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. 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. 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.
Thank you for reading and much love to you, my friends.