...I've got this emotional health thing under control I completely surprise myself and realize, no you don't, you idiot!
Last night was my work holiday party. As it approached I obsessed over what I would wear, I took two spin classes in a row to help with my muffin top (really, all it did was not allow me to sit down), and I imagined the night as my comeback tour 2017, as this glorious, triumphant affair that I should have known would end up, at the very least, not what I'd envisioned.
I'll back up to last year. It was my first holiday party at this job. I had just finished treatment. My face still had that puffed up, 'what's wrong with her' effect, and I'd bought about 8 wigs by then--all of which lost their initial luster and slid down my forehead making it very obvious I was wearing a wig. I was puffy in other areas too, from the chemo, and all around I was not on my game.
At the tail end of the work day, the girls in the office shuttled in and out of our one bathroom getting changed in the stalls, plugging hair curlers and straighteners into the outlets and drawing on their makeup. I lingered back, waiting for everyone to leave so that I could reposition my wig and draw on my eyebrows without an audience. At the party itself I tried my best to mingle, all the while incredibly self-conscious about how I looked. I thought back to earlier years, to the work parties in my 20's, where I floated to and fro from the open bar flirting, laughing, my hair long and golden-y brown, my face slim, my eyebrows in tact, and my work friends in tow.
On this night last year, this was hardly the case. I tried too hard to laugh at jokes I couldn't relate to, I fiddled with my straw a lot. At one point everyone sat down and the award ceremony began. Having been with the company only 10 months at that point, eight of which I'd been in active treatment (though still working full time), I knew I wouldn't be up for any sort of award. But one team did receive a special award that night. At one of our other stores, a group of women were recognized for sticking together through an incredibly tough time. It just so happened that 2 women suffered from breast cancer that year, and they'd all rallied together and donated time off to each other and picked up each other's slack in all areas. It was heartwarming to see them all together, especially since one of them had been my little cancer buddy throughout that year--we'd bonded over our treatments even though we hadn't known each other beforehand. Anyway, I looked on as they were celebrated, feeling happy for them but also incredibly lonely.
The nadir of that night came when on the dance floor I look over and by sheer happenstance I'm standing shoulder-to-shoulder with my cancer buddy, K, and touching her other shoulder, the other woman with breast cancer. The three of us, the cancer people, all as one. I immediately shifted away, got another drink.
So, this year's holiday party I knew would be better. I had hair, I had eyebrows, I had my health back, and I'd grown closer to my coworkers. I never did find a suitable outfit, but I did my best, and part of me, a tiny part of me, hoped--not expected--but hoped, that I'd get some recognition. For working through the hardest time of my life. For never letting my team down. For answering emails in the lobby of my oncologist. For updating the website in the parking lot of my radiation appointments.
Of course all of this still does not necessarily warrant any sort of award, but that awful tickle of hope in my chest...it was there.
They called out the awards and when they got to the marketing team, my heart dropped as my CEO described the hard work of someone on our team, and as she described her it became clearer and clearer that the person she was referring to was not me. She deserved it, too. She deserved it completely.
But something broke open in me--something deep, something unnameable, a grief that had been trapped inside of me for some time now, and I haven't stopped crying since. It's been about 18 hours. I took off work today because I couldn't face anyone. I have this curse where alone, at home, I can't cry. But in front of people? Fucking waterworks. I probably looked like I was boo-hoo jealous but it's so much more than that, and it's so isolating, and I'm still so hurt by all of what's happened the last year and a half. I'm still so hurt.
And at the same time, it felt good to cry. I must have unleashed a lot of clogged up trauma that I'd not recognized or let loose until now. Maybe now, inch by inch, I can move on a little further from where I was.