First up on the all about me meme is Nia’s request — that I write about myself. OH GEE, I BET YOU’RE THRILLED.
Nia explained more of what her question meant over Windows Messenger yesterday, and it’s actually a pretty good one: essentially, how am I now compared to how I was, say, five years ago? The short answer is, “Better. Much, much better.” The long answer is, “Better in many, many ways, all of which I shall now lay out for you in excruciating detail.”
I left a comment at Shapely Prose yesterday that pretty much sums up how I am physically. Someone had posted about how physical health is mostly defined by the absence of negative symptoms; i.e., if you’re not currently in pain, ill, or injured, you’re healthy. I used to think the same, and I spent a lot of time bemoaning my unhealthy state. I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years redefining my concept of health, my attitude toward my body, and my expectations of myself. I’m going to cut and paste most of the comment here, because this physical health thing has been a jumping-off point for most of the changes I’ve experienced over the past half-decade.
… [F]or me health is a very different thing, defined not by absence of bad but by presence of good. I have rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia; pain and exhaustion are pretty much a part of my daily life. I consider myself healthy not when those things are absent, but when other, good things are present — like the energy I get from a really good meal. Like the strength and flexibility I get from exercise. Like the awesome skin I get when I drink enough water. Like the sheer joy I’m able to feel around my kid — despite my physical aches and general tired feeling — when I’ve been taking care of my mental health. Like my newfound ability to make it through a day that starts in the morning, contains a steady stream of activity, and ends at night, with no naps or being too tired to shower.
Health is such an active presence for me. I’ve been unhealthy my whole damn life, with pretty severe mental disorders, arthritis, reproductive troubles, weight gain after pregnancy, fibromyalgia, and a broken back that combined with scoliosis was literally blinding me. When I finally figured out that I could eat well (wherein “well” is pretty much defined as “whatever the hell I want, because I am a grown-up”), exercise, sleep as much as I need to, and just generally care for myself — without regard to my weight, with regard to my body’s needs — it completely changed my life. It completely changed me. I will never have an absence of bad things with regard to my health; I will always have these positive additions. That’s my definition of health. [End comment, pretty much.]
I am so much better these days. I feel better physically; I still have pain and flare-ups (like the recent debacle with my ankle), but I am so much more capable of functioning through them. I still get depressed, but I don’t stay that way for months on end. I still have problems with anger and temper, but I’ve become more able to address these things without flying into a rage. I’ve learned a thing or two about being an adult and handling things in an adult matter. I’ve started setting boundaries in my life — I’m able to say, “I appreciate your help, but it doesn’t give you the right to control me.” Conversely, I’m able to say, “I don’t have the right to control you, even if you accepted my help.” This was a big problem for me; most of my life I felt that I had no control over myself because I so often needed help. In effect, I was handing people the right to walk all over me, saying, “Well, you bought me furniture, so I have to do whatever you want; you gave me advice, so I have to take it even if it doesn’t work for me; you, you, you.” Now I am both more self-sufficient — more able to take care of myself and my family — and less likely to hate myself when I do need help from outside.
I don’t drink as much anymore, either, and that’s kind of a big deal for me. I spent a year or so drinking far too much on the premise that I was predisposed to alcoholism, so the fact that I liked alcohol must mean I was a de facto alcoholic. I finally pulled my head out of my butt and examined how I relate to alcohol, and I realized several things: I don’t need it to function, I don’t particularly like being royally drunk, I really only want to drink occasionally, and I don’t have to be a drunk just because it’s in my genes. With all that in mind, I just stopped drinking more than I really wanted to or more often than I cared to, and it’s been a huge relief. I’m not an alcoholic, but I will always enjoy vodka, and it’s nice to know that I can enjoy it; it’s nice to know that my relationship to booze pretty much stops there. I still have a drink or two every… oh, I don’t know. Every time I feel like it, which averages to around three times a month. It’s similar to my relationship with food, I guess: I have what I want when I want it, and when I gave myself that permission — to have what I want, no more or less — I found that my desires aren’t as excessive as I’d feared.
Michael and I are finally on solid ground after that first shaky year of marriage. We had to do a lot more work than I’d expected; marriage, no matter how ready you are, can throw your relationship for a loop. We weren’t expecting to have problems so soon, but we’re stronger for them now. I am pretty entranced by my little family these days — it’s amazing, how much better you feel when you can both give and receive love. It’s also amazing how much better you feel when your kid is hilarious and you laugh every day.
Mostly, these days, I’m just okay. When I say that I almost immediately get asked, “Just okay? What’s wrong?” Nothing’s wrong. I’m okay. It’s a lovely place to be.