Yesterday, carrying laundry down the stairs, I somehow missed the last step and fell. I didn’t fall far, but I managed to skin my knee on the carpet and land awkwardly in a pile of dirty clothes. It took a minute to realize I wasn’t hurt, and then I sat back on the landing and tried to cry. Really, if anything was going to feel like the last straw, it would have been that. The tears were there, so close, so ready to fall, and then, suddenly, nothing.
I wake up at night, my shoulders tight, my teeth clenched together and I have to will myself to loosen up. Sometimes I stand, shake myself out, and then crawl back into bed.
When my mind travels too far down the wrong road, I feel tiny beads of sweat on my forehead and the back of my neck. It’s a physical reaction to stress, I know that. And when I can’t reel it in, it turns into a full-fledged hot flash, which is maybe a thinly disguised panic attack.
I know I’ve written a lot about how one minute I’m terrified and the next I am in denial, unable to even process what is going on. It bothers me that I’m not able to cry, to release it in that way. It feels like my emotions are out of reach, pushed down and back. I think crying would help, but I can’t get there.
Last night I woke suddenly to a strange noise, it was the kind of sound that bears investigating. But my eyes were heavy, my limbs numb with sleep, and I just couldn’t move. I told myself it was the radiator and let my eyes close, my mind drift. This morning I’m convinced it was my own scream.
It would be so much easier if I could cry. Instead, I sleep away most of the afternoon, setting the alarm on my phone to wake me in time to pick up my son. I make bargains with myself. If I empty the dishwasher or fold the clean clothes, I can sleep for 30 minutes. And I wait for the quiet hours after dinner, when all three of us are home. It’s my favorite part of the day, the time I feel most safe.
I know I’m going to be fine, that the cancer is not going to win, but there are so many things I am worried about. All of it sits just below the surface, close enough to almost touch. It’s such a strange feeling, this kind of uncomfortably numb.
Writing helps. Setting the words — if not the tears — free. There is that, at least.