give anything back to you. I count on myself. I push myself. As much as I don’t want to do everything alone, I now know that I can.