Yesterday’s article on “Fatbrain” led to some interesting discussions about how major changes in our health can lead to corresponding changes in the character of our lives. Whether the negative effects of a major illness, or the positive effects of recovery from a condition like chronic obesity, the wellness of our bodies has a direct relationship to who we are as people.
I probably have a better understanding of this phenomenon than most. 12 years ago, I developed adult-onset epilepsy. This led to some immediate physical changes, of course: seizures, diminished mental function, and the steep decline into my struggles with obesity, to name a few. But it also led to some very significant changes in who I was as a person. Where previously I was outgoing, I became quiet and reserved. I used to be a performer – a musician, in fact. Post epilepsy I lost all my creative impulse. I used to be fairly confident (some might even say arrogant) about my intellect. Spending years not being able to complete a coherent sentence cured me of that as well. The person that I was before my illness developed was entirely different – my entire personality shifted.
I have recently been able to experience the opposite side of that coin, as the results of my bariatric surgery continue to take hold. This time last year I spent probably 10 or more hours a day in front of my PC. Today that number is closer to 2 or 3 hours a day on average. I had no creative outlet for a very long time – today I am writing on a daily basis. Where I used to never leave the house, I now have a calendar filled with at least one social gathering every single week. Then, I did not exercise: now, I do not drive to any destination within two miles. Another sea change is taking place, once again changing not only my health, by but character – my identity, if you will.
I described the phenomenon to Lor as feeling like I am riding a train: 12 years ago, I entered a railway tunnel as a certain person. I was a musician, an IT guru, divorced, healthy, and financially well-off. Then the lights went out.
Twelve years later, I am no longer any of the things that I was when I entered. The person I will see when the metaphorical lights come back on will be a stranger to me, an entirely new person that I will have to get to know like I would any other new acquaintance. Sure, there is a little fear about this developing relationship. But I think I am more excited about its potential.
In short, the thing I am choosing to focus upon is not that I have been in the tunnel for so long. It is the fact that I can finally see a light at the end of it. And from what I can see as the lights get brighter, I think I already like this person better than the one I left behind all those years and miles of darkness ago.
Not All Change Is Bad,