Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

Loss of Control


So much of my life right now is logistics: how to manage the condo repair, the dealings with insurance companies, the almost daily travel from Yucaipa to Thousand Oaks (117 miles one way!) and, perhaps worst of all, the fact that come Monday, I will be unable to take care of myself.

I’m the kind of person who gets twitchy without her car. I love having it nearby, knowing I can take off and go anywhere I want at a moment’s notice. It’s freedom, and I not only crave it, I rely on it.

But I’m having major surgery on Monday and I sat at dinner tonight with my partner, my mother, and my mother’s partner discussing who will be taking me to the hospital, who will be staying with me, who will be driving me home, who will be caring for me afterward.

I’m in incredibly good hands, but I’m also humiliated. I’ve spent most of my adulthood building my life, and it’s a life I’m very proud of. Its cornerstones are independence, strength, persistence and, yes, friends and family. And now all but one of those cornerstones are going away. I don’t think I’ve ever had to rely on other people this much since graduating college. I’m terrified of being so weak. Of being so dependent. It feels like a rejection of everything I’ve worked so hard to achieve.

But, oh, how grateful I am that I have friends and family willing to do this for me! And that I can afford to have this surgery, both in terms of time and money. I know I’m lucky, I really do. I have no idea how I’m ever going to repay all the kindness, support, and help I’ve already been shown. (And maybe I can’t, and that will be a lesson, too.)

I thought it would be the surgery that scared me most, but it’s not. It’s the idea of being so fragile.

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Jenn Reese


  • It *is* scary, because it’s a release of control. May you come through this stronger and more at peace with your ability to transcend the vagaries of the Universe. Hugs.

  • Oh, Jenn, you have all my sympathies on this (BELIEVE me!). It is exactly the thing I hate most myself, but you are terrifically good at giving support. So, one suggestion is to think about how you feel when you give support to people. You don’t feel like they’re weak, but that they’re in a place where you can help them. That’s how people feel now. They want to help and they’re happy to help and THEY don’t see you as weak. I would guess most people see it as something they can give to you for all the help you’ve given them.

    And also remember that you don’t pay it back, you give when you can. It’s already something you’re good at.

    Best of luck next week and I hope your recovery is smooth and swift.

  • *hugs*

    I will be thinking of you next week! I hope all goes well and that you recover quickly!

  • I get it. Truly, I do. The good thing is the fragility is temporary. Trust me when I say you’ll feel better than you think you will by the time you go home. Yes, you’ll tire easily, and you won’t be able to do all the stuff you normally do, but it will all come back. Step by step.

    And yeah, you’re a giver. Sometimes givers need to just sit back and allow others the pleasure of giving. It’s your turn, baby.

    Sending love and hugs.

    • Thanks for this, Christine — and thank you for the tremendous advice you’ve given me about all of this. You’ve certainly mitigated a lot of the fear and uncertainty I’d be feeling otherwise. Love you.

  • Oh, Jenn, I felt SO MUCH empathy reading this blog entry. *HUGS* As a fellow control-lover who used to take a lot of pride in my independence before CFS made it impossible…I really, really empathize.

    But the one thing I can offer, although I’m sure you already know it yourself, is: if you imagine your partner, your mom, or her partner, having to go through major abdominal surgery – would you personally think of them as weak or incapable because they weren’t physically able to take care of themselves afterward? I’d be willing to bet a fortune that the answer is no – and that you would be volunteering to give them just as much care as they’re preparing to give you now, because you’re one of the strongest, most loving people I know.

    And you deserve that care just as much as anyone else – without it taking ANYTHING away from your strength as a person.

    More *HUGS*!

  • This is how I feel about moving in with friends and family as a stepping stone to renewed independence…immensely grateful for their generosity and intensely uncomfortable that I have to rely on them. I think we equate needing help with being a child (and asking for help was something I never liked even when I_was_a kid) but this isn’t true. Perhaps the truth is closer to this…we need help through every transitional phase in our lives: college, surgery, giving birth, moving, losing jobs or starting new ones, and getting older. And maybe this continuous cycle of giving and receiving help is a way to re-solidify ourselves and our communities. Maybe it is necessary and even a little wonderful. Thinking of you!

