Saturday, April 26, 2014

Who am I? No,who do you think I am?

I am in the midst of an identity crisis. Today is the 7th anniversary of my craniotomy. Surgeons removed a benign brain tumor, an irregular cluster of blood vessels called an angioma from the left peduncle, cerebellar region of my brain. The growth was about 60% in my brain stem and it was bleeding. Leaving it there would likely have lead to paralysis or sudden death. I am alive and to survive, I must rebuild my fractured sense of self.

I had a discussion with my sister about a year ago regarding my injury, I described it as "losing the sister you had and getting a whole different sister."

She said that is not her experience. In her words, that "... is not my view of you - you may feel like a different sister, but to me you are a continuation of your previous self, with changes."

If I am the same person but with changes, then what does "self" mean? How can I still be me when I do things that I never would have done before? My behavior has been described to me by family and friends, people I trust, and upon hearing it, I recoil. I did that? Yes. But was that me?

Accepting that I am not a new person, is difficult to fathom. How can I still be me "but with changes," when reality is so markedly, sharply different? It strikes me that a crucial part of being understood is having others accept my sense of self. If my reality is not accepted by others, then I am left to believe it is false.

I act, then my environment and the people in it react. My brain interprets those reactions and sends a message to ME. I have been told by my doctor that those messages are false. My brain is misinterpreting language, actions, intentions, and social cues. Herein lies a crucial component of the new me. I need to be reminded that what I am experiencing is not necessarily what is being projected.

I am writing a brief bio for my 30th college reunion and this is what I have so far:
My daughter Sachi Ezura, Harvard College class of 2008, is the light and love of my life. She is the one constant I have and a beacon of hope for the future. In the past five years I've been battling severe depression. My 22 year teaching career ended abruptly in 2011 when the reality of my brain injury collided with my illusion of competence. I struggle to rebuild my fractured sense of self every day. Sewing keeps me sane.
I went to Harvard on a complete scholarship and to my mind, I squandered a great opportunity to better myself. I started off an honor student, pre-med and goal oriented. By the end I was nearly failing out. Crippling depression and anxiety often made it hard for me to leave my dorm room. I beat myself up for years that I didn't do better. My career as a teacher made forgiveness possible. I loved teaching and I was good at it. It felt natural, like breathing. It was who I was. As in most things I do, I endeavored to be the best, and the feedback I got was affirming. My students loved me. Their parents loved me. As a result, I loved me. My psychological need to be loved by many who did not know me (at least not all of me) was being met.

Now, I have only a handful of people in my life and it is more than I can handle. The frequent misunderstandings render me defeated. The environment is a reflection of me and I do not like what I see.

I know that this too shall pass. I pray to have gratitude for what life presents. I will keep going, working to forgive myself. I look forward to the day when I feel whole again, when I know who I am, and I love that person again.