Mourning My Former Self and Facing the Future With Endometriosis
One month ago I went through excision surgery to remove adhesions,
scar tissue and cysts associated with endometriosis. For me, at age 37, this
surgery was the last stop. I didn’t have anywhere else to go; I didn’t have any
other options. After months of serious pain, this was it. I had to give myself
a fighting chance to be me again, even if it meant I would be a slightly
different version of me.
The process of recovering from surgery has been more emotional and difficult than I ever imagined. As much as there is hope for the future, there is just as much fear and doubt. What if the surgery didn’t work? What if it worked but it grows back quickly? What if I never get to have children? What if, what if, what if. The questioning never gets us anywhere but that doesn’t mean we don’t do it. I recently sat up in bed after hours of insomnia and started to sob uncontrollably, tears soaking my face and hands and my entire body almost convulsing. It happens sometimes. The dark and quiet of 3 a.m. can allow your brain to rapid-fire all the stress and fear sitting inside of it and diminish any amount of positivity and optimism you allow yourself during daylight.
There have been days this past year when the pain and discomfort was so bad, I couldn’t even remember what it was like to be well. It’s still hard to recall the times I lived without fear of a flare-up and apprehension about traveling, attending parties or making plans with friends. These fears are all-consuming now. I often ask myself, “What if pain is just my future?” Even though I got the best possible procedure to give me hope, I am still without hope sometimes. When you live with chronic pain, the worry is just as prevalent as the hope. I wish it wasn’t this way. But it’s just a part of the gig.
But, even more so than the fear, doubt and worry, I find what grips me the most and what I am never successful at shaking, is the fading memory I have of my former self.
For years I knew I had these evil things inside of me but I was able to keep flares and bad days at bay. I could manage and maintain the discomfort and pain; I was somewhat in control. Until my mid-30s I had a handle on my chronic illnesses enough so that I could live a normal, active, and happy life.
I often think back fondly on the young woman who was always busy planning out the next big thing. She was active and took risks like packing her Subaru with whatever it would fit, selling the rest, and driving down to Key West to “try something new.” She was carefree and ambitious and ready to take on the world. She had a ton of friends and was always busy. She tried new things without fear of failure, flare-ups or judgment. She was a free spirit and a force to be reckoned with.
That young woman is now in her late 30s, four surgeries down, and sometimes struggles with her self-worth. I know the outgoing young woman I once was is still inside me, but she’s a bit harder to locate sometimes. Lucky for me and anyone else who lives with chronic illness and the accompanying anxiety, night turns into day and that makes it a bit easier to navigate through the cobwebs of self-doubt. It is so damn hard, and some days I don’t bother with the positive, but most days I know I just have to.
I have a laundry list of goals for 2019. Just a couple are buying a house with my husband and training to become a certified yoga instructor. These things take time, patience, dedication and perseverance. There will be obstacles to get over and I know I will face days with pain that will make it seem like those obstacles are insurmountable. But that’s OK. I know my former me is still in there, and she doesn’t take no for an answer. All the battle wounds and scars on the inside and outside of my body have allowed me to tell a story to my former self: that in a few years you’ll face despair and may think you just can’t find your way back to you. But you will. And it will be glorious.
Getty photo by barbaramarini