I want my body back.
This is all I can think about as I blink back tears in the dark and quiet of the night. I always feel a pang of guilt for admitting it out loud. But I need to take a moment and allow this longing for my old self without shame.
I’ve settled into my life in this new body and it’s a really good life! There are frustrations and sadness but, for the most part, I’ve entered into a phase of recovery where I know how to do life in this body and do it well; A phase where I am happy. But tonight? Tonight, I don’t care about any of that. Tonight, I need to give myself space to grieve my body; to miss my life; and to ask why even though I already know there isn’t an answer. No, tonight isn’t about how far I’ve come, it’s about the things I left behind – things I am yearning so deeply to have back – and it’s about all the new developments that come with SCI that I really wish would vanish.
I want the pain that continually wraps around my ribs like the most unwelcome embrace to disappear. And I want the muscle spasms to calm the hell down. I want the burning sensation that constantly engulfs my lower body to burn no more. I want to have control over my bladder and bowels and never see another catheter ever again.
I want to stand, run, dance and hike – all in a non-adapted environment. I want to drive my car with my feet and hop in and out without dragging a wheelchair behind me. And I want to see a staircase and think the only reason to panic is because I didn’t wear a supportive bra and my boobs will get too wild as I run up and down.
I want to roll over in bed without sitting up, crossing my legs and hoisting my body over the other way. I want to push myself up from laying to sitting without elbowing my husband in the face or accidentally pulling my daughter’s hair. I want to quickly run out of bed when I’ve forgotten to do something without adding another transfer to my day. I want to feel sex the way I used to.
I want to give my daughter a piggyback and I want to demonstrate the ballet exercises she keeps talking about. I want to play soccer with my soccer obsessed boys and sit with them in the top row of a movie theatre like I know they want so badly. I want to run down the beach with all of them during our upcoming trip to Hawaii. And I want to get on the floor with them for games and puzzles because that was always my favourite way to play.
I want all of the time back that I lost to this injury. I want to find myself in a parallel universe where this accident didn’t happen and see what became of the rest of that day and every minute since. I want to watch both stories unfold side-by-side, minute-by-minute, to discover where the similarities and differences lie with each. I want to know what is impossible to know – what my life would look like had my body never been taken.
This post unfolded in my head at 3:00 AM. I couldn’t sleep and the thought of getting myself in my chair to get out onto the couch felt like too much effort. Then, I spiraled and obsessed – I want my body back. After writing it out, I finally fell back asleep. I didn’t write it with the intent on sharing it, but as it usually does, a new day brought a new perspective and a renewed sense of self – just as I am. And I believe it is always worth sharing a reminder that grief comes and goes but is not a place to stay.
Reading it all back the next morning I was already arguing with myself.
Yes, you hate catheters, but imagine if they didn’t exist.
No, you cannot show her how to plie, but you are here to encourage her and cheer for her and you’re still the person she wants to show her ballet to.
The movie is the same from the front row and the back.
I could go on.
There is no shame in giving yourself space for grief when it comes (even if it is at 3AM on a Saturday night). I miss my body. Every day, at some point or another, I miss my body. But more often than not, I’m thankful for all of the things my body can still do and the life I still have. And on days like today, when my husband is out raking up leaves, I’m kind of thankful for the things it cannot do. Only kidding (kind of).