About a month ago I was not doing well. It was three years since I’d been treated for endometriosis and then breast cancer and I’d just had an autoimmune disease diagnosis. The side-effects of chemotherapy were still causing so much pain with no end in sight, it was beginning to seem like I’d feel terrible until I died. Everything hurt and I could barely think straight, my life felt over in many ways. Apart from acetaminophen and cannabis, there was no real pain medication that I could keep down, and my experience with antidepressants has been that they (oddly) made me more depressed so no help there. Instead I doubled down on everything else; acupuncture, therapy, meditation, gardening, yoga, healthy eating, drawing, making things, talking to friends, interesting work, I even started a new business based on the patterns I drew to express my pain! I did everything I could think of, for a year I had made healing myself my main job and it didn’t seem to be working.
At this point, you might need to know a bit of my history to understand how frayed I was, so here’s an article I wrote about having endometriosis treated, and here’s one about the breast cancer I got immediately afterwards. (Please don’t feel like you have to read them, but these give background so you’ll know how intense this odd experience I’m about to describe was last month…)
Suffice to say that at this point I’d pretty much given up. One night to try and relax I took a slightly higher dose of THC oil than usual and for once it hit me, I could actually feel the “high” again! This was very unusual as I’ve built up a hefty immunity in the last couple of years. Using THC and CBD for pain relief for so long means my body acclimated, and while they still act as anti-inflammatories, provide some pain-relief and are quite soothing, I no longer feel that entertaining “high” buzz people associate with cannabis). However this evening was different, I was soaring in the most delightful way!
Determined to enjoy this short respite, I put on some music and happily danced around, trying to loosen my muscles. Without meaning to, I began to sing/chant to myself, phrases like “you can do this” and “you can survive this” repeatedly. Catching sight of myself in the mirror was a shock, it looked as if the person in the mirror was so healthy and joyful… I peered into my reflection’s eyes and thought “She looks like she feels good. What if I felt what she feels, what would that be like?”
As our eyes locked I felt a sudden, tangible connection with the person I saw in the mirror and in that moment it was as if my reflection flowed quickly into my body through my eyes! In that first split-second of contact it seemed as if I could see and feel the breathless rush of being sucked in to my body, as if I were a separate entity climbing in to myself. I saw the edge of my eyes and felt the deep pull of the rest of my body as it sucked me inside, as if I had been waiting for this moment for a long while. It felt incredible and immediately I could sense all of my sensations again, not just pain and fear but now there were so many feelings; happiness, desire, joy, curiosity, hunger, love, confusion, excitement… everything!
Immediately I ran to tell my partner, crying with joy. We sat down and I tried to communicate but I was too excited, thrilled even. It was a glorious feeling simply to be able to feel alive, I felt as if I were a new person looking out through new eyes. That night I slept better than I have in many years.
Every day since then I have felt as if I now live inside my body and no matter how that feels — good or bad — it’s great to be aware again. After that experience, over the next days I have been able to find a ways to manage my health and my pain far better; first I prioritized my sleep, and went on an autoimmune protocol diet (which almost immediately had many positive effects). I made more time to rest, read, and to communicate with people who were nourishing and kind. Suddenly, for the first time in my life, I was able to do what I needed to do for myself without permission or instruction.
Every day and every moment since that day in February, the feeling of actually living my own life and existing in my own body has continued to grow and build. It is starkly obvious to me now that under any circumstances, through any type of experience (good or bad), I am alive, I can feel that, and most importantly; that this is correct and as it should be.
Now for the last month I’ve wondered about how and why this happened. Here are the ideas I came up with:
- Of course cancer treatment was traumatic (a year of surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, surgery. Anne Boyer wrote about it more coherently than I ever could here), and there are many stages of healing. Chemotherapy particularly stops cell division and it is believed that cell division is how the hippocampus builds memories and experiences, so chemo has an intense effect on that. It is often described as feeling dead. Those side-effects can take years to heal after chemotherapy. Now at this point when I had my in-body experience, about two years after I completed treatment, perhaps it is that my hippocampus had simply healed enough for me to begin feeling more alive.
- Obviously everything I’ve been through physically gave me PTSD which had become quite overwhelming at times. Some people have had remarkable recoveries from PTSD by using psilocybin mushroom trips, so perhaps my use of high dose THC functioned similarly. Combined with the rhythmic movements of my silly dancing and singing I was engaged in, this could have taken me into a hypnotic state in which I was highly suggestible. In that state perhaps I managed to heal my PTSD with a sort of self-guided “trip”.
- When I looked in the mirror with no hope and no cares anymore, maybe I unintentionally invited someone else to come on board and help me out. Perhaps now I’m possessed by a ghost, an alien, or some curious other life form!
It’s a joke, the idea of being possessed, but that is often how it has felt this last month; as if I’ve possessed myself and I’m no longer alone. I’ve got help in here, just when I needed it most.
It doesn’t really matter why or how it happened though, it is a wonderful feeling to engage with life and experience it again. I’m alive, I exist and I’m so grateful for that. Whether what I experience is good or bad, I am just grateful that I can feel it all again.
If you like the illustrations in this article and want to reclaim your time by having your clothes tell people to fuck off, visit my shop!