Whenever I travel….I like to bring back two things from my trip. A refrigerator magnet and a coffee mug.
Mike was looking at the magnets in Reykjavik and asked if I preferred the one that just said, “Iceland” or the one that said “I Survived Iceland.” I chose the latter.
Now, don’t get me wrong, this trip has been on my bucket list for like forever…..and it was as other people said it would be.
This trip stretched me. Mostly good, but on a few days, in harrowing ways, that almost left me in tears. In a few moments I felt such fear…that it took me back to being first diagnosed with cancer, and that bothered me. I knew I had to confront the why? Why, when I thought I was such an adventurer, was I experiencing this overwhelming FEAR. Even climbing MT. Whitney, didn’t scare me.
So I came home, and needed to reflect and take a break and crochet.
(Crafting and making art for me, slows me down and helps me put things in order, in my mind. Its my therapy. )
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I have read and heard about other cancer survivors, thrivers, metsters, suffering from this disturbance, BUT I would never have put myself in that category. I have always prided myself with being one that can pull up her big girl pants and move on…..one who can challenge herself to rise above every situation, who can fly in the face of adversity, one who stands above.
In Iceland, within a matter of 15 minutes, you can experience every weather pattern imaginable.
From wind that could possibly rip your car door off (they have rental car insurance for this….not kidding), to sun, snow, sleet and hail.
And it was at one particular moment, that I found myself frozen in fear, that even my husband asked what was wrong with me.
The north side of the island, is for the most part, considered dangerous to drive to in the fall, winter and most of spring, because of the snow and rapidly changing weather conditions. Unless of course you have a 4×4. We were warned several times about traveling to the north side of the island, encouraged to be extra cautious, making sure to have gas and food, because there are long stretches of road where there are NO services at all. And with only 325,000 people living in Iceland…..NO people either.
This picture above was taken at an adorable fishing village, Djupivogur. We stopped there to pick up a few groceries, visit the WC – (bathroom in Icelandic) and we met an adorable old man whom we talked to for awhile about the history of Iceland. (I’ll write about that another time)
After our time there, we got back on the RING ROAD (1), and started heading towards the north island. I was really excited because on the north island, is where you get to see the puffins and the whales….and just maybe a polar bear that has floated over from Greenland on an runaway iceberg. (well it can happen, the polar bear thing)
And within minutes, this was the driving the conditions we encountered. FOR HOURS!!!
And this was not even the worst of it.
There were many lengths of “white out” conditions and I became paralyzed in fear. I felt claustrophobic, had to catch my breath on several moments, didn’t know what was ahead, because I couldn’t see a damn thing and there was nothing else to do but keep driving because the town we were staying at, was still like 100km away, and there was nothing…….N.O.T.H.I.N.G else around but snow and mountains.
All of a sudden, I didn’t care about seeing puffins and whales. I just wanted to stop and curl up in ball and know I was safe.
We made it the first day to the town of Akureyri, found a wonderful campground to stay at. Met a cute young couple from Alberta Canada……but the next day, when I knew we had to get back on the road and the ranger told us the weather conditions still not the best, my only thought was…..”GET ME TO SOMEWHERE I CAN SEE THE SKY.” I even asked the ranger this question…..at what point on this map, is the snow going to stop.
I still wanted to see some whales, so we headed to the town of Siglufjordur where we took this photo, had a bakery good,coffee and wondered what the heck the young people did here for fun? The town has an avalanche wall built around it for protection from yep….avalanches. It sits right at the base of the mountain and at the foot of the ocean.
We saw no whales. The weather was too bad.
I took over driving and we needed to make a decision on what road to take. I pulled to the side of the road, and asked Mike if we had enough gas to get us to our next destination. He confidently said yes….but I was already unnerved because the route we chose would once again take us through the mountains and we had no idea what the conditions would be like.
I wanted to cry. I know, it sounds ridiculous… I was so overcome with fear of the unknown and not feeling safe, even with my husband in the car with me, that it triggered every traumatic experience I have had in the past few years. I sat in the car and all of those moments coursed through my veins. Mike even asked….”WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?” I didn’t know other than, I wanted to jump out of the car and run.
We hit another snow storm.
I drove slow. VERY s.l.o.w.
and I wanted to cry.
My hands gripping the steering wheel so hard that I gave myself cramps in my fingers.
But I needed to get through it. I needed to confront the fear.
And so for about 40km……I relived my most traumatic experiences that had to do with fear of the unknown…..almost losing a house, marriage infidelity, cancer diagnosis’s, hospitalizations, and sepsis. It was the longest drive of my life, and I will never forget being paralyzed by it.
I was so relieved to reach the town of Blondous.
I came home, knowing I needed to brave what happened on that part of the trip. Road 744 will always be emblazoned in my mind.
So I have been honestly asking myself some tough questions about healing and forgiveness and trust and depression, about anxiety and living positive, about relationships and social media, about advocacy, cancer, and being authentically me.
I also came home and put myself back on my anti depressant. I didn’t think I needed it anymore.
I am still reflecting on what happened on that road, and making changes in certain areas of my life.
I deleted half of my Facebook following first thing, and will probably do more in the next month.
And I am making changes on my role in cancer advocacy. (another blog post in and of itself.)
Journey’s ebb and flow.
Mine seems to do so every year.
And sometimes I think that I am this bouncing ball that can never stay in one place…..but no, what I am is growing and understanding who I am.
I am living authentically Lesley, as I go one on one with myself to dig deeper.
As far as PTSD, I am not sure that is the correct diagnosis, as I have only felt this way one other time…..but it is worth a conversation with my oncologist next week.
I will be posting about the rest of our trip to Iceland.