Who is this new me?

I don’t know her.

That’s probably the most disconcerting thing.  You become comfortable with the way things are.  You feel like you know yourself, even if you don’t necessary like it.  You learn your strengths and weaknesses.  You learn your abilities and make decisions about which abilities you can realistically develop.  What happens when a large chunk of that gets blown away?

I’m finding that the ways I have defined myself no longer “work.”  I’m not the competent one, not the arm of strength, not the reliable one, not the smart one.  The extraordinary focus that helped accomplish my cherished goals appears to be slipping away.  What am I without these traits and skills?  Who am I?

The concept that the worth of a person isn’t based on what they can do, their accomplishments, what they contribute to society, their winning personality, their intelligence, their abilities or disabilities… that’s a concept I believe in – at least in theory.  You don’t realize how much you rely on these things to define yourself until somehow they don’t apply anymore.  You get comfortable with yourself.  You forget that underneath it all, we’re all the same.

Strip away the intelligence, the skills, the abilities, the character flaws, the good, the evil, the individual experiences and everything else that makes you “you.”  Underneath that all perhaps there is something valuable that we all share – maybe that’s what should define us rather than all the stuff layered on top.

Awesome philosophy in the abstract.  When it hits you too close to home, it just isn’t the same kind of fun.

It’s not that I’ve become severely disabled.  I’m just not the way I used to be.  It’s disconcerting.  It’s confusing.  It’s easy to get worked up about it, catastrophize, wonder if I have to say goodbye to so much I appreciated about myself.  I understand that there might be a new, happier, more comfortable way to be, a way to become more comfortable in my own skin and more accepting of the world around me.  I can hope for that, but it doesn’t stop the grieving.

When Jhaleah was born, of course life changed.  My body changed, my hormones, the functioning of my brain changed.  I expected that.  And I expected it would eventually return to normal.  I thought I’d get through the hormornal storm, gain back the brain cells pregnancy tends to briefly remove, and become some semblance of myself, albeit with a different lifestyle.

That didn’t happen.  Jhaleah is about to turn three years old, and although there’s enough here to signal people that I’m essentially the same person, underneath it all, sometimes I don’t recognize myself.  My brain doesn’t work the way it did.  I have trouble concentrating, I forget things at rapid rates (although if I concentrate really hard, I can usually bring it back), I stumble around inefficiently because I can’t keep my mind focused on one task long enough to get it done and move on to the next thing.  When I have a moment of free time, a deluge of thoughts come rushing on me with ideas about how I might like to send my time.  Far from being a kid in a candy store of ideas, I can get completely paralyzed by this process.

And then there are the mood swings.  I’ve always been “spirited” you might say (although some people call it being a bitch, and others call it being a cheerleader).  I’m sure there have been plenty of times where my extreme reactions have driven people crazy.  (Don’t agree with me, just stay with me… I don’t need validation on this one.)  While I had some trouble before pregnancy, I never had the rage.  I never had the pain that left me sitting in the shower crying.  Sure, I was crabby.  I was irritable.  That was no fun, I assure you.  I felt I got that pretty well under control.  Then this.

Those things happened months ago.  They’ve been in hiding long enough that I’m not so afraid of them anymore.  They just came and went so quickly.  Talk about Dr. Jeckyl and Ms. Hyde.  I never knew when to expect them… but it’s been a while, and I’m reassured by that.  Pharmacological help is good, even if it’s not the entire answer.  No, not even close to the goal of healthy and happy… just a way to clear your head enough so that you can move toward healthy and happy.

Maybe my only goal for my life at this point should be to take care of me and mine, and most importantly, to find some peace and joy.  I want to let my light shine.  I want it to come out of my pores.

I’ve been distressed lately that I can’t seem to handle working full-time.  I’ve been pushing at my boss to let me come back full-time.  So far, he’s said no.  I could really, really, really use the money.  But this period of full-time to cover my vacationing colleage for 6 weeks is starting to wear me down.  I find I’m starting to shut down and feel paralyzed again.  All I can do is work and collapse, work and collapse.

Feelings of self-recrimination are difficult to avoid.  I look around me and see all the busy people – the single moms, the people going and going all weekend.  I wonder why I can’t do it.  I compare myself to them, and I compare myself to the way I used to be, the things I used to be able to do happily.  I’m starting to realize the folly in comparing myself to others, or even to my past self.  I’m clearly not there anymore.  This is where the grief comes in.  As much of a pain in the ass she was, I loved her, love parts of her anyway.  I was comfortable with her, even if I didn’t like her all the time.  If underneath all our experiences, personalities and traits, we are all the same… well, I feel like someone’s flicking crumbs off the top of my muffin.  I can’t help but respond, “HEY!! WTF?!”  Maybe it’s the same flavor underneath, maybe it still tastes good, but it doesn’t look the same.  It doesn’t feel the same.

I occurs to me that perhaps there is something about myself that I’ve missed up to this point.  Maybe I missed it through my school years, through my college years… I can see now that I’ve probably always had these issues to a degree that didn’t feel crippling to me.  I can give it a name, I can get a diagnosis, I can see how it runs in my family.  I never recognized how much of a disability it could be.  It doesn’t matter what you call it – I need to accept that it’s not going away and learn to work around it.  Learn to find the power that it can give me.  It’s not all bad.  It’s just different.  Different than I thought I was.

It’s a whole new me.  Unexplored terrain.

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