Saturday, February 2, 2008

These Days Are Dark

These days, they are dark. Menacing and painful, mocking me sometimes about decisions I can't undo even if I wanted to. But I don't. The hardest part about being human, I think, is fully accepting ourselves as we really and truly are. Not the image we see in our heads, not the person we portray to the world at large when we are in full on pretense mode. No not that person with all the bells and whistles and trappings of cultured politeness who says "please" and "thank you" and "how are you? I'm fine" to passersby and coworkers. I'm talking about complete and absolute acceptance of that person who wakes up in the morning and looks like shit, who's hair is a frizzy array of strands made so from a night pushing up against a pillow, that person who's breath is in dire need of Colgate, who's every pore is crying out for cleansing. This raw, unadorned woman that only those we trust most of all get to see (oh lucky "we").

Yes, I believe it is the hardest task to get to that place where we are completely and fully accepting of the thoughts in the head of this person, no matter how dirty or strange or hateful or even good, or sweet, or kind. It is all uphill. But I had finally arrived there, I think, to that point of accepting me, as I truly was, and not always waiting to turn into that version of me that I had always wanted to be, instead. That version of me, which essentially was the best parts of everyone I had ever known combined with the best parts of everyone I had ever read about or saw in a movie or on TV. This undisputable beauty with natural talent at well...everything, who never had to contend with any of the following: body odor, body hair, acne, constipation, PMS, loneliness, liking a person who didn't like her back, being made fun of, being unpopular.

I hope you are bearing with me here, because somewhere in this incoherent tangled twine of words there is a point, I promise. Anyway, I've always hated my body. I've told you all before just how much I hated my body. The ways in which I punished my body just to get through every day living in it. Starving, cutting, burning, loathing, pinching, weighing, cringing, measuring, pushing it to the point of exhaustion, and,(only those of you who have ever had an eating disorder will understand this one), checking.

But as you know, I tried to make peace with it through the years. Through therapy, through finding love, through making love, through discovering there exists such a thing as unconditional, all-encompassing love, through finding out I was love, namely a lovable person (body and soul) who could give it as well as receive it, through getting a kidney stone and enduring a painful surgery, through losing religion and finding God in the process, and then the ultimate turning point - getting pregnant and making a beautiful human life inside of this body, this same body that I'd always hated and tortured so much. I did all these terrible things to my body and yet, despite all I had done, here it had given me this beautiful gift anyway. This healthy, perfectly formed, perfectly wonderful human being. This glorious, miraculous baby girl. And I was awestruck by the fact that - my body did that work. This child, this work of art, was a peace offering. She was the proffered olive branch, my Olivia .(Oh, do you see? )

So we made a truce, sort of. My body and I. I learned to love me, even the parts of me that weren't aesthetically beautiful took on a certain charm. I would never be beautiful. But I was okay with that. I really and truly was. I liked how I looked anyway. It was a nice couple of years. And then it happened. I found out about my BRCA2+ status. My body turned on me, betrayed me. It declared war on me yet again. It forced my hand. I had to make this decision to mutilate myself. I had to do it in order to save myself. Not that I was even worth saving. Self hatred is sneaky that way. It never really fully goes away - it just goes into hiding. And it waits. Oh how it waits. Self-hatred is very patient. And when you turn your back for one minute, once you start pinching an inch in the mirror, once you start berating yourself for never finishing school, for eating a bowl of ice cream, and then another after that, here it comes like an avalanche in your head, impossible to stop - you loser, what have you done with your life? And now you're going to die a horrible death having done nothing of importance or value and maybe you should, maybe you deserve it, you lazy, worthless, unfulfilled potential pile of nobody likes you anyway and thats why you are alone tonight while Todd is out for a drink with his friends. You have no friends, because you have nothing to offer anyone.

