21 Years With A Chronic Illness.
Getting a diagnosis when you’re 13 doesn’t exactly make for good teenage years. I was forced to grow up fast. Being sick isn’t fun. It’s come with many life-threatening challenges and a lot of fear at different points. It’s changed my life in ways I could have never imagined, taken things away, and continually forced me to face the unknown. But it’s also given me a tremendous amount of empathy, patience, appreciation, and perspective. And seeing how the past 21 years have really made me the person I am and continue to grow to be, I wouldn’t change a minute of it.
The Loss Of A Love.
What may have come across as devastatingly heartbreaking, was actually one of the best experiences of my life. To love someone that deeply and feel their love reciprocated could possibly be one of the most profound feelings we humans can have. To lose that person and watch them slip away forever, a person who I saw myself with forever, who I couldn’t imagine life without, is a loss that’s created a partial void in my life which will always remain empty. My heart is always open to new love, although I never go looking for it. I’ve never compared the love I lost to new loves because each person and each relationship is so unique and special in their own way. That loss taught me to appreciate each moment and never take days for granted.
The Absence Of My Father (which my therapist mistakenly calls abandonment.)
Look, I don’t feel abandoned. I don’t cry at night that I was never able to go to a father/daughter dance. I definitely am not saddened that my “father” won’t walk me down the aisle. And I don’t have daddy issues. What I do have, is an overwhelming amount of thanks to God for removing such a toxic human from mine and my mother’s lives. I am grateful that I’ve been surrounded with strong father figures in my grandfather and my uncles. Grateful that the little men my uncles are raising are going to be wonderful humans.
As for walking me down the aisle, my biological father wouldn’t ever have deserved that honor anyways. That honor resides with my uncle or Godson.
On my 32nd birthday, I baked for my surgical staff and had a 2-day hospital vacation. My Lupus makes me high risk for pregnancy and my kidney disease offered a 50/50 chance that me or a baby would die. Because I’m not a gambler, I opted out of all of that and decided I could one day adopt. But now, I’m not so sure.
This world is not getting any better. We don’t live in Pleasantville, and utopia doesn’t exist. Apparently what also doesn’t exist- anymore– is a certain level of respect for fellow humankind. Political parties are fighting and inciting violence towards one another, most people have completely lost the ability to get along with anyone who differs in opinion, and if you say anything unconventional, people get offended.
Aside from social factors, kids these days are way more advanced and grown-up than I was at their young age. They see too much, know too much, and frighteningly do too much. As confident as I was in my skills as a mother, I can’t control what my children would’ve been exposed to. I’m very thankful I will not be raising a little human in this world…I’ll stick to dogs.
Getting Manipulated, Lied To, Cheated On and Betrayed.
Shitty feelings, right? Guess what though… those experiences have made me aware. They’ve made me open my eyes, and they’ve taught me to always, always trust my gut. 99% of the time, your intuition is right and will never steer you wrong. We get into trouble when we start to ignore and avoid those gut feelings, those red flags and warning signs and look past them. Avoidance of issues right in front of us creates a cycle of dysfunction. I’ve learned to trust my intuition and, although I forgive the people who’ve manipulated and betrayed me, I will never forget what they did or the lessons I learned. Those lessons and those memories will always remind me what to look for, what to avoid, and what to never settle for.
Anxiety. Depression. Hangups.
I go through these periods where I am very anxious, where I experience situational depression, where I have so many hang-ups about myself. Moments where I can honestly say, “the struggle is real,” and mean it because it encompasses every aspect of my life at that given moment. But those periods also remind me that in the grand scheme of things, in the darkness and struggle, I have and can continue to overcome and thrive. Depression reminds me that the days will not always be filled with sunshine, and that’s okay. Anxiety reminds me that paranoia is real and those feelings are making me situationally aware. Hangups remind me that I am not perfect, nor will I ever be.
What these challenges have proven to me day in and day out is that each day I wake up is a gift and a chance. To be better, to grow, to love, and to make a difference. But most importantly, what my challenges have proven to me is that I am strong and I am worthy.