The rain was falling hard and fast outside the wooden cabin where I was staying. Six months of exhaustion seemed to have finally hit me now that I’d finally slowed down, left home, and retreated to a place of sanctuary, which just so happened to be a cabin in the South American forest. I woke up crying that morning, but my tears were subdued by a swim in the river and a walk amid the trees, listening to the sound of the birds singing and the soft tapping of rain falling on the forest floor.
I had been running away from the pain for so long because of how much it frightened me to go inside and actually feel the psychological weight of everything I had been through. So, instead I kept busy, filling my time with activities so that I didn’t have to feel it. But there, in that rustic cabin in the woods, it found me. Truthfully, it was inside of me the whole time, just waiting to be felt. I couldn’t run from it any longer in a desperate attempt to try to avoid the storm.
I learned that there are times when you just need to let it rain. When you need to sit somewhere quiet, perhaps by a fire or a cold body of water and let it out, write it all down, breathe it in, all out. Let the steam from hot cups of tea heal your bones, let good food nourish, let it go and just feel.
I didn’t know how to process everything I’d been through until I took a trip on my own. I boarded a flight to Peru, just me and my backpack and a head full of nerves and anticipation. I’d traveled alone before but each time was different; each time I’d sit on the plane or a long bus journey contemplating my decision. Truth is, it’s scary to find yourself alone, somewhere completely unfamiliar with nothing to distract you from yourself. But it can also be incredibly restorative. There is something truly healing about solitude.
The beauty of a trip alone is how free you are from distractions. I found that I couldn’t run or hide from my pain anymore. I simply had to feel it. I woke up crying in dorm rooms, fell asleep sobbing in a cabin in the Peruvian Amazon. A lot of the time I felt lost, small and empty, confused over why I was even there. But I also found myself feeling alive, healthy, grateful, surfing in the warm Pacific Ocean, painting a mural in a friend’s hostel, dancing and singing with beautiful strangers on the street. I found myself remembering how beautiful it was to be alive.
After going through something like cancer, one can feel stripped of their identity. So much of who you once believed yourself to be is altered. Often, those in recovery find the emotional trauma of what they have been through hits them the hardest when it’s all over. It’s as if during treatment, one is living in survival mode, just trying to make it through each day at a time. Only when it’s over are you able to sit and process everything. That’s why it is imperative that we, as survivors, take the time to heal. Take the time to sit in stillness, away from the rush of the city and the pressures of everyday life. If we jump straight back into our lives, we can easily become overwhelmed, piling on the plans to escape our thoughts. But we have to let ourselves mourn the loss of our former selves, to start embracing the new us. And that is why I took this solo trip. I needed to go inside. I needed to face my truth, away from the expectations of plans and people who wanted to see me. I needed space and solitude.
For some, traveling across the world isn’t feasible, and of course, this isn’t the only course of action. Taking a road trip, going camping in the woods, or booking a retreat can all aid in the healing process. Perhaps you can’t leave home for long, but there are easier methods to try, like simply taking time every day for self-care, sitting and journaling, having hot baths, practicing restorative yoga, going on a weekend away somewhere in nature, or even just going on evening walks in the park near your house.
Whatever your outlet is, it’s important to realize you have been through something big, something life-changing, something traumatic, and you need to honor the process of recovery. Be patient with your healing. Let yourself mourn, grieve, cry, feel it all, and then wake up one day and realize that you did it. Realize that the sun is shining through the clouds and that you survived the storm.
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