So those of you who have been following along at home already know that this has been a trying time for me. The second half of last year was marked by one of the most intense depressive episodes I’ve ever experienced. The migraines I’ve dealt with for years have become increasingly debilitating, forcing me to cancel travel and alter my work schedule and I was diagnosed with a (small, benign) brain tumor – on paper it looks kind of absurd. The other thing that has been going on during all of this has been an injury that has affected my back/hip. It started last September and, really, I considered it a back-burner issue compared to the other things. Actually, in a roundabout way, it helped us figure out some really helpful stuff about the depression and migraines. I did all the exercising to support the surrounding parts of the body that I know from my trainer days and figured it would resolve itself and go away- it hasn’t. It’s actually just gotten worse.
A recent MRI gave us an answer and it is a complicated one. This isn’t completely new territory for me- this is actually the mirror image of an injury I had in my late twenties that affected the other side of my body and went on for YEARS. It’s nerve-based pain that is affecting my low back, hip and entire left leg. Luckily I have an awesome doctor and we’re working on it. As I keep saying with all the medical stuff that’s going on, I’m in good hands (the depression stuff is actually significantly better- as evidenced by the fact that I’m not sobbing constantly). Long term, I think it will be fine.
Right now though, I can’t find me. Like, at all. The “me” I know is missing.
What do I mean? Well, let’s take a look at “me” as I know her:
“Me” likes to walk places and takes the dog out for an hour every morning. Right now we barely make it around the block.
“Me” loves her cute dresses. Right now I fit into almost none of my clothes because of the months of not walking and the side-effects of the particular meds I’m taking to try to be in less pain.
“Me” has awesome hair. Right now maintaining hair is just not a thing.
“Me” is probably coming of kind off vain here. Right now I give zero fucks if folks think less of me for that. Yes, there is a way that I feel the most like me, I recognize it and am not going to pretend it’s not a thing.
“Me” has lots of awesome sex with the cute boy. Right now any type of movement is a crapshoot – I frequently end up frozen in agony. Sex, is not the most fun -hell, I can barely test toys (I owe folks so many reviews…).
“Me” loves her work, has multiple projects going at any given time and is super-excited for new collaborations. Right now I get maybe one thing done a day and then watch a lot of television (also weird for me)
“Me” doesn’t watch much television. Right now I’m binge-watching creepy police procedural dramas – which is bad for me on several levels.
“Me” is fairly patient. Right now I’m just not fit for human interaction.
“Me” feels attractive. Right now the aforementioned medication side effects have left me puffy and broken out, I’m limping, my hair is gross and generally I feel invisible.
“Me” likes her house to feel like her refuge. Right now it’s gross, the lack of mobility has left it an utter mess. I hate it.
“Me” is reliable, a woman of her word. Right now I can’t be depended on to follow through with anything. I cancel things, I don’t finish things. My brain is so clouded by pain I just can’t do it.
“Me” has confidence, swagger if you will. Right now I feel like a version of me from many years ago who wants to apologize for existing.
It was the confidence thing I noticed first. Back in November I was at a party, talking to a man I find attractive and found myself feeling a feeling I recognized from my younger years- the feeling that says “The idea of relating sexually here is absurd- this man could never see me that way”. I know that in the last couple of years I have been pretty good at feeling out conversations with sexy folk and doing the communicating that often leads to the making out. Here that felt like something strictly for “normal” people. For years that was how I saw myself- some kind of “other”. I was convinced that if I attempted to connect with men they would find the idea somewhere between funny and absurd. It wasn’t until a couple of years back that I emerged from that and found myself relating to the world as a sexual being. I think it’s no coincidence that that emergence coincided with me feeling healthy, attractive and in control of my life.
Right now I feel none of those things.
Lest you think this post is entirely devoted to a pity party for me, there is a broader point as well. I had a conversation a few weeks back about how society tends to desexualize… well, anyone who isn’t completely able-bodied and it’s true. We are tend to look at people with disabilities as not having sexuality and when people suffer injuries or illnesses we tend to amplify the already prevalent message that sex isn’t very important by telling them things like “isn’t your health more important?” – as if it’s impossible to be a sexual individual working towards health. I’ve been kind of poking at this idea as I’ve been researching the sex and depression book but I’m hugely aware of it right now. I feel stripped of my sexuality – something that I struggled so long to get in touch with in the first place. Additionally, I feel stripped of most of the parts of me I’m proud of. My work ethic, my intelligence, my reliability, my body (yes, I know, “all bodies are beautiful”, “put a bikini on your body” etc – I like the way I usually look and miss it and that’s okay), my humor, my face, my sense of me.
The last time I had this injury it went on for 2+ years before I finally gave in to surgery. By that time I was so broken down that I was embarrassed by myself, I could barely go out in public and I needed my mother to come stay with me so I would get dressed. Waiting so long is one of the biggest regrets of my life. This morning I saw an attractive, able-bodied doctor who (5 months into this injury) said “You need to see this other doctor, but be careful because he may want to operate and really, if you give an injury like this time it should be fine – it may take another year or so”
Right. I don’t have another year or so. Right now I don’t see myself in the mirror. My work is slipping. I really miss sex. Hell, I miss feeling like people would want to have sex with me (apart from the cute boy who tells me he wants to have sex with me all the time because he is amazing and wonderful) I don’t have a year. I’ll be gone by then. I want me back. I feel like I’m fading away. Personally, professionally, sexually… all the ways and I’m scared.
I miss me and I want her back ASAP.