I Barely Believe It Myself

As you know, when I was in Charleston, I stayed on the top floor of the hotel, which, was not very tall, but for me, was way high up.  And the elevator had a glass back.  When you got into the elevator, you could see clear down into the courtyard below.

On the last day, when I rode the elevator for the last time, I watched out the back, as I decended five stories.  It was scary, but more thrilling than scary.

And then this–this week has been mildly terrible on almost every front.  I guess you could probably tell by the enthusiasm with which I plunged into learning about my dead relatives.  I needed a task I could enjoy and make progress on.  Anyway, yesterday, I was all like “I will leave this place and treat myself to sushi for lunch.”  And so I walked down the stairs and out the door.

It took me a while because my fucking ankle was all “Oh, it’s going to get cold.  It might rain.  I can’t work under these circumstances,” but the whole time I was walking down the steps, I was thinking about how stupid it was that my ankle, which is perfectly capable of bending, would choose now not to.

When I got to the bottom, I thought about how last year, when the elevator broke, I had to call the Professor to come and get me because I was too terrified to walk down the stairs.  Not just terrified, but you know, in a complete and full-blown anxiety attack where the body just was not going to do it.

I mention all this because there is no reason for the change, except that the giant cocktail of chemicals that is my body is getting massively reshuffled because we’re treating this PCOS shit.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not fearless or anything, suddenly.  It’s just that I’m afraid differently, where it seems to be in my head and not a complete, whole body meltdown.

It’s hard for me to explain, and so I don’t try as often as I should, how different I feel.

And yet, I feel like there’s something important in this experience that is necessary to impart.  Before, I did not feel abnormal.  There were some things going on with my body I didn’t like, but I figured that everyone has those things.  Being in my body, I didn’t usually think “Oh my god, this whole thing is just not normal!”

I just thought that I wasn’t trying hard enough, that I had, in fact, rejected trying hard enough in preference to not making myself miserable.

I mean, okay, here’s two examples.  1.  Planting the daffodils.  All in all, I probably spent four hours planting daffodils.  Previously, the minute I stopped moving–probably the first time I plopped down in the grass next to the dog to take a rest–it would have been very unpleasant.  I would have felt bad and then sore and I would have put off digging the rest of the bulbs.  If I had managed to plant them all, I would have come inside, sat on the couch, and fallen asleep.  Not “Oh, I’m going to take a nap” but dozed off without choice.  When I got to bed, I would have slept, but been very conscious of how much my muscles really, really hurt.

This time, I planted the daffodils, rolled around on the ground with the dog, planted more daffodils, watched some tv, went to bed, certainly felt like every muscle was kind of humming and resorting inself, but it wasn’t painful.  It wasn’t really unpleasant.

2.  Walking around Charleston.  The Wednesday I was in Charleston, I walked around all day.  I walked around the city.  I walked around the conference.  I walked around the hotel.  Walk walk walk.  Previously, if I’d done that, not only would my feet be killing me, but I would ache all over and be exhausted and wiped out for the rest of the day, if not also the next.

But now, all I noticed was that my feet hurt–probably because I need new sneakers.

And I’m not in better shape than I was before.  I haven’t walked the dog since this summer because I didn’t want to exaserbate her knee and now she’s not supposed to walk until the end of December.  And I certainly haven’t gone out walking at 5:30 in the morning without her.

But how my body works is clearly slowly changing.

In ways, this whole thing annoys me.  I am still annoyed that we didn’t catch it earlier.  I am still annoyed that my being fat was always, always seen as a problem that reflected poorly on me as a person and not a symptom of a pretty damn major problem with how my body was working.

And, I am a little scared, too, which I know is corny to admit, but realizing, for instance, that my great paralyzing fear of heights–not the fear itself, but my body’s over-the-top reaction to it–which had gotten noticeably and progressively worse might be tied into this and could be alleviated just by tweaking some chemicals in my body… well, it makes me wonder how much of what I think is fundimentally me is open to radical revision based on slight chemical changes?

Is there some core B. or is there not?

Sometimes I’m afraid that there’s not.  That this thing called B. is just what organizes around a collection of stimuli and chemically directed responses and that change can come not just through a change in stimuli but even though a change in my chemical make-up.

I know that’s true.

I’m just having a hard time, if that is true, reconciling it with my belief that there is something fundimentally and recognizeably B. That, if you knew me when I was 15 and met me again when I was 85, there’d still be something there that told you that was me.

But maybe there’s not.

I don’t know.

Maybe the revisions can include wholesale rewrites.

6 thoughts on “I Barely Believe It Myself

  1. Hi Aunt B.,

    I, for one, am so happy for you that you feel like you, both mind and body, are reacting to the world in a way that is more comfortable for you. Knowing a few women with PCOS, the difference between before and after diagnosis/treatment has been stunning to watch. But stunning in a good way. In a “so glad to see you coming back to yourself”, or “becoming more yourself”, kind of way. Never in a “what the hell happened to B.?” kind of way.

    As a medicated person, I know that the pills that correct my chemistry make me more relaxed in my own skin and more able to enjoy and appreciate the world around me. But they haven’t taken away my personality. I’m still me, still a little neurotic, still a little crazy, still compassionate, warm and fuzzy, and the kind of girl who wears her heart on her sleeve – those things will never change. And the fundamentals of you, of Aunt B., were never based in a fear of heights, or a lack of energy. You always wanted to be on the grass rolling around with Mrs. W. Now you have fewer obstacles in the way of enjoying that.

    OK, sorry for the long rant. I’m just ridiculously happy for you.

    Yay modern medicine!

  2. Do you remember when I told you about my recent ridiculous mood swings? That I was both looking at my feelings and saying “that’s not me at all, and I know why this is happening but there’s nothing I can do but wait it out” and at the same time still feeling anger, remorse, impending doom, whatever it happened to be that day? Well, you’re sort of having the opposite experience, I think. The core B is still there, watching your own changes going on and figuring them out, but it sounds as if (hurray!) they won’t be jerking your body around any longer. Kathleen is right; this is just letting you be yourself more directly.

  3. Yes, what kathleen said:

    “Knowing a few women with PCOS, the difference between before and after diagnosis/treatment has been stunning to watch. But stunning in a good way. In a “so glad to see you coming back to yourself”, or “becoming more yourself”, kind of way. Never in a “what the hell happened to B.?” kind of way.”

    You don’t realize how far away you’ve gotten until you’re headed back, I guess. Or at least that’s been my experience.

  4. Aunt B,
    I understand your questioning of the origin of your feeling of self (Kramer’s book Listening to Prozac takes this question up, too), and also your feeling that there is an essential B in there. I have the same kind of feeling about post modernism–I want to agree with the idea of the relational self but for reasons of my past that have to do with not being allowed to assert a self of my own I feel quite strongly that I have an individual self, too. I’ve recently found myself resolving, not resolving the idea but resolving myself, with help from the Eskimo concept of the inua, the small self that persists throughout shapeshifting. Maybe we’re always ever just a collection of hormones and chemical responses, but I need other ways to think about that, and the inua helps.

  5. Oh, College Professor, for reasons I’m just too tired to get into, I needed more than anything to read your comment, both because I love that idea of a small, persisting self, no matter what the change and to be reminded that being broken apart is a normal part of the process of transformation.

  6. You can find online some wonderful examples of eskimo sculpture with the inua represented as a small face peeping somewhere on the animal/human. Glad my comment came at the right time.

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