I do not recognize this new me, and I miss the old me. These two versions of myself are so similar, but so different. We both are nerds to the core who love Latin and nature and are incapable of coherent writing, conversation, or even thoughts prior to drinking at least one cup of coffee. And yet, the differences are profound. Lonely.
The old me would have lain in bed, groggy and desperate for coffee but unwilling to stumble down the hall quite yet. The new me lies in bed and every part of her aches every morning. She feels constricted with little electrical flames of tingly current pricking her legs and her arms and her back and every part of her. Every movement is forced and pinched and uncomfortable until this new me stumbles out of bed, first to the pain medication, and then to the coffee.
The old me plowed through 30 hours of work and a full graduate load of classes, rising early to study, coffee cup in hand, before work or class. She crackled in her efficiency before exploding into a dazzling display that lit up the sky like a firecracker. After the old me finished graduate school, she would spend the day teaching with goofy energy and managed still to lift weights, to do kickboxing, or to run a few miles. The old me was tireless even in her fatigue. The new me is exhausted from thinking about the old me and her schedule.
The new me struggles through a full day at work, trying to prioritize, exerting effort to be as efficient and capable as she was before. Most days, she fantasizes about giving up and lying down on the beige commercial carpet and crying or sleeping or crying herself to sleep. She tells herself not to do this. Over and over again. She forgets what she is doing, this new me, as the old me rages at her incompetence, her failures, her powerlessness. The new me shakes herself out of the fog and tries again. She cannot remember what it was like to not be in pain or what it felt to feel that exhilarating pain, the scream of her muscles and her lungs in the final sprint toward the finish line of a 5k. The old me cannot understand why this new me is sometimes too tired to stand or even to sit upright. The new me cries and tries again.
The old and new me are adversaries who are both grieving the same loss. I am both of them and neither. I need to accept both even as I reject one over and over again and desperately try to cling to the other. I am struggling. I do not recognize this stranger with fibromyalgia who has been borrowing my body, yet I am faced with the necessity of having to embrace this new person, this almost-not-me stranger whom I find feeble and onerous—a literal pain in the tush—for the rest of our twin lives. The me before. The me after. I no longer know which of us is the inverse, the phantom.