Treatment today was rough. To begin with, it’s never comfortable. I’m strapped to a moving table by a piece of solid plastic that was specially shaped to fit the contours of my face. If you read my first post, you know I freaked out during my first day of treatment. Since then, I have developed a little ritual for myself. Normally I lie on the table and immediately beging focusing on my breath. As my technicians begin fastening my mask, I make last minute adjustments to make sure my neck and head are as comfortable as possible because I know there’s no adjusting it once it’s in place. There were a couple moments when I had an itch I tried to scratch. Big mistake. Now I know better. If I have an itch or a tickle in my nose, I turn my focus to my breathing.
When I’m on the table, my body is not my own. Every day I relinquish all autonomy to my caregivers, the team of technicians. It’s a feeling of vulnerability I’ve never felt before and that I hope I will never have to feel again. Normally, it only lasts about 15 minutes. Today, it lasted 35.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced up here has been maintaining a sense of control in my life. I’m the kind of person that says “yes” to too many things, which is probably a result of doing too much improv comedy this past year. But like Jim Carrey learns in Yes Man [spoiler alert!], being open to life is great, but you have to know your limits. A lot of what I’ve done up here has been me going with the flow for the wrong reasons, namely that it felt too overwhelming to make my own decisions. “Hey Tom, wanna go to a Red Sox game?” Hell yeah. “Hey Tom, wanna go to another Red Sox game?” Uh, sure, I guess. “Hey you wanna go watch this movie?” Yeah, why not. “Hey, wanna come out for a couple drinks, even though you’re tired, you wanted to write and talk to your West Coast lady friend before getting a full night’s sleep for once?” You get the point. I let it get out of my control.
Well, as I continued to neglect my own needs, the underlying stress, anxiety, and depression were all building up underneath the surface. In the past two weeks, they’ve gotten a little out of hand. Like an emotional hoarder, I’ve been hanging onto feelings of bitterness, anger and sadness for far longer than anyone with a clean emotional closet would.
Just like the couple in this picture, I was just begging for something to push me over the edge. Treatment going too long did just that.
Then today, something miraculous happened. I said, “No.” I was sitting in my room, reading and feeling exhausted when Greg, one of the managers here, called me to let me know there was an extra ticket to the Patriots game tonight. I hadn’t been to a professional football game since I was 8, and I don’t remember it so it doesn’t count. As dumb as I know it sounds, a huge impulse in me said, “Tom! When are you gonna get a chance to see the Pats play for free?!” And the kicker, like the idiot I am too often, I almost took them! For some odd reason, this simple act of denying my immediate and dumb impulse to go made me feel good, in control even.
We had volunteers from Alterra Insurance come cook us a pretty awesome barbecue spread and then stick around to play Minute to Win It style games. In line getting food, I decided, “Fuck holding onto this negativity for any longer. That’s a waste of my time.” I started joking with the volunteers, and with other guests. I took a break from being angry at my circumstances and lo and behold, I felt happy. Before I knew it, I was laughing, playing dumb games like stacking cups and trying to catch a cookie in my mouth by sliding it down my forehead. I was cracking jokes that actually made other people laugh (granted, they’re old people who are generous with their laughter. It still counts!). I felt lighter. I don’t know how else to describe it. I felt like an incredible weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Anyways, so right now my mood is back up, and I’m gonna make a concerted effort to keep it there. Special thanks to everyone who’s reached out to me or has been there for me. It means a lot.
Thirty treatments down, FIVE to go!