June 21, 2006

On the Body

The body is something I don't deal with easily or casually. It isn't so much that I don't like mine -- I don't much care about mine in fact. So much as that I don't like the very idea of bodies, of having one or of having to take care of one. Seeing the doctor yesterday and having had a biopsy taken from an intimate place inside me only brought this home to me the more...

While it is true that I care about my size, this is only insofar as I do not wish to take up space and the less the better. I would be happiest not to be seen at all, to be completely inconspicuous, to be one with the wind, as I so often put it in the past. But given that I can't, so it seems, I will go with simply taking up as little room as I can. This need is so strong in me, though, that I suffer terribly whenever I feel that I have put on weight and therefore take up more than "my share," that is to say, very little space in the world...which is how I feel this particular minute. This feeling may not be due to actually having gained weight -- I do not know -- so much as a reaction to the intimate trespasses committed upon me in the last 48 hours. As careful as he was, the GYN doc, I still felt violated, doubly so because I had to squelch the feeling and pretend otherwise, because to admit to feeling raped by a biopsy would be to present too much trouble for other people...and share feelings they wouldn't understand or know how to deal with...So you have to preserve them from your dismay by pretending it was a breeze. Well, pain-wise it was. I felt very little I'd call physical pain, but mental anguish? Emotional distress? Well, that's another story, and to that one is not allowed to allude.

I hate bodies, I hate having a body. But I also don't care about the body I have. I don't care if it is clean or dirty, I don't care whether I wash its hair or brush its teeth or not. I don't care if it smells or if it sleeps in dirty clothes for nights on end....Why should I? I, I in my essence, have nothing to do with it. You say, you are a body but have a soul? Well, I say, I have a body but am a soul...And I choose to ignore the temporary "vessel" which word already makes it sound more precious than it is...The only reason that I might care about "my" body is insofar as it is the vehicle for life. I am well aware that I, in my essence and as a soul, would not exist without it. So I need it in order to be conscious, in order to live. And as I do not want to die, not yet, not now so I need to treat it well enough to stay alive as long as possible, whether I like it or not.

But dirt doesn't make a body unwell, so I don't need to shower if I don't want to, and I don't...The water-needles bother me and I don't have the energy to get undressed or the wherewithal to wash what it seems so unecessary to have clean, and the excuses pile up and up. I simply don't feel like showering and don't want to... And my teeth don't bother me, so if I don't brush them very often, who cares? I don't, and they are mine to brush or not! If they fall out, I'll get false ones, I suppose, though I admit I don't want that to happen. I just can't get myself to remember to brush daily, and when I do remember, it seems like it takes too much energy...

Am I sharing TMI? Or do others feel similarly? Do other people out there with schizophrenia feel as I do about washing and taking care of their...bodies? It isn't laziness or sloth I don't think, though it must look that way. It's -- well, I think now it's a lack of connection to one's physical self, a lack of feeling a stake in it, not understanding in any visceral way that I depend on it and it on me, that we are in this together and need each other, that we are one and the same...Yes, somehow, though I know the words, that experience of oneness with my body escapes me entirely. So I can ignore the same body I occupy as if it belongs to someone or something else, because it doesn't really feel like me or an integral aspect of my being.

I think in fact that this is part of the reason my pain threshold is so high: I am in some real sense not in my own body, I'm divorced from feeling it as me. When my leg was burned so badly and they debrided it daily, ordinarily something that is extraordinarily painful, I felt nothing, no pain, just a kind of curiosity as to what procedure they used to accomplish the task...The nurses were really surprised, because they dreaded doing it, fearing that they were going to cause me terrible pain...and lo and behold it was nothing to me...I still remember that...Yes, I do feel some pain -- I feel migraines, and my R shoulder and arm chronically hurt, but only as a shoulder and arm, not as me...But I didn't feel anything from the biopsy, except the sense of violation and even when I give myself a shot for a migraine, I feel nothing...

Well, I've said either a lot of nothing, or too much here, dunno which, but feel free to comment, if you have anything to add. Sorry this is so inarticulate and lacking in eloquence, but it was more important for me to talk about this now, than to write a polished essay on something more elevated. Forgive me if you expect more of me! BD

Posted by pamwagg at June 21, 2006 09:58 PM


Hello? Calling you by your first name is too familiar; using your surname too stiff. I discovered your blog today and am astonished at your intelligence, your eloquence, and your candor; in short, I am in awe of you.

