If you’ve visited this site, you’ll see that the last post I shared was in May. It was around that time that I went back to work after taking some time to heal and treat the condition I was diagnosed with last December. I received the official diagnosis from my head/neck surgeon on December 22, 2017 during a post-operative appointment; Classic Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. I haven’t posted too much about that, with the exception of some mentions on my Tumblr blog (click “blog” on my website). I’ve written about it here and there on Instagram (@eesleetah) and mentioned it on Facebook. However, I haven’t shared the depth of my experiences. I plan to, but will do so in a different way…in the future.
Needless to say, my life changed and I had to re-evaluate my habits, thoughts, feelings and truths. My body is “sick” and no doctor can explain why. Did I cause it? Did something else cause it? How did this come to be my life? These are all questions that the average person asks when facing a serious diagnosis like cancer. I’ll share my thoughts about this later, but found writing to be my primary source of release and the most helpful way of processing my experience. I journaled every day until this past summer, when I gradually journaled less and less. Flash forward to last week, on November 16, 2017, when I journaled for MYSELF for the first time since August.
Why is this relevant?
I am a writer. I loved writing as a young girl; I blogged on Xanga and blogger when the internet became very popular and AOL dial-up trial CD’s were my only access to those websites. I kept a journal as a young girl and continued to journal through my teenage and adult years. Writing helped me process and remember and heal. I stopped because I prioritized other areas of my life, all of which focused on other distracting forces. Over time, I became more fatigued and required more sleep. I underwent new changes that I had no idea would become part of my life and made uncalculated sacrifices in order to feel like I was “surviving”. In an effort to find normalcy, I gave up habits that helped me feel normal. I didn’t see it in that way when going through that time, but I felt the effects of those sacrifices and realized, gradually, that something was missing; but what?
I posed a question to friends and family in my Facebook network.
‘Have you ever gotten to a place where you feel indifferent to the world and/or changes in your life? How about feeling so frustrated with change that you just “shut off” emotionally and went into an autopilot setting that was geared more toward daily survival?’
Without repeating myself too much, I believe that this is something others experience or have experienced, which means we have something in common. After being on an unintentional hiatus from blogging/sharing, I recognize and admit that my indifference and autopilot were warning signs of underlying issues I wasn’t dealing with. I’m still navigating the road to understanding and working through those issues, but in the meantime, I’m sincerely trying to feel as ME as possible. Allow me to segue into how I am and plan to continue doing that.
I was diagnosed with a bulging disc in July, which contributed to serious sciatic nerve pain in my right side for over six months. This injury felt like a low-blow because it came through one of the avenues that brought me peace. As a result, I scaled back my training (exercise regimen) and changed the type of training I engaged in. I adjusted, but I didn’t feel like my normal self when I was in the gym.
I also noticed that I was lacking patience and tolerance for others, mainly in the scope of my career, but also in my personal relationships. I did my best to mask my shortcomings by limiting my interactions with others. This was a resolution I reached on my own; I believed it would help minimize the amount of negativity I put out into the world, as there was quite a bit brewing [daily] in my heart and mind. I found myself wanting to watch movies and browse the world of social media more than I ever had in my life. My thoughts jumped from one topic to another without resolution of any issues I presented myself with. No wonder I wanted to distract myself; I couldn’t and wouldn’t tolerate myself.
I was exhausted all the time, attributing that exhaustion to mentally-draining days at work; I spend hours analyzing information and negotiating with people who are not always ready to receive and understand a position different from their own. After a couple of months, I realized that, while my career contributed to the exhaustion, I was not sleeping well. I woke up several times a night, not only to use the bathroom, but because my dreams were intensely unsettling. I felt like my spirit was under attack and didn’t look forward to sleep each night. That would explain my lack of patience and tolerance, especially for myself. Naturally, I wanted to understand why my thoughts were going to such strange places in my rest time. I brought the matter to my therapist, but only talked about the dreams here and there. I also had some other emotions I was working through, all of which had to do with unforeseen change.
What was I doing about it?
I talked to a few people about the things I struggled with and gave the struggles attention once in a while, but nothing beyond a few moments of thought. I became overwhelmed and frustrated by my own thoughts. Eventually, I just shut off and, as I mentioned before, tried to distract myself with other outlets, like social media and entertainment. It wasn’t working. I was already listening to a podcast that dives into the Word, line by line, and found comfort in the times I was reading the Bible. I was also exercising three to four times a week, though I had to almost force myself to move those days because I had no desire to do anything. There was still this feeling of lack in my spirit. I felt unsettled and less myself, which fed my frustration even more.
On November 16, 2017, I opened up a notebook I wrote all my cancer notes in. I read through the pages and decided I wouldn’t use it for that purpose anymore; it was my new journal. After practically vomiting a few thoughts onto the page, I wrote this question: What makes me happy? It’s such an easy question, but not one I’d thought about during the few months leading up to that day because I was too busy “surviving.” Not one of the things I wrote referenced writing. I think about it now because I’m addressing it outwardly. I guess the fact that I was already writing helped me focus on other areas that were lacking in my life. I wrote for thirty minutes before I gave into the cramp in my neck and right wrist. I felt so light and so happy.
The next day, I ordered a body pillow and began listening to the “sleep stories” on the Calm app, a meditation app my dear friend Payal recommending to me. I was already making sure I got at least nine hours of good sleep a night, but that sleep was interrupted and NOT good. I’ve been sleeping well since making those small changes.
This past week, I got in solid training sessions that were filled with constant movement, had clear goals/intentions and left me feeling proud of the work I put in. I made sure to properly warm up and cool down during my workouts; this included removing distractions during those times and focusing my energy on the goal/intention of the workout. I wrote down my workouts (writing, again!) and set goals for the next time I would complete them. Additionally, I continued the habit of stretching at the beginning and end of my days, as well as icing my back in order to avoid increased pain and flare-ups associated with L5/S1 bulge. It might sound like a lot of work, but it didn’t take more than a few minutes; time I would have spent on social media.
The point in sharing all of this is to lead by example and encourage others, who feel like they’re in a funk, to do less of what is keeping you stagnant and more of what will propel you into a life you love living. I don’t know anyone who likes feeling like they’re just surviving. The stress and dissatisfaction “surviving” brings are not contributing to your best life and I know this because I have talked through this with many others. We are humans and humans yearn for growth and prosperity. In order to make those desires a reality, we have to shed what no longer serves us, work out the kinks in our lives and own our happiness. Your happiness will look different than mine, so the path to achieving that happiness will look different. You will require different resources and methods, but that doesn’t mean that you have to navigate that alone.
If you feel like this spoke to you in any way, reach out to me. In an effort to continue shedding my dead skin, I am committing to a self-renewal program I believe will help me transcend the indifference, exhaustion and daily frustrations that weigh me down. We all get stuck and I am not exempt, but we don’t need remain stuck. Some people can do it on their own, but others need a support system. I can do it either way, but I would like to invite you to join me, if you are someone who needs a buddy.
Thanks for reading. Thank you for being open to knowing my journey and for sharing your own with those around you. I believe we’re on this earth, together, so we can do life together. If you go through something, know that it isn’t in vain and your truth can help someone else recognize their own.
Have a growth-filled week and look out for my next post… I promise it isn’t months away!