Monday, May 05, 2008


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.


Evil Transport Lady said...

Very well said!

Elizabeth McClung said...

Curious how creating academic papers is always similar to the description of taking a dump. I had the same ability to "push one out" every six days or so.

Ironically, while my ability to read is less, what I had lost a week or two before my siezure came back, the ability to read aloud. It was impossible, I could not read a sentence before, and now I can read a page out loud. The brain is a funny place.

It turns out while I talk a big change game, when it comes to things like....well, me. I like things to be sort of regular, even if that means passing out every other day - that is SOME sort of consistancy, so I will hang until what is new becomes what is me. If that makes any sense.

yanub said...

Evil Lunch Lady, thanks. I bet you are nice at heart, even if you do boil the brocolli until it looks like the cauliflower.

Elizabeth, you make perfect sense to me. That means that either you really are making sense, or that we are both asea on an ocean of nonsense. Take your pick.

The loss of the ability to communicate in academic-ese has been hard, since it happened as I was trying to write what somehow still passed for my dissertation. It was really rough going, since I could barely string a sentence together at the time. Now I find I can write, just not on what I spent years practicing. Once I stopped trying to go back to what I was, and started actively being who I am, things got much better. As you say, "hang on until what is new becomes what is me."