This Infernal Racket | my life, after cancer

A Toronto-based lifestyle blog by a 2x cancer survivor

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I am surviving, not thriving

It's July 28, 2022. It's 6 years in remission. It's 6 years spent slowly healing to whatever my new 'normal' is. And today I realized that I am not thriving right now, I am surviving. But that is okay.

You cannot be thriving and your best self all the time, it's unrealistic. I have been working on connecting, listening and healing my inner child in the last while and here are some things I have realized that is contributing to my current survival state vs my previous thriving state.

It's hard to admit something you don't like about yourself. It's hard to sit down and be honest about your flaws and how they hurt you more than help you. I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 21. Legally I was an adult but in reality, I was still a child, naive to the world and living with rose-coloured glasses on. I started my cancer journey with the intention of not letting myself feel any emotions so that I could actually survive the disease and live. There is no bravery in that. You live or you die, it's a choice. That was probably the first moment that my inner child began to die.

During my years of treatment, that inner child was shown a world of incredible medicine and human resiliency. She was also shown pain, sorrow, emptiness, and death. Even though her family was very supportive, she was alone. A little piece of her died every day for the better part of 5 years. The attachment anxiety was most likely born then. She began to stress about being alone. She was full of hate and was mean to the people around her. Being open and honest didn't seem to do anything but bring her more sadness and pain, so she didn't open up. 

I did not have the space to feel and deal with my shit so instead, I became hard and mean and unwilling to compromise.

These anxious and avoidant attachment styles developed to protect you in childhood. Your mind recognized that in the situation or environment you were in, being open and vulnerable was dangerous. So you developed protective measures to take care of yourself when others would not. 

As time passed, I slowly began to feel better with therapy, social connections to other YA cancer individuals, medication and reconnecting with things that made me happy (work, reading, fitness, food, etc). What I can look back on now, is realizing I never actually took the time to heal that inner child who withered away as a result of my treatments. I became increasingly anxious about life, and that the people in my life would leave me, or not like me (the good and bad of me) or not want to be/talk with me. I would obsess over it to see if we were on the same page.

I wanted to be taken care of, loved and held in my dark moments. I wanted what I did not feel I had during my years of treatment. I wanted companionship and love and safety. I still want those things, probably now even more. Anxious attachment says "you are not giving me enough" when really the people in your life are trying to give as much as they can, but you cannot always see it. 

When living in this mode, many feel easily rejected or abandoned, becoming angry when partners/family/friends fail to live up to perceived expectations. On guard, attuned to signs of others leaving, they easily fall into internal panic, exhibiting protest behaviours in often futile attempts to elicit caring responses.

Because I feel abandoned (which in reality I do not think I am) I tend to put pressure on myself and the people in my life, even though I try not to. It's that inner child needed reaffirming words and gestures to feel secure, when I need to feel secure with my own being, not leaning on others for support constantly. I created this fantasy that everything had to be a certain way for it to work for me and that's just not realistic.

There are a lot of social norms placed on people to be and act a certain way and have a certain level of communication and be at a certain place in their life. How can that be applied to all people when we are all different? What different life experiences shaped us? Yes, we expect the bare minimum of effort and communication and love but that can still look vastly different from person to person.

I am surviving, not thriving because I am understanding that I need to do some work on healing this anxious attachment I have to people and life. Writing helps, going for walks, and doing things alone create comfort in not having to share everything with others. Finding comfort in taking space for emotional needs, and not feeling like everyone will leave you because of it. Respecting other people's emotional space and needs..normally something I am very good with but at this exact moment am struggling with it as the feelings of abandonment come in for attack right away.

In response to this, part of me says to not let my guard down again, to not be vulnerable and to just be tough. That is not going to fly. If you are not your authentic self then you are never going to be happy. 

I know who I am. I know I am kind and caring and I love too hard. I know I am compassionate and headstrong and stubborn, but also full of life. I want simple moments, not grand gestures. I know I can be needy and sometimes smothering when I am misunderstood or I do not understand a situation or need support. I know I would give the world and rearrange my entire life for someone (friend, family, partner, etc). I also know that's not a good idea lol. I know I am full of life. Some of those qualities are not necessarily the best but they are who I am. I work on them to try and be better but realistically, those qualities won't ever go away as they are part of me. 

So yeah, right now I am not thriving. I am learning and surviving. I cry a lot, and eating is difficult. I go to work and do the best damn job I can do. The rest is a work in progress. I am a work in progress. I am surviving. And that is okay.


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