As some of you know, per my previous blogs, I have been seeing a wonderful psychotherapist (Rosamunde) for the past year. Every other week I drive to Rosamunde’s office and lay bare my often silly, sometimes dark, randomly goofy, and mostly tortured soul. I talk a lot about Mark and all of the cancer stuff we’ve been dealing with- I seek the sound advice of an educated professional who can guide me through this very weird and scary time in our lives. I want to be strong for Mark and being strong has never been part of my makeup. In essence, when I showed up on Rosamunde’s doorstep last December, I was asking her to teach me how to NOT be myself. I wanted to learn how to be perfectly autonomous, to be able to switch off my emotions at will and to not let my mind run itself weary with constant overthinking. She said that’s not possible. I am who I am. And, as it turns out, who I am is a neurodivergent HSP; meaning I am part of the 20% of the population who was born with an increased central nervous system.
Have you had multiple people tell you, “You’re too sensitive!”? You just might be an HSP too. And us HSP’s are deep processors. Everything affects us on an existential level. So Mark having cancer three times in the past four years… that’s sent me into a mental spin I never saw coming. And watching him day after day suffer the side effects of fibrosis, vocal cord paralysis, lymphedema… seeing him struggle to eat, to breathe, to swallow… witnessing him lose weight, his bones jagged through his skin… mourning with him through the many surgeries he’s had to endure, the pain of multiple radiation treatments, chemotherapy, the scopes, the injections, the blood tests, the different drugs, the scans… it never ends. I grieve the freedoms cancer has stolen from him as well, the small sacrifices it’s claimed- his exhaustion, his lower lip not functioning, the slur in his speech, a persistent cough, the drool that sometimes escapes… and there are the small enjoyments he can no longer partake in: spicy foods, a robust whiskey, a smoldering cigar…
I will stop here because I guess what I am trying to convey, and am perhaps not doing a very good job of, is how Mark’s life, with all of its complexities, has become my own. His worries are mine, and then some. My world has shrunk to that of a caregiver who doesn’t caregive. Mark is self-sufficient. It is I who am his ultimate antithesis. He is strong and capable. I am terrified and frozen. He is pragmatic and down to earth. I am freaking out one minute, giggling the next. I cry through storms in the night for what’s been taken and try to find gratitude and sunshine during the long days.
And through all the turmoil I thought I lost myself but in truth I’ve never really found the real Chelly. I don’t even know who she is. It’s taken everything being stripped from me to search for the hand that makes me feel seen and heard and validated and special. A hand that’s always been there, but one that I’ve never held onto and made a priority: writing.
Writing fulfills me.
Here and now I live in a vacuum, suspended in time. Mark is the protagonist in the story of my life. I am a supporting character, an extra in the cast. The narrative revolves around cancer. The plot is Mark’s journey, and each act is Mark’s pain and discomfort, his limitations and frustrations. He is center stage, forced into the spotlight while I wait anxiously in the wings, shrouded in darkness. For me, there is a certain comfort in that anonymity; a freedom to fly under the radar unnoticed as I go about my business. While everyone is looking at Mark I can outline my own desires and write them into a private screenplay.
Except that seems horribly narcissistic.
Rosamunde said what Mark needs most from me is for me to believe in myself. If my bucket is full then I can replenish Mark’s. And that in itself is strength.
Rosamunde: What brings you joy, Chelly?
Rosamunde: So write.
Me: I can’t. I’m so worried about Mark all the time- I just don’t have the creative capacity, the imagination, to pen fiction right now.
Rosamunde: Then write about cancer. Write about you. Write one blog every day for thirty days. Be accountable to put words on paper no matter what. If you need to write about the sad then write about the sad.
Me: Won’t that be depressing for people to read?
Rosamunde: Maybe. But maybe it will help some not feel so alone. Be raw and real and unedited.
Me: Raw and real and unedited equals substandard and boring. Unkempt verbiage and sloppy structure sound like tiny grammatical nightmares. You want me to blog just to blog?
Rosamunde: I want you to fill your bucket.
So here I am- imperfect, nervous, vulnerable… and excited too. I’m writing because it fulfills, because it validates, because it brings great joy, and because it gives me a creative outlet to connect with you on a highly personal level. The ultimate goal is for me to learn to lean on my muse every day, to bathe in her beauty and find happiness in her prose- not just sporadically, but in a disciplined, consistent way. Then maybe I can fill my bucket and calm the storms by finding strength; strength I can share with Mark.
Today is Day 1. I am not sure what the next 29 days will bring, but I’m curious to see where the muse guides me each morning. And I hope you’ll join in for the journey. Thank you for reading and much love to you, my friends.
Just a couple of notes:
~ If you are on my email list and do not wish to receive a blog every day you may want to go ahead and unsubscribe for now. I don’t want to spam your inbox!
~ What fills *your* bucket? I’d love to have some company over the next month if you’d like to do your own 30 day challenge. What brings your soul joy?
~ Here are a few links regarding HSP if you’re interested in learning more about it:
Sensory processing sensitivity – Wikipedia
6 Ways a Highly Sensitive Person’s Brain is Different – Dr. Elayne Daniels (drelaynedaniels.com)
You have courage you have not tapped deeply enough and talent in abundance with writing. Sharing your journey will touch the lives of those of us trying our best to be courageous and make it through each day. God bless.