I would so like to know which physiological processes are involved in your feelings of body-soul disassociation. My daughter, who has schizoaffective disorder, never quite lived in her body either. She was uncoordinated physically, which I attributed to my own genetic contribution, but her case seemed rather extreme. I remember, for instance, when she was 13 and attended a week's basketball camp. For several days she practiced and played basketball on a peculiar gymnasium floor which was not hard in the way that a gym floor normally is; it GAVE at a step. The first time I walked on it myself I was completely disoriented. "Is this floor SPONGY?" I asked her. She did not know; she hadn't noticed. Later I talked to the coach about the floor and he described how, over the years, it had given the school's team a great home-court advantage, as it was as disconcerting to visiting teams as it had been to me. But Ariel, my daughter, had not discerned that it was different . . . Today, always disliking myself for it, I nag her (she is 19, and a college student) to cut her nails and wash her hair. Tomorrow, when I see her again, I will introduce her to your blog. Thank you so much for its richness; it is a revelation. (Sometime I must tell you--yes, what a treat for you!--about the amino acids I order from a chemical supply company to supplement Ariel's Seroquel and Lamictal. After several years of doing it it still seems odd to me to shove them into vegetarian gelatin capsules for consumption, but I believe they have done a world of good.)

Posted by: Cynthia Marquet at July 4, 2006 10:23 PM

Dear Pam,

I have to smile at some of your body writings. I know it wasn’t meant to be funny, but parts that I can relate to made me smile.

When I was a young woman I was very concerned about how I presented my body to the world. I worried…….was I petite enough, fought with my baby fine hair to force it into shape, was vain about my good skin, and on and on. I wanted to be noticed for my body, clothes and good taste. I didn't think I had anything else to offer. My brain, was it empty? Maybe, I don't know, but there wasn't a lot there.

I'm 56 now, saggy and do my best to care for my body, but it's not with the vanity of a 20 and 30 year old. My clothes are functional and I bathe because I don't like to feel hot and clammy. I can't use soap because I have psoriasis. The joy of dressing up and presenting myself is no longer there.

I have a routine every day, quick shower, brush teeth and dress into something comfortable and not to gross looking. I guess I still care, but not in the same way. I hate looking in the mirror for I'm reminded of my age and frumpiness.

A perfect life for me is that I never have to clean my house again and worry about how I look. Someone comes in daily and cleans everything for me and tells me what to wear. I like to walk in the morning to get the cobwebs out of my brain, do my 1/2-hour grooming after the walk, smell and water my roses in the summer. In the spring I revel in looking at all the beautiful tulip growing in my garden. I have so many different colored tulips, purple, red, yellow, pink, white, orange and many other combinations. Last but not least, I’d like to every day knit to my heart's content with beautiful fiber and stop when my fingers ache from the constant movement.

I like your writing. It doesn't always have to be eloquent or polished. I like your honestly. You are the person who suggested to me through one of your poems that I can enjoy poetry without understanding all the fu fu and academic stuff. I'm not as intimidated reading poetry because of you and my friend Leonard Cirino. Thank you for that. I don't always understand it; some of it is probably very personal.


Posted by: yaya at June 24, 2006 01:25 PM

Hello Ms. Wagner: I'm sorry I can only relate to you a bit on the showering, brushing teeth etc. My statement is I have this feeling sometimes... like when i sit quitely and let my mind wander. I start to get a feeling like I'm not a real alive person. It's not so much an out of body experience as it is an out of mind experience. In my head I think "I absolutely cannot BELIEVE I'm a person" It's a surreal feeling. I dunno it's hard to explain. I think we all should think of ourselves as souls with bodies instead of bodies with souls. The way you said it Pam ... it makes SO much more sense. Thanks for listening and always being such an inspiration. Canada salutes you! Maggie

Posted by: Maggie at June 22, 2006 01:16 AM

Yes, I know exactly what you mean. When I was a child, before I started developing schizoaffective disorder(at age 13), it was never a struggle for me to brush my teeth, take a shower, change clothes, etc.But now, I only can get myself to brush my teeth if I am going somewhere, which isn't every day, and I never brush them at night. I know this is a problem. I have had to get a lot of cavities filled and I often have toothaches. I tried all kinds of tricks to motivate me to do it, but I soon lose the motivation to even do the tricks. This has nothing to do with depression. It's just apathy. It's almost like there is something physical, some inertia, stopping me from doing it.
This also extends to showers, cleaning my apt, and other things. My mother says that taking care of myself will make me feel better, but it never does because I don't notice feeling dirty and barely notice or take pleasure from the feeling of cleanliness afterward. Is it laziness? Maybe, but I give myself the benefit of the doubt and call it negative symptoms, which it probably is. (Calling yourself names never helps.)

Posted by: Samantha at June 22, 2006 01:11 AM

Dear Pammy,
I couldn't agree with you more. I have never accepted the "body-mind connection", and furthermore I, like you, have really always considered myself to be my mind,with my body thrown in as an afterthought, and an annoying one at that. Not being of your moral caliber, however, I play the game and shower, and brush my teeth, and do my hair, and choose my daily costume with care. Why? Because I learned the sad truth long ago, that very few people really care what's in your mind. They are preoccupied with your outer package, and since the circumstances of our lives were so different,the package I displayed to the world revealed nothing of what I really was or am, for that matter. I'm so glad you're home. I need a mind to talk to-but now I must sleep lest I lose what little is left of me. I love to read your daringly candid blog. It inspires me to be more than I feel I can currently be.

Lovingly, Paula

Posted by: Paula Kirkpatrick at June 22, 2006 12:04 AM

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