|This is supposed to be a thumbs up. Selfies are hard.|
I say “weirdness” because I do not otherwise know how to explain it. I am not sad. I don’t cry. As a matter of fact, the only time I have really cried at all was in the days following my mastectomy, and that had more to do with being in a ridiculous amount of pain and desperately wanting to sleep, and less to do with sadness or fear about my diagnosis. I am not really scared. I do not dwell on death. I can honestly say that I do not think about death any more these days that I did prior to my diagnosis. I don’t dream about death. I dream bizarre dreams about oatmeal cream pies and worms that turn into lo mein noodles (last night’s dream). And I am not angry – at least no angrier than I was before my diagnosis. I should be apoplectic with rage, but I don’t even feel a miniscule bubbling of low-level outrage. I am more pissed about Ben Carson being named HUD Secretary than I am about the last nine months of cancer treatment!
And that’s the weird thing. When you hear about someone being diagnosed with cancer – especially someone young (somewhat) and relatively healthy (somewhat) – you assume they will feel sad, scared, and angry. Those are kind of the BIG THREE when it comes to cancer emotionality. So what is wrong with me that I don’t really feel any of these?
That’s what I am hoping a therapist can tell me.
I’ll tell you what I do feel. I feel numb. I feel numb a lot of the time. I see my mother upset. I see Ruanita terrified. I see my kids reacting in ways that are new to them this year. Nicky suddenly loves his “blankies” again and takes them everywhere he goes. Lucas is apologetic to a fault – every real or imagined trespass is immediately met with zealous amends. And Sophie is so hot and cold with me that I don’t think even she knows if she likes me at any given moment. She has mastered the irrational anger I should be feeling.
But all I feel is numb. A sluggish numbness. Like I have fallen into a sort of conscious coma. And in the meantime, I have been replaced by a different person who I do not recognize. She goes to work at my job. She lives with my family. She sleeps in the bed with my wife. She has everyone fooled. They think she is me, but I’m the bystander off in the corner. Watching quietly. Wondering if I will ever be me again.
That sounds sort of insane, doesn’t it? Kind of Sybil-like? I promise I do not have a split personality (that I am aware of). And it’s not like I do not appreciate the pain and uncertainty that my family is experiencing. It breaks my heart that they are suffering on my behalf. But I don’t seem to have those same deep emotional currents. I don’t feel those highs and lows where my treatment is concerned. I just feel numb. Detached from the whole shitty thing.
This past Saturday marked the 33rd anniversary of my dad’s death from brain cancer. He was thirty-three years old when he died. He’s now been dead and gone for the same amount of time that he was alive and moving through the lives of his friends and family. Unlike my siblings who were too young to remember, I vividly remember his funeral. I remember his casket in the front of the church. Everyone around me was crying. I could not seem to get a tear to fall. I stared wide-eyed – unblinking – at his casket. If I stared hard enough for long enough, surely my eyes would water. Surely I could cry like everyone else. I could show everyone that I loved him just as much as they did.
Even then, at eleven years old, all I could muster was a sense of numb inevitability. A blunt and listless detachment. Just as they are now, tears seemed well beyond my grasp.
But it’s not about tears, is it? It’s not about whether I can cry or not cry. Rage or not rage. It’s about coming to terms. On my own terms. And as seemingly positive as I am, I’m not sure that I have done that yet. I have this sinking feeling that the only way I am going to be able to evict the bitch who has taken over my life and step out of that corner once again is to face my feelings about my inadequacies. To look at myself honestly and without bias and learn to see the beauty and value that lies within – boobless or not. Tearful or not. Angry or not. To look beyond my “weirdness” about my diagnosis and truly believe that it is okay. However I feel. However I respond. It’s okay. And to do that, I am certainly going to need some help. So I am seeing a therapist for the first time in my adult life on Wednesday.
Wish me luck.
Or rather, wish her luck!