You Can't Rush Your Healing
“They give you two weeks,” he says and many of us half-laugh. It’s the laugh of those who know something is true, even while wishing it wasn’t.
We are discussing grief and its various manifestations and complications. And the trouble that comes with the necessity of reentering the “real world” at some point after a trauma sweeps us off our feet.
I am less than 48 hours out from the anniversary of my ovarian cancer diagnosis. At approaching 52 weeks, I have long surpassed my two week allotment for grief and healing. But I seem nowhere near the end of my healing process.
In many ways, I would really like to move this whole ordeal along.
But it doesn’t work like that.
We all know this.
* * *
In the last few days, Hope has lost interest in playing fetch. For a bit there it was her very favorite, and she had gotten quite good at it. She would keep me out in the yard for hours on end if she could – throw, chase, grab, repeat.
But this weekend, she wants nothing to do with it. Sure, she will run to the ball and tap it with her nose, but getting her to retrieve it is impossible. It like she’s forgotten how to dog properly. An essential skill – vanished from her knowledge bank.
I fear that I have forgotten how to human properly. The skills that once allowed me to interact easily in the great wide world have fled the scene and I am floundering to figure out things I once simply knew. Left to my own devices, I might opt for the life of a hermit, but that simply isn’t possible and, frankly, is probably not wise. So here I find myself, nearly one year out, wobbling knock-kneed as I try to find my way through what is once again a very scary world.
* * *
Yesterday the idea of compound trauma came up over tea and the din of the coffee shop. Sometimes I let myself forget that I am not just healing from a diagnosis, but from major surgery with chemo heaped on top. From betrayal multiplied on itself. From the loss of some significant organs and along with them my dreams of motherhood. In a span of thirty days last spring, I was shoved out the door of the airplane from an unsafe elevation, only to discover that not only did my parachute fail to launch, but my safety net was riddled with holes.
The resulting trauma was significant.
And the amount of time it will take to heal from that kind of wreckage is sure to surpass the socially acceptable parameters. Whether I like that or not.
Whether the rest of the world likes it or not.
But none of us seem to have gotten that memo.
* * *
She is telling me about the problem with springtime. An ongoing problem for 18 years. A problem that comes with anniversaries and loss and the aftershocks of grief that never seem to fully fade. The sun is shining through the windows surrounding us, almost tricking us into thinking we could feel its warmth if we stepped outside.
That trick the sun is playing is like the trick grief plays on me sometimes these days. I can feel happy – joyful even – when it will suddenly sneak back in. Remind me of what was lost. Particularly in the last handful of weeks – when the memories of what I was doing a year ago rise up so vividly and I can’t help but continue to allow them to play through to the month that followed and all the darkness that seeped into the room as the enemy unpacked his suitcase next to the chair in the opposite corner.
And as those memories play in my mind, I feel myself tumbling backward, away from the healing place I had been so rapidly approaching.
* * *
I went to a party Friday night and knew the minute I pulled into the drive that I had made a grave mistake. I was not ready for this.
The wall is still there – the one that prevents me from connecting from the vast majority of the population. Outside of my home, I am uncomfortable anywhere other than my office – where by now I rarely have to field questions about my hair or diet or how I am feeling. I can feel my skin crawling and I know others in the room can see my angst like I’m wearing it instead of my sweater. And I can hear them thinking, “Isn’t she over it yet? Its been so many months.”
The questions are at times the hardest. How do I possibly begin to explain to someone I haven’t heard from in months what the combination of surgery, menopause, and chemotherapy feels like? Do I really need to explain again why my bones hurt so badly? Why I fall into bed exhausted after a typical day at the office? How do I begin to summarize this experience – one that ranges from the most miraculous to the darkest of the dark? How to I possibly explain that over crudité and rubens?
I fall down the hole of beating myself up for a while after I finally make my escape and find my way home. I want to be better. I want to feel open. I want to connect. I am so fiercely lonely but so unable to find the magical cure for these wounds. I want to be healed.
But I’m not.
And there is not a thing I can do to speed this process along.
* * *
The last time – the time with the Hodgkins Lymphoma – it took the better part of four years for the healing process to complete. I know in many ways this is normal. No matter how far off society’s grief and healing timeline I may ultimately wander.
Because while everyone may want you to heal on their timeline, to recover in the way and at the speed that makes them comfortable, only one thing is true when it comes to grief.
You can’t rush your healing.
No matter how badly you may wish to.