Episode 084 - Things you go through when you start healing
On the previous episode, episode 83, I talked about how I mis-read the signs of grief, and my trauma, and would often mistake them for M.E. symptoms. How I shut myself down, numbed myself, to the pain I was feeling, to the shame and self-hatred I was feeling.
I said that I’ll talk more about what healing looks like for me on the next episode, so here we are.
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Transcript of episode
On the previous episode, episode 83, I talked about how I mis-read the signs of grief, and my trauma, and would often mistake them for M.E. symptoms. How I shut myself down, numbed myself, to the pain I was feeling, to the shame and self-hatred I was feeling. I said that I’ll talk more about what healing looks like for me on the next episode, so here we are.
Two really big things have come out of this grief counselling journey so far.
Firstly, that although logically I was well aware that I had had surgery, I had not emotionally connected to it. Losing Dots lifted the lid off the heavy feelings I had been pushing down and denying and trying to not be angry about around the baby stuff. It quickly became apparent as I started to let myself feel these feelings, that the things I would say about it were still present and future tense, as if I had not yet had surgery. I had been feeling like I was giving up “everything”, and I was still talking this way. When we broke down what “everything” really meant, it was purely about having to give up ever being able to carry my own child. Something that was so painful to acknowledge, that it was easier to pretend it hadn’t happened yet, and to project this fear onto everything else instead.
Secondly, I no longer viewed myself as a whole woman. This one surprised me, because having worked in oncology for so many years, I was well aware that this is a perfectly normal reaction for women when losing their uterus, or a breast. I even mentioned it to my best friend before surgery. Yet, it still caught me off guard. I didn’t believe I was a whole woman any more, and I couldn’t believe that James still found me beautiful, and be attracted to me.
I had a love/hate relationship with my body years ago because of my chronic illness,
but this took my self-hatred to a whole new level. It has only been in the last couple of weeks that I have been able to look at my scar, and on Sunday I finally touched it. I’ve been using Bio Oil on the scar for months, but always applied it with cotton wool so I wouldn’t have to touch it. It had completely healed, but hadn’t faded, it was still a strong red line. It’s starting to fade now, so I guess that is a sign that I am starting to heal emotionally too.
I wouldn’t look at myself in the mirror, and I was still wearing the seriously unsexy and massive post-op underwear because they were the only ones that completely covered my scar. I’d bought 5 pairs, so I was easily getting away with not having to wear any others. I threw all 5 in the bin a couple of weeks ago.
My counsellor sets me homework every week. She doesn’t pick the homework, other than it has to be something that nurtures me.
Lately I have come to realise how much I would find myself feeling out of control about my environment. My house, and James’ house. In my own home I would just start cleaning, obsessively. For James, this showed up as me getting angry and stressed that his house was a mess. His house isn’t really a mess. He’s ridiculously busy, and there’s 3 guys living there. I have learned that it was a response to controlling the environment to enable me to feel safe as a child. I have chosen to nurture myself by pausing every single time before I clean, to determine whose opinion is showing up. If it’s my own, then I clean. If it’s to try and control the environment, I have to take a step back, and not clean, and instead to go inwards and work out what it is that is truly going on.
The things that we experience on this journey of healing, whether grief or a chronic illness, or both include:
Struggling to forgive ourselves
Struggling to fit in
Giving up at times
Needing help, and often not knowing how to ask
Learning and unlearning
And a cycle of self-doubt, self-criticism, and of self-love
But as we come through the self-love parts, we take responsibility and we begin to recreate ourselves.
Healing is a journey, and has many ups and downs like a rollercoaster. The trick is to remember that. To remember that for a caterpillar to become a butterfly it has to completely break down into nothing to become everything.
I want you to know that if you are going through this too, you are not alone.
It was an intense pain I had not really been ready to face, and instead would get upset or angry over the smallest of things and very often not realise I was doing it. This year, Mother’s Day fell on the same weekend as my best friend giving birth. To say I wanted to get so drunk that I wiped out time and space for a while would be an understatement. But I didn’t. I had two glasses of wine, and let myself scream and cry for hours. I felt so much better for it. For allowing myself the space to feel the pain that I needed to feel. Grief isn’t linear, and I am sure that I will move through the sadness of not having my own children at various more times in my life, and like this time, I will continue to use the tools I am remembering, and the new ones I am learning, to move into acceptance.
I recreated myself once following my diagnosis, and I will do so again as I learn to navigate this new future, as I find hope and meaning and ways to be fulfilled in this not-so-unexpected-but-still-caught-me-by-surprise life as I move my attention to focus only on what I want instead of what I’ve lost and to let go of the how, the need to control, and not be afraid to step into the feelings, the synchronicities, and the patience to walk the path that shows up at my feet.
Thanks for listening to this episode of the Life in Align podcast. If you liked what you heard and want to hear or read more, head over to lifeinalign.com. Please also subscribe and share, so that we can get this out to others who are also wanting to take back the life a chronic illness stole from them.
And remember – you are worth it, and you get to choose.
Have a lovely day.