When my husband was recovering from cancer a long, long time ago, we were told that if he made it to five years out without any signs of recurrence, he was "good". They don't use the word cured in cancerland, because once you've been there, you know that you never actually get to go back to the way things were before. It, irretrievably, becomes a part of you forevermore.
That, and it could always come back.
It's not just cancer that does has this effect on us, though.
It's other things too.
There are other things that stick with us forever, that change who we are, that will never allow us to go back to who we were before.
Things that could rear their ugly heads at any time in the future again.
Things like I lived through five years ago. The things that I'm hitting the five year anniversaries of.
This whole damn year is going to be a milestone, one after another.
2011 was, easily, the hardest year of my entire life. From the very first seconds just after midnight until December 31st, it was a year that kicked my ass up and down the street. It kicked me when I was down. It kicked me from every different angle at once. It kicked me when I begged it to stop.
It was hell.
I've written about some of it, though almost none of it has ever been put into words here.
I know with certainty that there are portions of it so deeply hidden in my memories that I might never confront them. I know that the suppression likely will not be a permanent solution and that there will probably come a day when it bubbles to the surface.
I spent years in therapy since then dealing with the aftermath of it all.
I developed PTSD because of the things that happened that year.
I ended up in the emergency room with panic attacks twice that year.
I learned, the hard way, that we are most certainly not always in control of either the things that happen in our lives, or our reactions and responses to them.
Sometimes we are truly at the mercy of it all.
Those inspirational little memes that everyone shares these days about how you control your destiny and your responses and all that....yeah....no. Not always.
I thought, incorrectly, that I'd wake up this morning somewhat relieved. The 10th had come and gone; for me that's generally one of the harder days on the calendar. The days and weeks leading up to it, full of the journey towards my father's death.
I didn't wake up relieved.
Instead, unlike the last handful of years past, the unsettled feeling is lingering.
It might be here to stay a while.
My even mentioning it here, aloud for the world to see, a half-hearted attempt to exert some authority over it all.
I know that it isn't just this day now, because it wasn't just this day then. It was all the other days that would come that year. All the revelations and the personal crises and the losses.
I know that it has to have been so long now because I don't even remember who I was back then. I've changed so much in some ways, remain exactly the same in others, but I wouldn't even recognize myself if I saw her.
There are times, like yesterday, that it all seems so much more recent, when the pain is palpable and real and present. When the triggers surface, rearing their ugly head at me, reminding me of the damage done.
I know it isn't so fresh, and there are times that the only reason I can believe that to be true is that I'm not spiraling downward into the abyss at the reminders now. I'm not physically ill over it anymore.
I thank therapy for that.
I thank the handful of people who knew and stood by me for that.
I thank my stubborn resilience for that.
For keeping me alive and moving and here.
There were days I wasn't sure I would be.
I've written before, more than once, about how some people misconstrue my writing. The names I've been called, the assumptions made about me. Far too many people have said that I've shared too much.
What they don't realize is that I've shared almost nothing.
This isn't a diary.
It never was.
What it was and still is: a lifeline. The rope that I threw out to myself and used to drag myself ashore.
Though there are times that the entirety of this writing life urges me to give it all up, I know that I can't.
Writing saved me.
It got me through hell five years ago.
And it will get me through this year of milestones too.
At the end, I'll be five years out.
So, then I'll be "good", right?
I sure hope so.
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