Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 20

FINDING YOUR HERD
and growing up knowing that the only way of
life I had ever known could in no way coexist
with this other major part of myself.
For years I tried to shove it down and pray
the gay away, but that only lead me to severe
depression. So finally, when I was 20 years
old, I started the process of separating myself
from the religion. This wasn't because I didn't
believe the teachings, it was because I wasn't
emotionally able to live a lifetime of loneliness
that would come with denying myself love to
remain faithful to those teachings. In my exit,
I lost almost everyone in my life. The feeling
of loneliness was crushing. I still had all of
these indoctrinations but with no friends and
family, and no preparation for the real world.
Over time I started meeting new and wonderful people whom, much to my surprise,
genuinely cared about me. I realized that not
everything outside of the religion is bad, like
I had been taught my whole life. I met people
who liked me for all of me. I didn't have to hide
any major parts of myself to keep them around.
They didn't love me despite my sexuality, they
loved me because it's part of what made me.
I had finally met people who taught me what
it was like to be loved unconditionally. And
with time and love comes healing.
When I received that phone call from my
doctor in 2015, I had spent 13 years rebuilding
myself, and I was in the happiest place I had
ever been in my life. The long battle of fighting
the emotional issues that came with leaving
the religion was mostly over! I stopped feeling
that part of me was wrong. I had dismantled
almost all the deeply indoctrinated fears that
haunted me for years after leaving. I stopped
having nightmares about Armageddon (mostly). And I had a tribe of people that supported
and loved me fiercely. I had worked hard and
got a good and secure job. I had a boyfriend I
had been with for over four years. I wanted to
marry him and spend the rest of my life making
a family with him. I was good, I was happy! I
was living the life I had built for myself despite
my upbringing.
Hearing the word cancer was not part of
what I had prepared myself for during my
road from the religion to my happiness. I was
not prepared for the old wounds that would be
reopened and the emotions that came along
with them. I hadn't revisited enough of my
relationship with spirituality to have a clear
view of what happens if I die. I didn't have
a hope for the future like I used to. I used to

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ELEPHANTSANDTEA.COM
DECEMBER 2020

know that when I died, it was just a quicker
way into paradise. I would be resurrected and
find happiness all around me ... now what
would happen?
For the first couple of months I could hold
these thoughts at bay because I was in survival
mode. I had to meet with a surgeon. I had to
have and recover from the surgery. I had endocrinologist appointments. I had treatment.
I had follow ups. I had scans. I had no time to
fall into an existential crisis. But then one day
I heard the words, " no evidence of disease. "
And just like that, I wasn't actively fighting to
stay alive anymore. I was just living... and left
processing these thoughts and fears.
As I mentioned earlier, for me the hardest
part of my cancer journey was when it was
" over " (although, it's never truly over). I hadn't
been prepared to face my own mortality and
all of the baggage that came with it. I had an
amazing life that was fractured by this diagnosis. Now I had to navigate this new status
of being a survivor and get back to myself, my
fears and the emotional trauma.
I endured a lot of soul searching. While I
had no intention of returning to a religion that
would only accept me if I denied myself love,
I couldn't prohibit the thoughts flooding in
of how to reconcile mortality with the lack of
faith. I felt lost and depressed. I had an incredible support system, but I felt like no one in my
life at the time truly understood this feeling.

In early 2016, I met Stephanie Scoletti
while doing some volunteer work. I still had
a very visible incision site on my neck, and
she approached me asking if I was a survivor.
She let me know that she ran a young adult
cancer support group and invited me to join.
I didn't know if I was a " support group kind
of person, " but I was so broken that I decided
to give it a shot.
The first night I showed up to the group,
everything changed. I sat around the table
and watched in awe as these incredibly strong,
beautiful souls shared their story with me--a
stranger. Much to my surprise, they faced so
many of the same emotional issues that I was
carrying. Most of them dealt with the same depression and fears post-treatment. They hadn't
all come from strict religious backgrounds, but
they all had their own versions of my story. I
had never felt less alone.
This is the day I can pinpoint that I went from
feeling completely lost to seeing a light at the
end of the tunnel. The amount of healing that
happened to me in that first night was immeasurable. My boyfriend watched me leave the
house as someone who would spontaneously
break down crying out of confusion and return
home with a light in my eyes from a reignited
hope that I hadn't felt for a long time. I didn't
know how to reconcile all of my fears and emotions, but I now knew that I had found a new
tribe of people who would love and support

I met people who liked me for all of me.
I didn't have to hide any major parts of
myself to keep them around. They didn't love me
despite my sexuality, they loved me
because it's part of what made me.


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Elephants And Tea - December 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Elephants And Tea - December 2020

Contents
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - Cover1
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - Cover2
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 1
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - Contents
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 3
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 4
Elephants And Tea - December 2020 - 5
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