“We are spinning and spinning and spinning and now…
There’s a hole in the ceiling down through which I fell
There’s a girl in a basement coming out of her shell”
- The Counting Crows
Let me be honest with you. The last two weeks have been a CHALLENGE for me. En route to Texas for a business trip (my first since my diagnosis) I got a call from my step dad. Now, he rarely calls me; we typically talk when my mom hands her phone off to him. I immediately knew something was wrong when I saw the voicemail notification.
“Don’t let it be mom, don’t let it be mom.” It was mom. She had a massive stroke sitting at her desk at work that afternoon. She was in ICU still going through it. “Blockages, arteries, major surgery, long-term effects, we don’t know anything yet.”
I had gotten a similar call almost 3 years ago to the day. Except this call was from my grandmother and it was my father who had the massive stroke.
Almost 1 year ago to the day, it was me making the call to my mother. I’m in the hospital. I was getting my IUD removed except they found a large tumor. “Mom, they think its cancer.” It was.
So needless to say this time of year hasn’t been that kind to me, but let’s get back to the present. Sitting in my hotel room alone in El Paso, scared out of mind, frozen, not knowing what to do. I needed to get to her ASAP. I knew that. But I was also embarrassed to bail on my business trip. I had been sick for so long, needing so much time away from work, allowing my bosses to indulge me, to take all my excuses at face value. How could I possibly have another health emergency, especially right now?
But my mother’s arteries did not care about my business trip just like my cancer cells do not care about ANY of my future plans. Home to Cleveland I went to be at her side. We can talk about having parents who suffer effects from stroke another time. I promise. She’s doing ok, by the way.
Today, though, TODAY I need to talk about the effects of being “un” effected (I know that’s not a word. Come at me grammar police) and how I messed up the past few days. Not only did my mother suffer a massive stroke two weeks ago but one week after that I found out that my scans were not clear. Guys, I STILL have cancer.
If I’m honest, which I haven’t been. With myself or with you, I thought the scans would be clear. I really did. I felt that I had put in all the work, did everything I was supposed, kept a smile on my face the whole time, and I felt GREAT.
But they weren’t clear. And that blow, coupled with my mom’s stroke and a few other minor things, sent me spinning and flailing and bouncing around the room (bouncing round the room, bouncing round the room – you get it Phish fans).
I didn’t see it though. I thought I was the master of cool, calm, collectedness. I eschewed my normal glass of wine to take the edge of in lieu of smoothie (I needed the nutrients!). I posted all my positivity on Instagram, reassured all of you how it wasn’t “great” news but it wasn’t necessarily “bad” either. Told my bosses I’ll be FINE and I’ll be HERE and I LOVE my job. Buzzed around work (when I had the focus to even be there) so cocksure and motivated. I can’t tell you how many projects I started last week that I now have to make some sort of sense of. So much energy to stay focused and keep the wheels spinning
But reader, I CRASHED. I crashed HARD. One sip of whiskey on Thursday night with a few friends and it all came tumbling out. I vaguely remember the rest of the night though the empty bottle in the morning refused to allow me to totally forget. I know I apologized profusely for putting all my anxieties, guilt, and fear on them. I know I probably shared insecurities that I normally would NEVER, I know I listened to several albums based on the array of album covers all over my living room the next morning, and I know I had a thumping in my head that next morning that only my old friend whiskey can provide.
Did I get up and go to work like a trooper? HELL NO. I slept until 10:30 then cowered on my couch with guilt and anxiety until it was time to drive to Kay’s family lake house in North Carolina. .Anxiety about letting myself go. What did I say? Am I really losing it? (And I’d prefer to be left in the dark. Thanks in advance, friends).
Being there with Kay and our family and our dog, Ess helped me relax a little. But I had a guard up with myself, refusing to acknowledge to myself how tired, overwhelmed and burnt out I was. Still suppressing any negative or “selfish” thought.
Coming home from “the lake,” as we call it, is often hard me. It means returning to normalcy, leaving behind the water, the quiet, the nature, that feeling of being insulated from the harsh realities of existence. Monday morning, I felt that pain more than I had before. The plan was return home early and head to work but when we got home I looked at my bed, got under the covers and truly felt like I could never come out. “We already feel like complete shit” my inner voice told me “what’s another day off work?” Sent that email. “Not coming in. Made up reason. Bullshit, bullshit, bullshit. Best, Brittany”
OH MY GAWD, READER, THE GUILT!! ANOTHER DAY OFF WORK! I SHOULD BE SPENDING ANY TIME OFF WITH MY MOM, NOT IN BED! WORK WOULD THINK I’M A TOTAL FLAKE, UNEMPLOYABLE, SICKLY, UNABLE TO STAND THE PRESSURE. WHY WAS I DOING THIS TO MYSELF, TO MY FAMILY, TO THE WORLD!!?? WHAT A MONSTER I WAS!! DRINKING TOO MUCH, SHIRKING MY RESPONSIBILITY, BEING VULNERABLE, IMPERFECT, UNPRODUCTIVE, IRREPSONSIBLE!!
The same voice who told me to stay home was now screaming at me for doing just that, and every other perceived terrible thing I’d ever done.
But I finally fell asleep. For hours. For almost the whole day and the rest of the night. Until 7am the next morning and when I woke up, I felt better. Not completely better. Still reeling a little, sure. Still overwhelmed if I think too hard about what’s ahead. But I felt refreshed, more capable of taking it all on. More focused, able to see what was directly in front of me. I’m still going a little crazy though, that’s for sure. This morning, I spent $86 on a blog platform I may never use. If you’re reading this, kudos to me, I guess!
I feel like it’s important to share this because:
- We all do this to ourselves at some point. Push and push and push until we collapse when actually taking a beat to regroup would have limited the damage.
- So many of you called me strong after my Instagram post, tough, amazing, and even inspirational and I love you for it. But I want you to know that I’m not, well I am ;)…. But not always, and sometimes not even often.
It is often said that social media allows us to only show the best sides of ourselves, and honestly, thank gawd for that! But on the other hand, I would never want someone who is struggling to see that video and compare themselves to that video of me and find themselves wanting in terms of strength or ability to carry on. Or to think they were somehow wrong for not being able to just pick up and get on with it. For needing to sleep all day and hide away.
A lot of that is huge reason why I started to blog. I’ve shared so much of my journey via Instagram and will continue to do so but I need space to share with you my more nuanced feelings about all of this. To really be honest with you and with myself.