    • Your wisdom is stunning, Sara. I think you’re entirely correct — about why I’m feeling this way, and about the upside of relying on others as a means of solidifying community and relationships. Seriously, this is a lot of great stuff to think about. Thank you. And I’m so looking forward to following your next journey.

  • Wow, Deb and Steph said it so well. I’m sure Bruce Lee also has something wise to say on this topic, but I can’t find anything relevant. But, it’s like, water is your being, and the cup is your control. You’re not surrendering your cup. You’re merely putting your water in a different cup that you trust. Because it’s a really awesome cup. Be water, my friend. Hugs.

    • This is the most convoluted metaphor I’ve ever heard, but I’ll take it! I’ll try to be water without a cup, at least for a little while. :)

  • Anyone who knows you knows full well that you are a person who can take care of yourself. This surgery IS your way of taking care of yourself. It is how you’re coming to terms with the problem and handling it and taking a firm grip on your life. When you emerge on the other side of recovery, you will have come through a tough challenge, and I have no doubt you will do so with strength and grace. It’s just in this moment that you are letting others help you out, which they are clearly glad to do. This is how we learn what our loved ones are made of, sometimes: by seeing how they come through for us when we need them. It’s a gift to them to be able to do this, and I hope they will come through for you in ways that bring you closer.

    Every hero needs a boost from a sidekick now and then, you know?

    Sending much love.

  • I know how hard it is to give up independence. Just remember, all of this bad chaotic stuff is going to pass and quickly. You will be back in your apartment, going to martial arts class, everything, before you know it. And let me know if you need anything, even if it makes you really uncomfortable to ask! :) <3

  • It sucks — it really sucks — going from fully independent, college-educated, strong person to someone who can’t even walk across the room to get a cup of water. And when you do it anyway (dammit!), the cup comes back half-empty because of infirmary.


    It bites, it’s not fair, it IS humiliating, it’s not you because goldarnit you’re a fully independent, college-edu-mi-cated, strong person and it’s just a goldarn cup of water!

    Ask. For. Help.

    The surgery will be a piece of cake compared to the self-restraint you will need during your recovery. The desire — the burning need — to claw your way back to the old you as soon as possible, so you’re not a “burden” on anyone, or you’re not “slacking” in your contribution to your household. You will feel weak and small and helpless and it’s unnatural and you want to rebel against it with ever fiber of your battered body.

    Ask. For. Help.

    As Ken said to me, “you just have to get over it”. (And hopefully you can get over it quicker than I did. ;-) Let those who love you help you. It’s part of loving someone to be able to let them use a shoulder when they need one. I hope that you find “humiliation” transforms into something more akin to “humble” when you realize how much YOUR caring, generosity and love is reflected back at you in your time of need.

    You will mend quicker if you let others help you mend, and there’s no way that you’ll ever not be fully independent, college educated, strong and beautiful. Don’t rush, don’t push, don’t give yourself any setback that will really ratchet up the self-flagellation machine.

    (PS: Something I didn’t know — anesthesia lingers. I was sleepy all the time for the first 10-14 days after surgery, and I was only under for a couple of hours.)

  • Just remember you would do the same for the people you love. Try not to fight the help.

  • Jenn,
    I understand totally!!! The worst part of surgery for me is that I have to turn control of my life over to others. But there is no choice for the most part. After a number of experiences, however, I have learned that it is MY body and there are some things that I could still control. I knew I couldn’t take hydrocordone so I refused it and iron. The PT I had was horrible and I simply did not allow him to do to me what he wanted. And ultimately I was right and was able to recover my way. It can be done, and nicely. It will soon be over and you will go back to your normal, independent life! Hang in!!!

  • Jenn, is that you talking or is this a guest post from Aluna? ;)

    You are in such good hands *because* of the strong and independent life you’ve built!

    Much love,

  • […] over the past couple of weeks. First and foremost was Jenn’s surgery, which she discusses here; the latest update, for those who haven’t been following along via social media, is that […]

By Jenn Reese
Jenn Reese Writer, Artist, Geek

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