What a kind and beautiful thing to say! Thank you so much, Shirl ❤ xoxox
Chelly, everything you are feeling is absolutely normal. I love you are doing this. Everyone had an outlet and writing is yours. I look forward to your blog. Btw, everything makes me cry. I think you are completely normal with this too!! Xxoo
Thank you, Barbara. I wish we lived closer then we could cry together! Sending lots of love to you!
Thank you for sharing. Prayers for you and Mark.
Thank you, Cathy! ❤
Beautifully written glimpse into the real life, with all the fear laid bare, you are living and coping with now. You are stronger than you realize and I’m so proud of you. The challenge of writing the next 29 blogs is going to bring you rewards, both big and small! Thank you for allowing us to join you! ❤️
I love you, Mama! Thank you for reading and for being there for us. We appreciate you so much ❤
I want you to know that your post touched me deeply. I have also wished to be “fixed” so that so that all my emotional aspects of my personality would go away. I wanted to be able to act like someone who had no emotions because mine were always so close to the surface. It’s funny because I’m on the other side of cancer right now. I am the patient and from reading your blog, I can see how it’s actually easier to be the person who has cancer. I can know that what I’m doing with chemotherapy and radiation is going to help and that I want to do it. The people around me who have to deal with my symptoms and side effects from the chemo and radiation have it harder. There’s absolutely nothing they can do. My husband, Steve has expressed his feeling of helplessness several times to me. He’s a problem solver and he can’t solve this problem. I am at least doing some thing. I am going to chemo. I’m taking pills. I’m going to radiation. The caregiver stands on the outside and they can’t do anything to help. Just know that just being there for the person you love is enough. Hugging them makes all the difference. Give support in that way and you’ll do exactly what you need to do to help Mark.
In a different vein I am feeling like I should do the 30 day challenge of trying to paint for 15 minutes every day. I’ve had this as a goal for a long time but I have never done it. Right now it’s kind of hard because the chemotherapy makes my hands shake, and Painting is very difficult when your handshake. Painting brings me joy. I have decided that maybe I should do knitting instead because it’s creative and if my hand shake a little bit, it’s OK I’m not gonna mess it up. I also decided to buy a crochet kit. I have never crocheted. I figured it’s a new skill and some thing that I could concentrate on to be creative. I’m gonna try to work on that every day too. Thank you so much for your blog post – you know I love you even though we weren’t really close. Just know that you’re perfect just the way you are the fact that you care and that you have emotions means that you are a great human being!
Dearest beautiful Laura- thank you for being so open and honest… your words truly warmed my heart. You are a warrior- I have seen firsthand the ravages chemotherapy and radiation wreak on the body- so I know you are fighting the good fight with all that’s in you. I will remember what you said about hugging Mark and just being there for him- you are right, it is hard not to be able to do more.
I would love if you did the challenge with me! You’re such a talented artist that painting 15 mins is a fantastic idea! I’d love to watch a photo progression of your masterpiece each day. And with the shaking… maybe that would add an unexpected creative spin to your work- it could make for some very interesting art! Knitting and/or crocheting sounds awesome too. I crochet every day so if you do too we can be hookers together!
I love you too and I’m so, so happy Ringo brought us together. ❤ xoxoxo
We are hookers!!! Love it
Wow! Thank you for sharing. I am also a caregiver, I am taking care of my mom with dementia. Reading about your feelings helps to not feel so alone in this.
Hi Hilda! Your mama is so lucky to have you in her life. I know you must take such good care of her because you’re a gentle, wonderful soul. Sending lots of hugs your way ❤
This blog is EVERYTHING. I’m sitting here ugly crying because I’m going through that same caretaker role. My journey is slightly different with Troy but the internal struggle is, almost exactly, the same as yours. When you spoke about how strong Mark is and how much you felt lost…well that resonated HARD!! Commence ugly crying, the shuddering kind. You’ll never know how deeply this touched me. I also have been told, repeatedly, I’m too sensative. Maybe I’m HSP too. I’m certainly no writer but, you my Dear, are a brilliantly talented one! Keep healing and touching lives. YOU are My inspiration…I love your rawness and emotional connection to life and written words. Thinking of you and Mark, always. You’re both in my prayers. I’m just trying to take one moment at a time with my journey with Troy too. Sending you much love. I WILL be following your blog…seriously, it resonates so much. Xoxo
Oh Kim, thank you for your wonderful words- you are such a kindred spirit that it would not surprise me at all if we are HSP’s together! I will keep you and Troy in my prayers… he is very blessed to have you in his life and on this journey. I am sending you SOOOOOO much love, dear lady. ❤❤❤❤❤
Right back at you, Beautiful Soul
You are so strong, Chelly and are doing so much more for Mark than you know just by being you and being by his side. I am excited to follow your 30-day journey! I, too, need to find a way to fill my bucket; it’s a bit empty over here. Haha.
Girl, you need to fill up your bucket STAT! Let’s go day drink 🙂