Who I Was Is Not Who I Am

This week has been tough. Physically, I’m still going through an awful migraine flare that’s almost reached two full weeks as I type this. Mentally, well, I’m sure my last couple of posts reveal my secrets, but in case they don’t, melancholy would certainly be the right word to describe where my head is. A lot of tears have been shed this week as I’ve revisited my old self and how she moved through the world.

At first I was convinced this feeling was related solely to Tuesday’s reunion and, while there’s definitely feels to work through there, I’m realizing this goes much deeper. This isn’t about another person, whether a friend or lover or both. This is about me; the woman I was before and the woman who I’ve become.

When I started dating Jory in January 2015, most of my other flirtationships slowed down, ending soon after. He and I casually dated a wonderful woman together for a while, but eventually it became just the three of us. It was never really intended to be that way, but it seemed to work out so we stuck with it. When dating we sort of developed a ddlg style relationship. Kink with a side of care – made more important as I started to get ill.

We didn’t realize that only 2 years into the relationship that we’d all end up moving in together; like everything else, it just sort of … happened. Unfortunately, no one really tells you that, when you move in with your husband and your boyfriend into a three person domestic situation, it’s hard to continue any sexual power based relationship dynamics. There’s dinner to cook, to-do lists to write, sleeping arrangements to sort out. It became a lot less of a priority to be those people as we had a new and exciting family life to foster and grow (and also much less privacy, something both relationships need to give the other now and always).

Truth be told the last 6 years have been very hard personally and the past few days is really the first time I’m actually admitting it to myself. The intense sadness has nothing to do with my living situation; they’re both wonderful partners and any hiccups the three of us have usually get worked through pretty quickly. It does, however, has everything to do with my illnesses. Horrible medical moments that have given me a broken nervous system that’s afraid of anything that in the past would have delighted my senses. 

Looking back, 2015 was sort of the last year I had … fun. It wasn’t just my extra-curricular dating and sex life, it was everything. I could go out for drinks and dinner with friends and not get a migraine. I could attend events in support of people I cared about. I could live my life without having to consider how upset my body would get for staying out late. I was, for lack of a better word, free.

Seeing M the other night, someone I met in 2014 when I still felt both fun and free, made me realize how long these past 6 years have really been. Catching up, talking about sexy memories, harmlessly flirting, and just having a fun time with each another; I was reminded of who I was when we met. Pain was just around the corner back then but I still had some life in me to be more mischievous. 

Then symptoms started in 2015 and the next 3 or so years were filled with lots of diagnostic style appointments, an MRI that gave me intense panic and claustrophobia for 4 years, and days of trying to keep it together at my 9-5 WFH gig. In 2017 I started developing heart block. 2018 was a nightmare trying to get it diagnosed and then get the pacemaker. 2019 was spent feeling worst than I did before the pacemaker because they had my settings wrong. I had weight loss surgery that November because I could barely move on my own thanks to the pacemaker settings, which were thankfully finally adjusted. 2020, well, we know what that was. The pandemic was the start of the most pain I’ve ever experienced in my life as stress causes my body to flare up so much and no yoga or deep breathing can compete with the stress of a global health crisis. 

I’ve been so focused over these years on simply getting through each day that I’ve rarely given myself to grieve for my past freedoms from disability. I barely remember feeling less pain and it sounds impossible that I ever experienced none at all! I do sometimes have flare-ups where I reflect on how much it’s bringing me down that week, but the grief I’m presently feeling is so much larger than any random flare could bring on its own.

The grief this week is me realizing how much I am missing the woman I was. The woman who was known as flirty, as fun, perhaps even an “expert” on non-monogamy, according to local news media. The woman who had the energy to build community and host events. To push her own boundaries. The woman who was stepping more into her pansexuality, felt confident in her skin, her kinks, her gender, and her size. 

I’d almost forgotten about her, not by choice, but by circumstance. My world is so much smaller now, though I wish it wasn’t. The other night at the Skydome reminded me that I used to be more than this shell and it’s hit me emotionally like a ton of bricks.

I used to float on air when new romance came my way. Dating sucks, but it was still a fun challenge of sorts. (That is before all the apps turned dating into a swipe fest based first on looks, something that is very hard for this demisexual to compute!) I sought out people to boost me up in different ways than I got at home, while I boosted them up in exchange. I found myself seduced by new kind words, knowledge, experiences, and confident vulnerabilities. I would feel heartaches so strong that I thought I would never recover but the highs always made the lows worth it, eventually. 

My sentimentality and emotions haven’t been fed in the same way since because survival has become the driving factor, keeping everything else buried and out of reach. I used to drift off into daydreams of new people, new places, new ideas, whereas now I just drift off because the pain has a grasp on all of my focus. The range of emotions I would feel was so much larger than what I usually feel now; Tuesday reminded me of this. Don’t get me wrong; I am very in love with both Steph and Jory and am not reminiscing on past lives because of a failing in them, or our bonds. 

In fact, there are needs I used to have outside of my marriage that are met more consistently at home now, by both of my partners! The urge to meet new people is lessened, but I still miss the … variety, the opportunity. The excitement of new relationship energy. Revealing the road map to a new and unfamiliar body. Seeing myself through the eyes of someone new and learning things about worlds I hadn’t traveled to yet.  

Getting back into dating is not at all the point of this post, though I’m always open to new flirtationships because I love that. The real point of this reflection is admitting to myself that the choice was taken away from me. Living with two partners vs. one does make it harder date other people – and Jory and I have never experienced me dating someone else besides Steph since we’ve been together – but we never really even talked about it because illness took all of my energy before we had the chance. 

I went from being polyamorous by nature to being monogamous by force and now I don’t know where I actually fall on the scale.

Who knows. Maybe I would’ve stopped dating naturally if I hadn’t gotten sick. Maybe if I still had energy, having two wonderful partners at home might have meant I’d have gotten a lot more social satisfaction from friends and loved ones and all of my needs would have been met. Now those needs are ignored because the pain takes over everything. It’s like glitter that gets into everything but in a much less sparkly and much more depressing way.

The only thing I can say for certain is that I am finally, maybe really for the first time ever, openly grieving what disability has stolen. There is an anger in me now that I haven’t really felt before and I need to work through it before I figure out next steps and truly start to learn what it is I need now. People often tell me I’m strong and brave and maybe that’s true; but it feels more like I had blinders on that helped me stay alive. Had I ever stopped and truly realized the gravity of what I’ve actually lost, it might have been impossible to come back from. 

So while it hurts a lot now, the other night at the game was also a great reminder and gave me a softer place to land this week while the tears fell. A reminder that who I was can still be who I am. We are a sum of our parts, our past, our memories. I just need to accept that I can both make space for who I was to co-exist with my current self while knowing that won’t always be in my control. 

But I am more than my illness and, as much as I can, I refuse to let it continue to completely define me anymore.

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