(Explicit Language Warning) I don't think anybody really realizes just how painful the month of December is for me. The whole month has become such a densely packed minefield of painful events and traumatic memories in my life and for those close to me, that it's just become impossible to get through this month without stumbling over and triggering some of them. I can't just easily pop into the spirit of the holidays, because of how I've been hurt and betrayed in so many ways and at so many levels, all in the month of December. The month of December has just registered in my mind as a time to be wary, and a time to be on-guard for the next disaster to strike.
Back in December of 2010, I had just been laid off from a previous job and was wondering what the strange pain in one of my man parts was, only to realize it was cancer two months later. In December of 2011, I had been through complete hell fighting cancer that year, but had to keep on fighting in a way to save one of my kidneys from failing. I had been going through all sorts of diagnostic and testing procedures, and then had to get a stent placed, all of which caused tremendous amounts of pain and discomfort. I'll never forget December of 2012, because that was the month I had a cancer recurrence scare that was so bad, that I thought for sure my cancer had returned, and that I had just lived my last good day. Rather than getting in the "holiday spirit", I was trying to think instead of how I was going to break the news to my family, and how I was going to explain to my children that daddy's cancer had returned, and that I was going to be very sick again. All was okay, but that's a December that I'll never forget, because of how it tore me to pieces. It took me all year to recover from what happened in December of 2012. Thank God that December of 2013 was a good one, because it would have been ugly if something happened then, too! December of 2013 was the first holiday season in four years, since 2009, that I was actually able to enjoy this time of year without something awful hanging over my head. All of this had left a mark on me, but there's been more to this than just my cancer and health related challenges.
December has also been a month of loss. I've lost friends, and people that I had been counting on for support during my own distressing times. You think you know someone, until you realize you don't. You think you can be around someone, until you realize that you can't, and you just have to turn your back. And how many cancer warrior brothers have we lost in the small testicular cancer support communities, all in the month of December? Too many to count, and it hurts. And then things just get bizarre. Last year in December of 2014, a private aircraft crashed into the Gaithersburg, MD home of a former colleague of mine, killing his wife and two of his three children. I'll never forget the terrible feeling I had that morning, as if something awful was about to happen, only to turn on the news and see what had happened, and then learn a few days later that it was people I knew. I was so spooked again, and just wanted to hide from the world. It's such a scary world that we live in. It was December of 2012 that the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting happened, when I had my huge meltdown. There was a terrible mass school shooting in Pakistan or someplace in the world a year or two ago in December, and the latest terrorist attack in San Bernadino, California now in December 2015. There's actually more that has registered in my mind for awful December events, but I think you get the point, and I just don't feel like going on anymore.
There's no other way to say it. The month of December has just plain fucking sucked for me, and more than a few people I know. Because of how post-traumatic stress works, when one memory get triggered, there can be a domino effect that triggers all of the others. It's our sub-conscious minds' way of reminding us of all of the danger that lurks in December, and to be on-guard. I have to stay focused on what I'm doing, stay engaged with family and friends, and utilize every single coping mechanism that I have just to get through the month of December. Needless to say, I'm not at my best in December, but I'm always doing my best, and that's all you can do.
The next person to tell me that I'm crabby in the month of December, asks why I'm glum, or if I'm "having a case of the Mondays", is going to be referred to this blog and told to get back to me (translation: "fuck off"). I'm done beating myself up for not being the happiest person all the time, as that just makes things worse. And don't even get me started on Elf on a Shelf. Maybe I'm just a hater, because I'm too busy watching over my shoulder for the next tragedy to strike to bother myself with that. I've learned to love myself, accept all that I feel, and I never tell myself that I'm wrong for feeling as I do. This is me, this is my life, and this is how all of these things have affected me. I even have trouble attending office holiday parties. They register in my mind as an "unsafe" place for me to be, and that's a terrible thing for someone that's suffered from post-traumatic stress. How the fuck do you develop PTS issues around an office holiday party, you ask? Don't ask. I don't even wanna go there right now.
Let it go? Stop letting things bother me? Nice suggestion by some. Easy to say, but that's just not how post-traumatic stress works. Once associations are made, they're very hard to break, and on top of all that I'm a fucking Scorpio!!! We never let anything go! I can either love you forever, or hate you forever. Easy call to make on which way things will swing when it comes to cancer, and how its affected the lives of people that I love and care about. There's not much middle ground. It's only this year that I've learned how to let some things go, and forgive and forget, because I had to. It was the only way for me to keep moving forward, and to stay on a positive trajectory through life.
So, it's been established that there's more than enough to get me fired up in December. My protective instincts come out, and it's all sub-conscious and instinctual. I even caught myself fully alert in bed one night, listening for something (anything) that might be coming to threaten my family. I can't just turn it off and tell myself to not be afraid and wary. All one can do is cope, and try to find outlets for this energy. I opened up a bottle of wine. Maybe a few. I can't stop myself from feeling on edge around this time, but I can take the edge off. Synthetic drugs like Ativan and other things are awful, and I hate the side effects. Just give me some red wine, and I'm good. I hit the gym. A lot. A couple of good cardio sessions on the elliptical and treadmill has always helped to get energy like this out, and boot camp sessions with a friend are icing on the cake. My son and I have been doing some father-son bonding, and keeping ourselves entertained with racing cars in Gran Turismo 6 on our PS3. On Friday the 11th, with most everybody else tied up with office holiday parties except for me, I picked up my kids and a friend's daughter from school, and then met up after a little playdate for dinner. It's times like these that I've really appreciated all of these friendships.
Did I mention that I had a cancer follow-up appointment? :-) Mark my words, I am NEVER doing onco follow-up appointments in December ever again. Been there and done that so many damned times now, it's an emotional rollercoaster to one degree or another each time, and I'm through with these in December. Fuck it! The last thing I need to be worrying about in December are scan results, with all of the other things in this month that can haunt me. My closet of skeletons for the month of December is busting out of the door, so some of this baggage is going to have to stink up either November or January now. Those closets are empty, and there's just no choice but to pollute a few of these adjacent months with some of this baggage, so that December is at least somewhat more manageable.
How the fuck the month of December became such a screwed up month for me and so many people I know, is beyond my ability to comprehend. As I've always said, you need to create new positive memories and experiences to help you overcome the bad. It's going to take a whole lot of "good Decembers" to truly heal from all of the rottenness that December has brought me in the past few years. Needless to say by the F-bomb count in this blog, I'm not there yet. So please, bear with me. I'm doing my best, and I'll get there eventually. I do need all of the positive vibes and good energy that I can get during this month, though. If you see me, and you read this blog, tell me that you did and offer a hug. I'll gladly take one from anyone, and I don't care who it is.
No worries, I'm fine now. I've gotten all of this out. Writing helps, and that's why I took to writing as a way to cope with what I was going through a few years ago. If you think this was bad, you should see some sections of my private journal from back then. I guarantee you, you ain't seen nuthin. :-) Outlets help. The gym and a bit of alchy helps. My family and good friends help. Everything helps. Oh, and I'm 4.5 years cancer free now. That really helps. All I NEED for Christmas is "N-E-D." (no evidence of disease).
I'll still take all of the hugs that I can get about December, though. :-)