Sudden loss of self. I suppose that’s how I would describe it, though it’s not quite sufficient. But I’m at a loss to explain, in any better capacity, the lack of identity I’ve been experiencing for close to a month, now.
Initially, I came down with the flu. Two days later, I found myself in the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. Only it wasn’t your textbook case of appendicitis; they found I also had an infection – my appendix were gangrene. I was told that had it gone on much longer, the outcome could have been very different. In other words, I very likely would not have been writing this today. A slightly elongated (and entirely miserable) hospital stay followed the surgery, and I came home four long days later; shaken, weakened, in pain, and utterly changed.
Fear became my nemesis. I was afraid to sleep, afraid to eat, afraid to move. Afraid to fully face how tenuous and fragile life really was, perhaps. I couldn’t help but feel I got lucky; I got a second chance, somehow. Maybe I was afraid to really embrace what that meant. In addition to the psychological delay, there was also a physical lag; my body simply did not respond the way I was used to. The combination created quite the unexpected hurdle to climb as I stumbled through my recovery, bit by bit. I slowly learned to check my expectations at the door, and start taking things one day at a time; a difficult thing to do when all I wanted was to feel even remotely like myself again.
Sometime later I went out in the world, literally, for the first time in three weeks. I felt like an imposter in my own body. Fifteen pounds lighter, not fully healed; my pants were too large, my rings loose, my frame moved differently. I walked delicately, afraid to step wrongly, afraid to fall. Fear rearing its head, again. Sitting at a table in Panera, eating alone, I was exhausted. I wanted nothing more than to be safe in the familiarity of my living room, on my couch, resting. But that was my goal for the day, to venture. To exist. To be in the world. Not only that, I had to start increasing my mobility. So that day, my objective was to go out, even if it was only briefly. Venture. Be human. Breathe air. Move. It required more effort than you might think…but I succeeded.
As I did the next day, and the day after that. Although there have been small unexpected setbacks along the way to navigate through. My body is still a bit of a foreigner to me. It still looks different; my frame, and even my face, staring back at me in the mirror. The woman I see is changed, sharper around the edges. She is more cautious, less trusting, mostly of herself; not as brave. Not yet fully reclaimed.
But she hasn’t given up; she is still moving forward. Maybe she just needs a little more time to learn how to move in this new self; or maybe it’s more about learning who this new self really is. I don’t think you can go through something like this and not really be changed by it, can you? Maybe it’s less about reclaiming, and more about rediscovery.
I’m not sure yet, of the answer. I’ll let you know when I figure it all out…but really, whoever does?