I want to add this: I feel a form of dissociation in this illness, my mind from my body.
It’s my body that ails, but the I who writes this – the mind if you like, even the soul, the intelligence, the ‘me’ – is a hapless passenger within the body. That ‘I’ can’t live without the body, but I feel separated from it. In this state, I recognise how powerless I am, and with that comes a sense of helplessness. I’m like an observer of my own decline, frustrated that I can do little to prevent it.
This existential split may well be accurate in some way – our body is a vessel animated by the spirit that guides it (though, without complete control) – but it’s foreign to our everyday understanding of ourselves. When we look in the mirror, we accept that what we see is us.
It’s particularly odd for me, I feel, as I’ve always felt such a strong sense of physicality. I’ve felt the brute force in my muscle and bone and considered it a part of my identity. Like many kids, I yearned to grow tall and strong, and when I did, it seemed the vindication of my will and proof of my power. When I was younger, and at my athletic peak, there was something splendid about it, though now I might call it preening vanity.
I’ve felt my strength, nonetheless, in my broad shoulders and chest, in what I could do, in how I could impose myself. Yet, now, no matter that I look as robust as ever, that body ails, and I look upon it.
It now seems so empty – and so illusory. However, the truth is that if my body fails, I can’t separate myself from it. ‘I’ will fail with it.
It brings to mind another dream not so long ago. I am on my deathbed when someone comes with a proposition. They can take my mind and everything that makes me who I am – my memories, attitudes, experiences, and so on – and give it eternal life in the cloud. For all intents and purposes, I will go on, even as my body gives way.
I’m sceptical of it in the dream. Who doesn’t want eternal life? But what is life without the physical means to give it expression? And, is it truly me, is it truly life, when all that is left of me are those intangibles?
It’s an interesting philosophical question, just as at this moment it’s an interesting experience. The body, at least, allows for a sensory experience of the world about us. Without that to interpret, how much of our true identity continues? And, without hope of physical affection, does that not make us a different proposition?
Is there an answer to this? Probably not. I am the mind that ponders these thoughts and conjectures possibilities. There’s no doubt – I think – that it’s my curious mind that defines me as an individual. Right now, it’s that mind that tries to make sense of the gulf I feel between mind and body – and must accept that without one, the other is pointless.