I've been planning on writing on the topic of identity for some time now. With Elizabeth going through the repercussions of a serious seizure, I think maybe now would be a good time. So, Elizabeth, this is for you.
Back in the late 1980s, I could write up a storm. I could read a dense academic book, cover to cover, in one weekend, and push out 10 or more pages of coherent prose about it. I can't do that anymore. What happened? I had a major, protracted period of depression, and emerged from it different than I was. Different, but not worse. I now can't read dense prose without falling asleep, and have to reread pages, repeatedly, if I am sidetracked at all. I struggle to keep focus in writing, to have a consistent thesis or even theme. But like I said, I'm not worse for the changes. I also used to be dysthymic and anxious. Now, no, not really. I can't remember the last time I panicked or spent the day in tears. My brain has re-wired. There have been trade-offs, but I am not displeased with the new me. While it has taken me a while to accept myself as I am now, I do indeed accept me. And I never did before.
MD used to read 500 pages in a day. She was such a voracious reader that she reviewed books just to have them sent to her. She'd get a dozen a month, and still be borrowing books from everyone and every library. Then she went into what was essentially a year-long seizure. She also finds herself falling asleep while reading, which she never used to do before, so her reading speed has slowed down to maybe 300 pages a day, which is nearly half what it once was. But, she tells me, there has been a trade. She now vividly dreams what she has read, in such detail and color that she prefers her new ability to the old one.
We change all the time. The changes can be outward--stretch marks, loss of strength, loss of bits and pieces. They can be inward, with loss of mental agility or even new gifts to replace the lost old. We are shifting, never the same. The idea of self as static must give way to the idea of the fluid self, pouring over the terrain of life, adapting to whatever environment we find. Here we are fresh and clear and bubbling. Here we are constrained, dark, and deep. Here we flow underground, and there we re-emerge as a spring. The important thing is to keep flowing, and we each find our ways of doing so.