My name is Jessica, and I'm not going to shut up anymore.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Getting to Zero: Thoughts on Recovery

"To let go is to admit powerlessness. Which means: the outcome is not in my hands."
I am not a god. Or goddess. I cannot see into the future or predict Michelle Obama's next fabulous outfit. But sometimes--in the dark, secret moments of night--I wish so badly that I could see into the future. Into the infinite possibility of tomorrow.

Because then, maybe I could figure out how to be an endometriosis success. Maybe with this knowledge, I could help myself get out of the negative cycle of feeling good/feeling bad/feeling better/feeling worse. Maybe I might know how to recover.
Recovery. There's a tricky thing to say. I once wrote a short story about recovery post surgery:

"If only I could recover here. Recovery. Recover. Re-cover. To find something I have lost. Overy. Over. . . I split word and morpheme to make meaning, my own. Recovery: to choose sorrow or separate yourself from it."
For a few months after surgery, I found myself in a precarious position. I was not sick. I was not in pain. I wasn't overly tired or consumed by overwhelming nausea. I was...okay. After living for almost eight months of feeling like I had a knife stuck in my uterus, I finally found myself opening up, body and mind, to the single, perfect feeling of "relief." I was recovering. What we don't tell ourselves after we begin a regimen of health consciousness is that we'll someday feel better. And when we do feel better, it's like the world has been reopened to us, blooming in full like apple blossoms in springtime. 
So here is my question: Why did I feel so depressed after recovering? Why did I choose not to separate myself from the sorrow of feeling victim to my own body? Here's why: When you recover, your life changes again. You begin to feel like the need to be a social hermit is minimized. You begin to realize that you can make dinner plans. That you can stomach dessert. That you can have fun and live your life again. AGAIN. Meaning: you have to introduce yourself to this "new" person--this new you--who is learning how to reorient and renegotiate social boundaries all. Over. Again. And it's hard!
Not to "boo hoo," of course, but I feel like getting back to Zero has been a rough road. I say "zero," meaning that when I feel at Zero, I am at a zero on the pain scale. You know, the scale that literally ruled my existence for the better part of a year. It's tough to reside in a place of neutrality when you are so accustomed to the disease and anxiety of your social scale. Being ready to not make plans is a function of stability for a sick person. It's a function of control over a body that is seemingly control-less. Not knowing what to expect becomes a (albeit paradoxical) routine, and feeling like the pain always binds you to the uncertainty of making important life decisions becomes a force of corporeal habitude. In other words: being "above zero" was difficult, but over time it becomes part of your routine. And you adjust to the phenomenology of your body to make illness your 'norm.'
And this is where I suggest, too, that being "less than zero" indicates that I have felt--I can't believe I'm about to say this--a mourning for the illness that, for a time, controlled my life. It's so strange to feel a certain sorrow or sadness for feeling sick, but eventually "being sick" becomes part of your identity. You learn how to be sick because being healthy isn't an option.You begin to view yourself as a sick person rather than seeing the possibilities for yourself as a patient in recovery.
I also want to be clear and mention that, while I was in recovery for a few months, I have recently noticed some "bad" changes. I feel as though I may be headed in the wrong direction. As of the last few weeks, I have started feeling...weird...sick, maybe...again. I've started having bouts of nausea and migraines. I've had a few intermittent experiences of brief--but unbelievable--abdominal pain characteristic to the pain I had felt before. I start to wonder: "Okay, am I regressing and going back to feeling like poop?" To confess, a part of me is almost relieved to feel sick again. A part of me thinks: "At least I know how to function when I'm sick; at least I know what it's like to withdraw from the world."
I write things like this, and then I shake my head--I know that I don't want to be sick! I look at pictures of me from 2009, 2010 and 2011 until I had my hormone therapy. I had so much fun, I looked so healthy, I loved life! I don't want to go back to being a shell of my old self. No, sir. I do not.
So I have to keep thinking positively, yet realistically. Like my initial quote suggests, I cannot control my body; I am (ultimately) powerless to control every facet of its biological function. All the while, there are some things I can do to help myself stay less symptomatic than I was a year ago. Like eat gluten-free/Paleo diet. Or exercise. And meditate. Do yoga. Go to parties. Have parties. Brew beer (but don't drink't drink too much of it!). There are positive ways to help myself get out of this funk and get back to zero! I just have to remember that.
Just to keep it real--not necessarily to end of a negative note--I do still wonder about some things:
I'm worried that my endo will come back. Full force. Worse than before.
I'm worried that when it does come back (ok: IF it comes back), I'll feel too defeated to want to do anything about it.
I know in my bones--also rationally--that I will totally be proactive about treatment. But...if I'm not living up to my own expectations of health (by eating right 90% of the time), how do I stay accountable to myself without a proper network of support? Maybe there are some answers here that can be explored by getting myself involved in more reading, research and outreach.
What if I want (the pain) to come back? What if I liked some of the attention I got from feeling sick? What if I got comfortable being sick and don't want to really change?
I know that this thought comes from a place of apparent uncertainty. Again, I'm keeping it real, people. I admit that I did become rather accustomed to feeling sick, and I did learn to cope with the pain, the nausea, the constipation and peeing all the time (luckily not in my pants). But I only worry that feeling depressed from learning to be "me" again is probably more of a natural reaction than I have previously considered. Perhaps I still have to give myself some time to settle-in to my "new" self. Perhaps I need to learn how to forgive myself for not being the fit, healthy, runner self I was a few years ago.
On that note, I am not really the same person I was a year ago. What if I'm okay with being more introspective and introverted? What if I'm just not ready to run a half marathon again? How can I be "me" again if I'm not really sure who "me" is right now?
Answer: First of all, I'm not the same person I was a year ago. And I mean that more than just on a cursory level. I mean it: my priorities are not the same as they were before. I don't put friends and experiences so high on the prioty list. I'm concentrating on finishing graduate school and my profession. I have to be more introverted to survive my present goals. I have to be more serious about my priorities if I'm trying to advance myself professionally. And, NO: I'm not the same Jess I used to be. I don't party as much. I can't really drink beer. I don't go out as much, and I'm not into smelling like a smoke stack when I get home. Honestly, maybe this experience of illness was a positive thing because I learned how to be "on my own" rather than depending on my social network to energize my batteries. But to be fair to the "old" me, I do miss being social. I miss some of the friendships that I had cultivated, and I see that being introverted really does hurt the stamina of your social relationships. To that end, I'm honest when I say that I'm not sure who "me" is right now. But I'm interested in finding out who that person is --not for the sake of the future or for the legacy of the past. Rather: for today.

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