I am a girl. I am a nurse. I was a dancer. I have Crohns Disease. I like coffee.
Even though I am me, I am somehow still always trying to work myself into a simple definition, as if all of me is too much. Trying to find one attribute, characteristic, or skill that somehow defines the whole of who I am. Am I alone in this? I doubt that I am, however, I do know that you and I will never be successful in working it out. We are too complex for one simple definition.
As a child, I was a dancer. If you asked anyone about me, they knew. It was what I did, and somehow, it became who I was. When I stopped dancing at 17 because of a combination prolonged illness and physician guidance I lost that definition. I have realized that somehow, over the years I have managed to in my mind let Crohns define who I am. Now, this is not to say that it consumes my life. Infact, far from it. There are even people I know quite well who have no idea Crohns is even a part of my life. But, in some ways it has defined who I have become. I stopped dancing, I eventually went into nursing, and specifically into pediatrics because of the disease and my experiences with it. I have always said that I will never let my life be controlled by it, but I am slowly seeing how much I have let it define me.
These last few weeks as I have begun working to make my body and health a priority I have realized this more and more, but tonight it smacked me right in the face.
Tonight was my first night of Yoga. I was so excited to try something new. I have known that yoga will be good for me, mentally, physically, and spiritually. I have been excited to stretch again, and gain strength in the way Yoga trains you to. I was immediately thrown back 10 years as I walked into my first class at O Yoga tonight. Nestled in Armory Square in downtown Syracuse, O Yoga is located in the same small building I spent many hours in with a therapist prior to and following my diagnosis. My doctor, not knowing what to think of my sudden weightless and unwillingness to eat decided hastilly that I had developed an eating disorder and so appointments with s psychiatrist and the psychotherapy began. My sessions continued for a few months after my diagnosis, in the period of settling into the disease and eventually transitioning back to school. The walk in, the hall, the bathroom I had visited many times before all felt the same.
And so, there I was, ready to start Yoga, a step of my transition into taking control of my health, and somehow, my mind was stuck 10 years in the past. In the days of crying myself to sleep because I hurt or feared I wouldn’t dance again. The days of anxiety over what this would mean for my future, how I would fit it into my 14 year old plans. The class started, I tried with all that I have to focus, to relax, but my mind raced and remembered. And that is when I realized, somewhere between a downward dog and a child pose that I am defining myself as Crohns. I need a new definition. I am working to take over my health, the change my focus, yet somehow I am lost in my past, picking one piece of myself and letting it be everything.
By now, we were nearly done. The lights were low, gentle music in the room, I was flat on my back with my palms to the ceiling, eyes closed with tears running down my sweating face, and then she said it, “Everything you just worked for, let it go”. And with a very long and personal “Om” I did exactly that. I am moving forward, and defining myself by the things I am now, and the things I will become.
I went to crossfit this morning with my friend Kim. It was great to have a friend of close to comparable strength there with me. I felt more competitive, more willing to push more, work harder. Then there was yoga this evening, with another friend, Jen. My goal for tomorrow is simply to be able to walk and use my arms. I am saying quiet prayers for a small patient tomorrow, who won’t require much lifting. But, I feel great. I feel excited that I am doing this. I feel good that my body is capable of more than I have thought. I am excited for a new definition.
So as you read this, if you know me, would you take a moment to think of how you define me? I would love to know, so leave a comment! But more than that, think of how you define yourself. Maybe your definition needs some adjusting too? If so, take a deep breath, and let it go.