Therapy comes in all forms. For some the norm is a traditional office therapy setting; sitting and sharing your feelings, anxieties, worries and pains. For others, peace may be found in exercise; individual or otherwise. Some may seek therapy in food or a bottle, drinking with friends or alone, or simply taking time off/away from what ails their heart and soul. Others still may find solace in expressing themselves creatively by writing or painting or other mediums. I was surprised that writing became something that helped me heal.
As I began to write I noticed I started looking forward to the process; revising and editing my thoughts, crying at the keyboard. I could adjust my inner-self privately, so I could face the world with my outer-self better prepared, stronger. I saw my writing process as a way of biting off the “issues of cancer” in small digestible bites until I was ready to share the situation publicly, with family, friends and community. Facing others without first processing was too much for me to handle, I found I couldn’t control my emotions.
This writing/digesting process became my therapy. At first I felt like a fraud. I am not a writer by trade. I was sharing my soul. I was scared and vulnerable but I had to find a way to grieve the world that was changing faster than I could readily accept. I had to DO something. You always hear “journal your feelings, write it down”, so I tried it. The discomfort I felt by posing as a writer was incredibly challenging, it was stretching my boundaries, causing both mental and physical nausea, but in a good way.
The cycle, each time I wrote, sounded a bit like this in my mind: fraud alert (I am not a writer), to you are a terrible writer (no one is going to want to read this shit), to whoa! I am sharing way too much (depressing!), to I kinda feel better after getting this down (digesting, remember?), to time to hit the post button (a bit like the first drop on any roller coaster, scary but exhilarating), Oh, my God what have I done will anyone read it and or understand me (kind of like the first day at a new school).
All of these feelings were just what I needed. They were something that pushed me to do the mental work of healing and managing my emotions. People read the posts responding with kind words, saying that what I had said helped them heal a little bit, too. That my words had meant something to someone else, became a powerful tool for me. This feedback fueled the therapeutic cycle I found in writing; supplying me with a little more armor, each time, to face the reality that was ravaging my world.
So, I kept writing. With each update the cycle continued, my metal armor got stronger. The daily challenge of harnessing emotions became easier, I became a soldier in the cancer battle raging war on my husband, my family, my world.
Now, it has been a while since I have written. I have missed it. Life is cancer-free for Kaycee for the last 6 months, though we have to make it to 5 years to claim the official cancer-free golden ticket. However, life is not back to normal, nor will it ever be. The battlefield that was Kaycee’s body is still working hard to be restored to a somewhat normal state. There are good days, okay days, and down-right shitty days. But all in all, survivorship is a great stage to be in, for us all.
I speak only for myself when I say that my emotional therapy is still a work in progress. I have found that I am in need of therapy still, and I have found it again in yet another unexpected way. As many of you know I have always loved to sing. I started taking voice lessons, in the eye of the chemo-storm of last summer, just to have time to focus on something that was completely non-medical, it was a selfish 45 minutes and it was a blessing. This practice and focus rekindled my desire to try, to challenge myself, to put myself out there. So, I auditioned for the next show our local theater was presenting and made it in the cast.
The show is Big Fish. I had seen the movie years ago, 14 years ago, to be exact, and remembered it as weird and fantastical but didn’t particularly love it. This opinion of the movie, when I think back to the time in my life, stemmed from the younger, idealistic version of myself; I-am-young-and-will-live-forever-and-cancer-will-never-happen-to-my-life-because-I-haven’t-been-affected-by-anything-like-this (yet), mind. Boy, how time changes people: our perceptions, our realizations, our abilities. At least time and life has changed me, for the better, I hope.
Now, Big Fish, the musical is a fantastical, beautiful and heart-wrenching story of father and son. A bitter sweet tale that reminds us that sometimes the people that we are closest to are not always what or who we think they are. It is a show that echoes a familiar theme: that life is short, but if you live it surrounded by those you love, it can be magical!
I did not realize how close to my reality this show would come when I accepted my role in the ensemble. In fact, it wasn’t until the first read through that I understood that I was going to have to build up my emotional armor in order to be able to actually do this show without falling to pieces in the wings. Now, each rehearsal is a digestible bite in my ongoing therapy. I look around at the cast as we run through our rehearsals, I am not alone in this. We are all connected, through our life, through our stories, to the therapy of processing emotions, our realities onstage or otherwise.
I am using this new theater-therapy to continue to build my armor, a way to focus on healing my heart and my soul. The added benefit is that have rediscovered a love and a passion for performing I shelved so long ago. I am happy too, to have found another outlet to add to my healing process besides writing. And though each of my personal therapeutic challenges brings the vicious cycle of doubt, curiosity, relief, discovery and strength… and I am so very thankful for the process.
P.S. If you are a local and want to see a great show, Big Fish is running in May at BPA. Come see it, you won’t be disappointed! Oh, and bring tissues.