always look on the bright side of life

We can start with the positive things, because they’re what keep me going. Some days, the positives are all about still being alive, getting my ass out of bed, making it down to the corner to wait for the bus and get through another day at work. Sometimes it means hooray, I managed to drink more than 20 oz. of water today and, look at that, I lived through the day again.

I am almost six months out of surgery, but it remains difficult, and it’s starting to piss me off. Major surgery! people keep telling me. Yes, major surgery, intestinal rerouting, sweet, sweet morphine–and going to bed every night at 9 p.m., still, six months later.

Remembering my vitamins every day, without which my body shuts down. Trying to get in all the protein I need to eat, even though my stomach is the size of toddler’s fist, or my hair falls out and my muscles break down. Trying to drink all the water I need to drink, even when it cramps my stomach so badly I can’t stand up straight, no matter the temperature of the drink. It’s starting to really, really piss me off.

I’m mostly starting to get really pissed off at my body, which still can’t figure out, exactly, how to tell me what it needs. Is that gurgle in my belly a gurgle of hunger? Or anger, because my stomach has decided it doesn’t like tuna today, and too bad for you? Will I die of malnutrition, or in the bathroom? I can’t tell! And I don’t know which way I’d rather go, frankly. Maybe it’s not my body’s fault–maybe I am the one who is broken and confused.

Broken and confused is not positive, is it? Broken and confused is usually how I feel when I get on the scale, when I spend the week feeling like I’ve spend all this time doing things wrong, not eating enough, eating too much, eating the wrong things and then finding out I’ve lost another two pounds. How is it possible that I keep feeling constantly like a broke-down failure, and I keep losing weight? When is this luck going to run out?

Because it feels like luck, every time I step into those jeans and pull them on and they fit, and then they fit nicely, and then they fit slightly loosely, and then they are loose on me. Tomorrow, I suspect that they’ll be falling off my ass, and that is a positive thing–except for the cost of pants, which is really, really killing me, and except for the way that I spend most of my time with my breath held, waiting for everything to stop, and for me to be left tired, thirsty, possibly hungry or maybe about to get sick, and still fat.

It doesn’t seem fair. And whining about it does not seem very bright of me. I did this to myself! I rally, and that thought is supposed to make me go all thoughtful and considerate and contrite, but mostly it makes me angry. Because, you know, what the fuck did I do to myself? What the hell was I thinking? With the vitamins, and the fatigue, and the water, and the way food is suddenly a field strewn with land mines of intestinal distress versus insane emotional cravings that sometimes make me cry. I mean, did I not consider the fact that French toast (or pasta carbonara, possibly pizza) is my favorite food in the whole world and French toast (pasta carbonara, and definitely pizza) is exactly the kind of food that would make me sick for the rest of my life? I am my own worst enemy.

Once I power through the whining, though, that’s when I remember that maybe, loving French toast (and pasta carbonara, and certainly pizza, especially with sausage) is what started all of this in the first place. And if this is what I had to do to avoid letting it kill me, then that’s what I had to do. And vitamins are good for me, and stalwart and stoic is what I need to be. And then that’s when I recall that every post-op person thinks I am the first person for whom this surgery will not work, and I am so fucked.

And that’s when I remember that it’s hard, and I will give myself a break, because really, it was major surgery; and really, I am doing so well; and really, I am so lucky. I’m lucky to be able to breathe again; to be able to run two miles–well, almost two. Really slowly, but still; to be able to walk into a store like H&M and nearly feel like it’s okay that I’m in there, and that if I stood in line for the dressing room, I wouldn’t get laughed at.

That when I flew a couple of weeks ago, fitting into the seat with the armrest down relieved all the stress and anxiety I had been holding in the back of the neck, all the fear and anticipation of humiliation that comes when the person who has the seat next to you sits down, and you have to turn and ask them if it is okay if you can keep the armrest up: "Hello, sir or ma’am, I am fat."

That the world is not made for fat people–that sometimes, it feels actively hostile towards them, which is a whole other fucked-up topic–and I am starting to slide under that bar and go unnoticed and unremarked upon, that I am starting to fit again, and no matter how it feels sometimes, and no matter how hard it is, and no matter how much I sometimes wish I could have done this some other way, or that somehow and in some way I never had to do it, that I am lucky, I am lucky, I am lucky. There’s a positive for you.

  3 comments for “always look on the bright side of life

  1. April 19, 2007 at 6:28 pm

    Really loved this post — and your writing in general.

    The first year *at least* is a mind trip … oh hell, I’m 16 months out, and it’s all a mind trip in all the ways that you describe.

    I wish something else had worked for me before the DS because it *is* radical surgery, and there’s nothing natural about it or the whole process.

    But I say thank god for it, in the absence of anything else.

  2. *S*
    April 20, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    I agree with Deluzy – this is a great post, Anne. My surgery was 31 Oct in SF with R. Rabkin. I think you and I had it about the same time, no?

    “How is it possible that I keep feeling constantly like a broke-down failure, and I keep losing weight? When is this luck going to run out?”

    For myself, I don’t feel as much a “failure” as confused. The fact that my surgeon – now retired – flipped out and told me that my weightloss was not what it should be (“good, but not stellar”) because he was challenged by the difference between the numbers “5” and “6” – as in months since surgery – really sent me into a mental backslide. It was for naught, as it turns out, as I am 11 days and 2 lbs away from having lost 100 lbs in the requisite 6 mos.

    What really freaks my chowder is that the surgeon wanted me to go on this even more extreme eating plan of no liquids other than water and only protein for a month. Not only did this not do diddly-squat in terms of weightloss, it only made me more nauseous.

    Fortunately, we’ve nailed the nausea to the vitamins (probably iron) and I’m doing just fine in the weight loss department. It just shows that a) everybody is different; b) surgeons are great plumbers and not dieticians and c) it feels so weird to eat a mixed diet – in very small portions – and lose weight. Like you, I keep wondering how long this “luck” will hold.

  3. *S*
    April 20, 2007 at 2:21 pm

    I’m also feeling less alone about needing as much rest as I do, after having read your post. Because of my writing schedule, I can often get in a 1-2 hr. nap around 5 pm or so, thus managing to make it awake to 11. But we’re in the same boat.

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