Not that long ago, I spoke about some new medications I had to take. And I was reading up on the thyroid medication on a website and it said, "within a couple of weeks, you should start to feel like your old self again."
Reading this brought up so much emotion, it made me cry. It suddenly hit me how long it had been since I "felt like my old self".... a self that could concentrate on things, wasn't ruled by hormonal fluctuations and didn't have to sleep all the time.
When you're overweight and menopausal, good luck telling a doctor that you feel foggy, can't seem to lose weight and are exhausted all the time. They'll diagnose you as overweight and menopausal. And while I've been suspecting thyroid issues for years, I've never tested out of the broad scope considered normal until now. And guess what? Now I have. And now that I'm on the medication, I'm finally starting to feel like my old self again. So one lesson I've learned recently is that you should listen to your friends who say you have to advocate for your own health. Doctors make up their minds about things and if you feel deeply inside that it's something else, you need to get another opinion.
But that's just an aside. What I'm really here to talk about today is "your old self." Sometimes your old self slips away so gradually that you just end up living with a new self thinking, "what has happened to me?" Maybe this is because of depression. Or too many demands placed on your life. Or from surrounding yourself with the wrong people. Or from some engrossing life event. Or a chemical imbalance, like with thyroid disease.
In this case, your "old self" is a beacon of hope that you may one day feel good again and that whatever has been dogging you for months or years will come to an end. In other cases, we WANT our old selves to end...we want to replace the undesirable old self with a shiny new one. Sometimes it's a normal function of growth. But other times it's something we're running away from, are ashamed of or want to put in the past. So we consciously abandon or even deny our old selves.
A wise and wonderful friend of mine recently changed her name—not to deny her old self, but to recapture it. I've always known her by her nickname, but she has a longer name she hasn't gone by since she was young. She told me that when she was a child, she felt ugly, depressed, cowardly, self-conscious and unlovable. She identified those feelings with her given name. And when she got older, she coined a nickname for herself that she thought was perky, upbeat, cute and popular. She denied that other girl, and became a new one.
Recently this woman went through some life-threatening health issues. As part of her recovery, she changed her diet and she changed her name. She is choosing to reclaim her old self and embrace it.
When we deny parts of ourselves, we can create illness...just as illness can cause us to lose parts of ourselves. We often forget to acknowledge why or how that old self served us. For example, a part of myself that I like to shove aside was very self conscious and obsessed with how she looked. She wore lots of makeup and always looked great. But inside she was missing the substance I have in my life now. So I cast her aside.
And, frankly, I drifted to the opposite side of the spectrum. I could use to care more about what I look like these days. That woman served a purpose for me then, to show me that despite all the years of feeling unattractive and unlovable as a child, being pretty wasn't the answer either. It felt just as empty. So I cast her aside and eventually learned where my true value lay. But I also threw out the baby with the bathwater. I stopped caring so much about how I looked.
So maybe consider your old self this week. Have you lost a part of yourself that you want back? Have you denied a part of yourself and, perhaps, denied the purpose that self served? Is it time to reclaim or reintegrate a part of yourself long set aside? If you believe everything has a purpose, then there's no such thing as wasted time or effort. As we seek to know ourselves better, we can only go so far if we deny who we are or were. Your old self is just as much your true self (possibly even more so) as who you are now. All the parts complete the picture of you.
This Wednesday there will be a guest blog from our guest bloggers, Sparky and Goddess, on equanimity. I'll be back for the one you'll on Thursday night or Friday.