Shaking Sadness’ Hand

Today I’m feeling melancholy. I’m feeling so overwhelmed whenever I think about the future and my state of health–not to alarm anyone. I am actually doing well, all things considered. I used to joke with my family in my hospital room during my second treatment for leukemia last year that this would be the title of my memoirs: “All Things Considered.”

I remember watching an interview with on of my favourite musicians and artists of all time, Sam Smith. They said that when they feel sad, they shake sadness’ hand. For someone who prides themselves on their knowledge of language, vocabulary, and expressions, I had never heard this saying before. What’s more shocking is that not only had I never heard of the idiom but this is something I very commonly do. Not only do I shake its hand, I full on jump into sadnesses arms and enthral myself in its embrace. I have been practicing the catharsis of moving through my pain, with painful art; poetry, movies, and music, for years.

Something about it now feels too real. Even staring death and mortality in the face, having a life-threatening disease twice and suffering with thoughts about my life ending in times when it was in jeopardy, and also in times when I didn’t know if I had the strength to go on… Please understand that I have been struggling with mental health disorders, including anxiety, clinical depression, mania, psychosis, and over a decade with a diagnosed mood disorder.

When you’re in the fight you get blinded by the immediate future, that there is no capacity at all to think in the long-term. You are so grounded? or stuck? in the moment that you can’t think years in advance. And now that I am in recovery and focused on remission all those thoughts come flooding in. The thoughts of: if I’m not going to die soon, and the end isn’t near, then where is it? If I am not actively in crisis, how long until I get comfortable and settled that it will all come crashing down again?

I haven’t been so outspoken about my illnesses or as much in the communities of mental health and cancer, particularly, young adult cancer, that I was the first time around because, partly, I don’t want to identify with that anymore. I don’t want–or more accurately, I cannot handle–the concept of illness being the directive factor in my life. There’s a true reluctance to living the rest of my life boldly and in defiance of what I have lived. Living through things like that… It makes you reluctant to live with confidence. You’re never sure how much time you’ve got left until the next huge hurdle.

Even as positive things happen to me like moving in with my boyfriend and getting engaged to my now fianc√©, adopting two brothers for my little fur baby Onyx, one who is much too shy for the camera, and getting my health back I am terrified of the rug being ripped out from under my feet once more. I look three ways in each direction when I am crossing the street. I take my medication religiously at the recommended doses (when I have struggled with dangerous overconsumption in the past) and I try to eat as healthy as possible. Isn’t that how tragedies always happen? Right when things start to get good? Right when you have something worth losing?

A year and a half ago I got dumped in my hospital room and there were many convulsive sobbing sprees which left me alone and facing an illness that didn’t promise me getting out alive. I sank into sadness until I literally couldn’t breathe.

Now I deal with it by spending far too much time in the bath, both in silence with my emotions and with things that will act in tribute with what I am feeling, from happy, sad, afraid, and in need of rest. Sometimes immobilized in what is going through my head it’s all I can do to soak for a half hour, and then I crawl back into bed under the covers. We all have insurmountable difficulties to face in life and I am a big believer in catharsis. After all, any addict will tell you that anything worth doing is worth over doing. Get to know your sadness and validate it, is my advice, not that I’m one to be preaching how to deal with emotions. In any caste, whatever happens, positive or negative I will have to deal with as it comes. In the meantime, I’ll be in the bath if you need me…

xo,

A

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