Friends have asked me - how do you go on after such a traumatic event? How can you just be? The simple answer is, I just do.
The much longer answer is, I'm still figuring it out as I go. It's not easy being ok with being vulnerable...knowing that life can change so dramatically from one moment to the next.
For someone who was so keen on controlling everything in life, letting go of plans and going with the flow hasn't been easy. The truth is, a plethora of medical appointments gave me structure, focus and a certain level of comfort on getting back to good health.
It wasn't until all treatment finished, about a year ago, that the uncertainty of the future really played on my mind.
When you undergo an intense period of treatment, the focus is always on you and your health. It was during this time that I developed the daily habit on asking myself each morning, "what do I need to do today, to do right by me and nurture myself?"
It's something my sister suggested very early on because the anxiety I was feeling was incredibly overwhelming. Instead of jumping ahead and letting my mind race uncontrollably, I would ask myself this question - in fact the focus was, what do I need to do this morning? And once I got to lunchtime feeling more at ease, I would think about what to do for the afternoon.
It's an approach that has served me well and one I still do today. I don't always get it right, but I'm much more forgiving of myself (than in the old days). If I don't get it right today, I'll give it another shot tomorrow.
Knowing that life will never be the same again has been at times incredibly sad, and at other times incredibly frustrating. There are times I still feel incredible anger at people who, in my mind, aren't looking after themselves or seem to be taking life for granted in some way. At those times I just breathe, I mean I seriously do deep and slow breathing. Because the frustration can feel like an overwhelming roar coming from the pit of your stomach...and I acknowledge it for what it is. I breathe through it and I let it go. Life is what it is, and I'm walking my path. That's my focus - don't judge others, focus on my choices, at least that's something I can control.
None of this has been easy. I'm learning about myself as I go. Uncertainty and vulnerability don't make for easy bedfellows. Knowing that this is the path my life has taken has been very difficult.
There isn't a day that goes by that these thoughts don't enter my mind, but I'm now learning that I can reframe these and try and see them as positives and opportunities. The truth is, my life is no less uncertain or vulnerable than anyone else's, I just have a heightened awareness of it because of the illness I experienced. I know that friends who have experience a bereavement have similar feelings.
If there was any advice I could give (I tend to dish out a fair amount of unsolicited advice these days), for anyone having difficulties with an uncertain or vulnerable time in their lives,
I would say the following.
Practicing yoga or meditation of some kind. It helps calm the mind, which in turn calms the nerves and allows you to reset and be more relaxed. It doesn't have to be hard core yoga, I do very basic yoga because I'm still building up my fitness, but every time I finish a class I feel so much more at peace.
Try and let go of long term thinking. Focus on the now and ways in which can be nurturing and nourishing to you. This can be challenging, especially if you favour control like I did, my treatment forced me to focus on myself and it's a lesson I cherish.
Surround yourself with loving, caring people and positive energy. Other people's dramas won't serve you. Focus on you and the love of family and friends. Allow yourself to be helped if that's what you need. Allowing others to support you, can be as healing for them as it is for you.
Walk, walk, walk - regardless of how long the walk is, being outdoors is extremely health. I've done most of my deepest thinking walking around my local park. It was particularly helpful in the beginning of my diagnosis, it helped me make sense of things in my own mind. Bald woman walking around a park talking to herself must've been quite a sight, but I always felt better when I got home. The fresh air is good to calm the mind.
Above all, be gentle with yourself. Life can be hard and demanding at times. Being gentle and caring with yourself will ensure that you do what's right by you.
Life may be uncertain, but it's also full of promise, precious moments and a world of opportunities. Being present will allow us to make the most of life as it's presented to us.
Until the next musing xxx