Cancer · Grief · Life

Witness 

I’ve been, as you all know, struggling with the whole process of “personing” since my diagnosis. I go through phases of thinking 1) that’s ok because cancer and mastectomies and infections are a big deal or 2) I need to get over it and just go back to normal. I feel like I’ve tried a lot of things from escapism to denial and even a full on emergence in the research about the process and necessary post-surgical accoutrements. Nothing has been working. I always feel like I need to apologize for how I am feeling. “Sorry I’m crying. Sorry I’m not together today. Sorry I’m angry. Sorry I’m scared. Sorry this has stolen all of my energy. Sorry it’s all I think about. Sorry. Sorry.”

I was surprised to find what I needed in a few low moments in some online forums. 

I’ve written about the self care community I’ve been a part of, and it has once again come to my rescue. Something that I didn’t realize that I needed was just for someone to recognize the feelings I was having in a moment. I needed no feedback. I needed no solutions offered, no empathy, no support. I just needed to be witnessed. That was, in fact, the first reply. Simply the word “witnessed” and it was really all I needed. 

The second is an actual support group for mastectomy patients. There are only about 100 women in the forum and it’s a place of real honesty. Some women post photos. Some women tell the story of their reconstructions. Some ask advice. Some, like me, occasionally just need to be witnessed. One woman last week wanted someone to hear that she’s not doing chemo. A few people tried to talk her into it. I didn’t; it’s not up to me. She gently told people she had made her decision and just wanted to practice “saying” it to others. 

I am going to try and make it part of my practice when hearing friends to ask them what it is they need. I’m going to ask if they want advice, critical questions, or just to be heard. I will do my best to serve as a witness to all who need it. 

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