There are ways that you can move on after experiencing trauma, but there are somethings that will never be the same.
I am now recognizing that I am a catastrophist I have always thought that the worst will happen. And thinking about it, I have been this way for a long time. Long before Oscar. I am scared of everything… of the dark, that someone will break into my house when I am home alone, that I will get in a terrible car accident when I am driving in bad weather…when I run alone early in the morning I am scared that I will encounter coyotes or an attacker (I still run though), I am scared that I will acquire another type of cancer, I am scared that something will happen to one of my children. I have always been scared, but why?
I think I never gave enough importance to having had cancer as a young child. I vaulted it up inside and never spoke about it. Many of my newer friends are unaware that I am a cancer survivor. I am now realizing that I had locked this experience away. I now recognize that symptoms of this have spilled out in other ways that were inexplicable, like me being irrationally scared of a situation. Why? Because I lost the luxury of feeling safe. I lost the luxury of thinking that those types of things only happen to other people, because it happened to me.
Then of course I had several traumatic experiences with my own child. From our first inpatient stay at The Hospital for Sick Children after he had experienced his first seizures. To us learning of his rare genetic diagnosis and the onslaught of potential issues. To his second stay at The Hospital for Sick Children due to breakthrough seizures. To his inpatient stay with bronchiolitis when he needed assistance to breathe. These are all experiences that I can move on from and I can (and have) improved my coping skills, but I will never forget them. And I will never have the luxury of feeling safe.
Not every night, but several nights a week when I check on my daughter before I go to bed I think of how lucky we are to raise our children in a country and in a neighborhood that is safe. We don’t have to worry about bombs, access to clean water, access to healthcare or political turmoil. She is safe. My routine is always to go to her room first and then I go to my son’s room… Then there is an emotional shift that happens where I think “will I ever be able to tuck him into bed at night and know that he is safe“? Feeling safe with my son is a luxury that I don’t have right now.
I have spoken a lot about how fortunate I am to have the support system around me including my family doctor and my social worker. I have learned the skill of self-reflection and not only recognize that I feel a certain way but also why I feel that way. I think that everyone is who they are based on their past experiences. My past experiences have taught me that I am not immune to “bad things”.
Now here we are in the middle of the COVID pandemic. I know that some people are really struggling with all of the unknowns associated with this pandemic. Another shut down?School? Treatment? Vaccine? I have come to terms with the concept of the unknown and I am okay with all of the unknowns associated with this pandemic. But there are millions of people and families across the world who have been affected by this virus. If they can be affected, why not my family? Why not one of my kids? If I had a rare ovarian cancer and my son has a rare genetic disease why not COVID?
My husband would say that I have been a bit more “extreme” in my response to the pandemic. I think that I now know why. It is because I have lost the luxury of feeling safe. I have lost the luxury of thinking that bad things only happen to other people. I am not sure if anyone else has those same thoughts, or maybe the same response to the pandemic but were unsure why?
After my cancer was treated, I just moved on with life and rarely looked back. Now that I have had access to professional help I have gotten to know myself better and my feelings about certain things are starting to make sense. I know that not everyone has the same access to these professional services but I would encourage you to find a safe person to share your thoughts and feelings with. It really helped me. Anyways, thank you for reading and stay safe everyone!!