This letter was written days after the mastectomy, after I had returned home. It describes some of my physical and emotional responses to the trauma of surgery.

Swimming in a Sea of Bad

July 27, 2011

Dear Catherine [my movement theater teacher],

Fell asleep at 8:30 without meds. Woke up about an hour later screaming in a panic but with no consciousness, wet with sweat highly concentrated in my chest. Same experience the previous night and same experience after the colonoscopy. I can never remember any concrete details, just the resulting panic and visceral responses.

This time it has left me with a feeling of “being bad” and a lingering anxiety, this nervous anticipation of pending doom and a profound sense of aloneness. Obviously these feelings are related to the past, and also to the pending pathology report and trauma from the surgery. I did some movement theater sitting down, mostly just moving my arms, and composed the following “poem” of expression:

I’m swimming in a sea of bad
I’m swimming in a sea of bad
insides rotting
insides rotting
lurking in dark murky waters
can’t see the sharks
but sense their presence

Will call you as planned after I receive the pathology report.

The feeling of being bad and pending doom have subsided considerably.

I will try to return to sleep.


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