And guess what? You're a rotten fucking mother. Your daughter was just playing with a pack of matches and you were watching America's Next Top Model as if you could ever hold a candle to the beauty of those woman. Eat some more Oreos you fat, lazy poor excuse for a woman. Your sister is more valuable a soul than you'll ever be and she's sick. What makes you think you shouldn't be? Why isn't it you? It should be you. Why don't you call her? Why don't you answer the phone when she calls you? Because you're afraid. A coward, actually, of the worst kind because you don't even have the disease yet. She does. And yet YOU can't handle it. Poor you. You're a horrible daughter too. Useless, disgusting waste of space in the universe.

This is the dialogue. This is how bad it can get in my head. And it took literally YEARS to make all of that shit go away. To quiet it down and scare the self hatred enough to go into hiding. So when I found out I had this mutation, here it came again after a few years of reprieve. Up it rose, out of its pit like a phoenix, winged, strong, and ready. Something had to save me.

No...someone. And again, it was this baby, this adorable creature looking up at me with eyes full of innocence and need. Olivia looked up at me only with love. She didn't know about the hatred, about that part. But if she did, I don't think she'd like anyone saying those things about her mother. And then there was Amy, too, who had gone through so much and said to me "Have this surgery because I didn't have the chance to" and she made me promise that I'd do it. This Angel on earth.

Amy wasn't perfect, by any means. And she wasn't a saint, by any means either. But she was there when it counted, and she saved my life so many times over the years, and this time was probably one of them. I had my husband, who's love surprised and continues to surprise me. But when I asked him what I should do, he was pretty clear about the fact that he wanted me alive no matter what the cost and anything that would keep me alive as long as possible had his vote. So ultimately I had to undergo this horrible surgery to ensure my longevity, which was something I had to do for my daughter's sake. And for everyone else in my life who for some reason I can't fully understand and maybe never will, love me in a great and powerful way. I underwent this surgery for them, because they believe I am worth it.

But I couldn't do it for me. I was not enough of a reason. Aside from the astounding sadness of that statement, I mostly can't help but think how ironic it is that the gift my body gave me, Olivia, ultimately became the main reason for me to do this painful mutilating thing. But like I said, self hatred is a sneaky, wily thing. And now I feel like I'm back at square one. I'm angry and hateful at this flesh, this disgusting flesh, this body that I can never trust again. I feel so betrayed. Self hatred is speaking again and saying the horrible things.

I know this is shallow mostly. But having to look in the mirror and see slashes where my breasts used to be is a brutal experience. And another irony, is that my breasts are about the only part of my body that I always actually liked. I thought they were lovely. Small, but lovely. But that doesn't matter now. Because they are gone. That precious part of me, that entertained my husband, that nurtured my daughter during a year of breastfeeding, gone and dissected in a pathology lab like meaningless blobs of flesh.

So now I have this monumental task ahead of me. To not only heal physically, but to learn, yet again, to accept this alien person. To learn how to love this new, even more ugly version of myself. It was hard enough the first time, without all the scars.I hope this blog wasn't too heavy or too personal for any of you to handle. I just know that whoever already reads this blog expects truthful words, honest words. Anything less would be unfair. I do have good moments now. Accepting moments. They are brief and interspersed among a lot of terrible, torturous thoughts. I wish I could make you laugh again. I wish I could report only optimistic things, with fluffy anecdotes about annoying check out clerks at the grocery store. But this is the journey, folks. This is the truth. And that truth is that I don't think the story goes in a perfect arc, like in a book or movie. I think this story is like the scar lines on my chest, jagged and uneven. And for damn certain the story line is not a circle. I will never, ever again be the same girl that I was. But whatever the story, I want to share it with you. If you will listen.

I know that life is good and bad and meshed into one glorious twisted mess I am just trying so hard to find the place of beauty and peace in that mess, the beauty in me again. Its so hard to find it once its lost. At least I'm in familiar territory. I've been here this exile. The map to the good place, I buried because I didn't think I'd ever need it again. The good news is that I buried it inside of me, so I have a pretty good idea where to find it.

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