Weary? Yes. Sad? Yes. Depressed? No. Anxious? No.
In one thing of being a trauma survivor, I was taught to be a people pleaser. I was taught the only way anyone will like or love you is to have a smile on your face.
Today wasn’t a smiley day. Today was a very brutally sad day. I had planned to go backpacking for 3 days alone to mourn as well as celebrate something I lost a year ago.
Instead, I ended up in the hospital over the weekend. I have been trying to tell my pain management specialist that something is getting worse with my neck as I have had huge pain increases. My left arm was useless on Saturday, which is why I went to the hospital in the first place. After a lengthy MRI of my brain , cervical, and thoracic spine, the news came back. My degenerative disc disease and osteoarthritis has become much worse.
I have osteophytes, which are also known as bone spurs compressing and impinging on my spinal cord. Osteophytes grow when your spine become so diseased that your body mistakenly grows bone in the wrong places as a way to “fix” it. It’s like your body decides to grow the bone you are losing, except it doesn’t put the puzzle pieces together.
When the ER doctor came in, I asked if it was impinging on my left side? She said yes. I had a quick moment of pride that I have come to know my body so well when I tried to escape it for so long.
So there was no backpacking as even though I read everything possible on google and watched every YouTube video about backpacking with spine disease, this would be going from uncomfortable to dangerous.
So going out today to be in nature wasn’t my smartest plan. My life is a constant cost-benefits analysis. If I go outside to do what I need to put my mental health in check, I will physically hurt more. If I stay home and don’t go write the most beautiful letter to the most special person who ever was in my life outside, I will feel emotionally miserable. I chose to go outside.
My hike was quick. I stumbled. I fell even with my forearm crutches. My left arm isn’t very strong. Considering I was doing handstands just a bit over a week ago, it’s obviously a problem.
I found a spot and climbed a hill to write my letter and be one with my Kleenex. In the United states, we have a really hard time sitting with others pain. I have learned to do it for long periods with others as I know the isolation of sadness. I knew being in nature wouldn’t make me feel as alone with the pain of today.
It’s not a pretty picture, but it’s genuine. This is what grief looks like. This is getting it out. This isn’t depression or anxiety. This is reality. I know so many who won’t do this and suffer by taking psych meds to mask pain. If I didn’t grieve my day, I would be left with anxiety, or even worse, I’d just feel numb.
Just about at this moment, my phone rang. It was a friend who I have had a rather rocky relationship with, but we are both survivors of extreme childhood abuse, so sometimes neither of us can get it right as we just never learned how, although we both are putting in a valiant effort at figuring out life. It’s hard to explain to someone who comes from a loving, supportive family what compound grief is. I wasn’t just grieving the loss I was writing about, I was grieving the own loss of my childhood—a healthy thing! A lifelong process that will pop up.
So I answered even though my sobs were coming from my gut. She knew what this day meant. She just kept saying, “I know. I know. Let it out. I know”.
And I felt heard. And I felt seen. And I felt understood. And I finally felt a bit of normalcy in what is considered “abnormal” in American society—grief, pain, intense tears.
Sadness doesn’t need a pill. Sadness doesn’t even need a therapist often. What sadness needs is a supportive community to embrace you. Sadness needs to be as normalized as joy. Both are valid human emotions.
Despite this day still feeling very hard as I’m managing the physical pain of going out now and unknowns of my neurosurgical future or if this new debilitating pain is going to be my normal, I feel the slightest bit lucky that my forever messaging buddy with chronic illness saw me as she can with her limitations, and I was able to answer the phone while sobbing so hard without the person on the other end not being able to handle it or be too busy or need me to schedule my grief. She showed up on the phone while I sat on my granite monolith grieving and sobbing while she gently said, “I know”.
Who do you do that for? Are you capable? Do you feel your feelings? Please recognize that no one should feel pain and uncertainty alone. Show up. Sometimes it’s not convenient. Grief doesn’t come on a schedule. Tears can’t be put into a calendar for a coffee date in a week.