Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Not Me

After I got home from the hospital after my left thyroid lobectomy, I had a profound sense of not feeling like myself. Part of the reason for this was the way in which my body was controlled by others for the duration of my stay. Being in the hospital is not entirely dissimilar to being in prison. You can't leave until someone decides to let you go. People tell you to stay in your room, what you can do, where you can go, and what you can eat. They even watch and ask about every little thing you do including your ability to walk, talk, and what happens when you go to the bathroom.

Is it any wonder that I feel a bit disassembled as well when bits of me have been cut out and taken elsewhere. I believe that the body is an integrated whole which carries energy in every cell. When a part of it is damaged or removed, there is an energy disruption. The body knows something is gone and the energy flow has been altered. This is part of Chinese medicine, but it is also scientifically supported by problems like phantom limbs in which people still feel pain in now missing arms or legs. 

That being said, upon returning home, I was flooded with more profound feelings about losing parts of myself. I've written many times about the loss of identity that comes with losing weight and part of that is leaving behind the guarded, apprehensive, or restricted person that I was. When I was heavier, I avoided medical treatment. Subjecting myself to tests and then surgery "is not me". This behavior is outside of my character and I hadn't sought any treatment for about a decade, let alone had routine testing. My character is one in which I do not seek attention unless I have a problem. 

Just before entering the hospital, my husband and I went to a movie theater for the first time in over 20 years because I could now sit in a theater seat without fear of fitting or spilling into someone else's chair. We enjoyed the movie and it was a nice time, but, again, going to movies "is not me." I watch DVDs from the comfort and safety of my own home where I don't have to worry about how much space is allotted for my behind.

Yesterday, I went to a supermarket to do some routine shopping and, since it is near the holidays, there were a lot of kids around. One aisle that I wanted to walk through had three noisy kids around the ages of 8-11 jumping around looking at candy. I paused for a moment and felt a sense of apprehension. In the past, every time I saw a kid, I would try and avoid being seen because children were ruthless about making comments, staring, or saying rude things about my nearly 400-lb. body. As I stood at the end of the aisle, I realized I could walk down it without concern for mockery. I walked through and the kids didn't react to my presence. Again, walking by children without fear "is not me."

Over the past year in particular, there has been a huge transformation in how I live my daily life from small things to big things. I allow my picture to be taken and posted on Facebook. I eat in restaurants. I talk about eating and enjoying sweets without feeling self-conscious. People treat me as if I were just another person rather than some freak show to be handled carefully and with amusement. I walk for hours without pain or fear of future pain. I go to social gatherings without fear of embarrassment. I eat without guilt, but with self-control and moderation. My sister-in-law showed my picture to an acquaintance of hers and she went on and on about how "beautiful" I was. Honestly, I look in the mirror now and I don't know who that person is. I don't see her as me. 

This all sounds great, but, it is not me. People treat weight loss and lifestyle alteration as if everything were just one gain in quality of life after another, but I sometimes feel as if I am a big patchwork quilt with certain patterns and squares that have been a part of me for years and now a great many of them are being torn out and replaced. 

It doesn't matter that the new squares and patterns are nicer, prettier, and easier to live with. It is still disconcerting and makes me feel very separated from myself and not know who I am. A long time ago, I wrote about how I needed my husband so badly because he was a tether to who I was as my life became transformed and I've come a long way since then, but I still feel that he is the only one who knows "me" for what I really am. And I need him to tell me who that is because it's getting harder and harder for me to understand who I am with everything that has changed. 

It's not that I was my limits before, but rather that the type of person I was became defined by those limits both mentally and physically. I wasn't someone who willfully went out among other people and was a homebody because the cost emotionally and physically was too high. Social timidity and an avoidance of crowds were a part of me. I wasn't someone who spent money on clothes and restaurants, because there was no joy in such pursuits due to the emotional costs and uncertainty. Frugality and restraint with sensory experiences were a part of me because of my limits. I wasn't someone who allowed her picture to be taken or posted them willfully for others to see. My disgust with my weight and appearance made me humble and modest and banished all notions of vanity. 

I could go on and on, but the point is that my limits shaped my character and losing those limits is reshaping my sense of self. This isn't as hard a situation as some of my earlier identity struggles, but I still sometimes feel like I'm inside the "wrong" body and living the "wrong" life. I feel like I'm really not "me" anymore, and it's disconcerting. I have no desire to return to who I was, but I'm absolutely not sure of who I am. This will take more time and adjustment. 

1 comment:

Norma said...

We all are, always, works in progress...IF we keep growing and learning and affecting or allowing change within ourselves. Keep moving forward! :)