To The 11-Year-Old Me Diagnosed With Chronic Illness

To The 11-Year-Old Me Diagnosed With Chronic Illness

A letter to the little girl whose world has turned away.
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Dear 11-year-old me,

Listen, things are going to start changing and they’re going to start changing fast. Please don’t be discouraged. Things will begin to test you, and your strength; the ground will crumble under your feet. Please don’t let your strength waiver. It will feel like the end of the world, on more than one occasion, please don’t believe it. People will come and they will go, sometimes you’ll be overwhelmed with support and other times you’ll crave it. Please don’t forget your worth. There will be a lesson to learn through each obstacle you face and moment you enjoy, please don’t lose your desire to learn from life. The world you will become immersed in will shake you, it will break you and it will crush you but please, don’t ever let it consume you.

Dear 11-year-old me,

This is where the pain starts. Deep breath. It hurts—I know, it starts off weak but within an hour it will have you on your knees. You’ll go to the hospital, a lot, too many times to count. Many of the people you encounter from now on will not care about your dancing or your favorite subject, you will be defined by a medical record, a statistic, a number—you will never hear your name said as it was before. The long hallways become familiar, I promise; the cold, gray examination rooms will not. A warm smile from a nurse will always ease the sting of a needle piercing through your skin, but it will not be enough to save you from the smells that have become so anxiety provoking your body can only relinquish through vomit. The heaviness of the morphine will be enough to numb your pain and your mind, the nausea will be a new battle in itself. That fear of needles? It will be replaced with something bigger, much too big to comprehend. Lay down. Take advantage of the warm blankets as the fluids and potions being guided into your body try to cool you. The relief will be brief, the tests will come back clear, the doctors will stop caring, the cycle will continue.

Dear 11-year-old me,

This is where they took out your appendix and soon after your gall bladder. You will get your first diagnosis, but not your last. You will become a gamble, a mere chance, a rarity, a medical anomaly. You will be diagnosed over a span of 8 years, the diagnoses will not come easily or quickly but they will stick. It will teach you patience better than it can be taught. This is where you begin to understand the new world you are in. For most of it you won't be okay, some days you will wake up and curse the air you breathe and other days you will be thankful for another day. You’ll meet the most incredible people, they will change your life with their mere presence. It’s important to hold onto them because the others will leave. Yes, over diseases and circumstances you cannot control you will lose what was never yours to begin with, you will learn what was meant to be and what was not. You will learn to be OK while being broken beyond repair.

Dear 11-year-old me,

Stop, stop scratching! Do you see that small dot? It’s going to turn into a welt, and the more you scratch it the more that it will flare into a hive. First there is one, then there will be two, soon it will be your whole arm and no time will be wasted until your chest starts to become flushed. Someone will notice before you do, you don’t know what to look for. When you see your flushed, hive filled body you will instantly be aware of the pounding of your heart. No, it shouldn’t be going this fast. By the time you get to a hospital your lips will be swollen and your chest collapsing. What is this? What’s going on? Your body will crave a full breath of oxygen so desperately you begin to wheeze as if you are breathing under water. The panic will set in as you try to clear the obstruction from your throat preventing you from breathing freely. You don’t know it yet, but there’s nothing there—it’s just swelling. This is anaphylaxis, this is a new normal. It will take everything from you: foods, activities, clothing, perfume, makeup, it will stop at nothing. Soon the nurse will inject you with epinephrine. Breathe through the burning. You’ll feel your heart start to race as if you’ve run a marathon; you will sweat, you will vomit, but that obstruction will clear itself and the hives will resolve. The physical symptoms will go away within 24 to 48 hours, but each anaphylactic shock will remain vivid in your head. They won't all end like this, sometimes it will be too much damage to repair and your body will be kept alive by a mechanical machine that will breathe for you. The hiss of a ventilator will become a noise that will make you sick, despite being sedated you will never forget the feeling of a tube down your throat and the sounds of voices peering through sedation will echo in your mind forever.

Dear 11-year-old me,

Don’t lose your passion. This is where dance gets taken away, I know; God, I know it hurts more than ever before. You don’t have to put that dance bag away forever, keep it as a reminder. It’s going to hurt for a long time, you won't be able to watch recitals or videos to heal your heart. That gift won't come for a long time, it will take a while for your heart to heal but once it does you can let dance back in your life again. In fact, someone really special is going to come into your life and she will make you love dance more than you did before. She will remind you of the lessons that are within a crease on the hardwood floor, she will remind you of the euphoria that comes from shaking mirrors from a bass too strong, she will remind you of the serenity that’s within dimmed lights and music that speaks for you. Dance will heal you. Dance will heal your mind. Dance will heal the empty spaces. Dance will heal your heart. Dance will heal your soul. Dance will heal. Surround yourself with it at every chance you get—don’t lose your passion.

Dear 11-year-old me,

Despite the countless moments of feeling like you won't, you will survive. Don’t be afraid, but please remember that it’s okay to be afraid. Your strength will not reside in stoicism and fearlessness, but in vulnerability and pain. Find your solace in the sun and in the sky, always remember its promise. Remember that on your darkest days, even when you feel you can’t go on, the sun will rise. Even if you don’t want to wake up, the sun will rise. The sun will break any darkness of night and will escape any cloud that hinders its light but even on the cloudiest of days, some light will still remain. The promise of warmth, of light, of new beginnings and of endless possibilities is enough to remind you that the world is rooting for you to not only live but to survive.

Cover Image Credit: Sabrina C

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I'm The Girl Without A 'Friend Group'

And here's why I'm OK with it

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Little things remind me all the time.

For example, I'll be sitting in the lounge with the people on my floor, just talking about how everyone's days went. Someone will turn to someone else and ask something along the lines of, "When are we going to so-and-so's place tonight?" Sometimes it'll even be, "Are you ready to go to so-and-so's place now? Okay, we'll see you later, Taylor!"

It's little things like that, little things that remind me I don't have a "friend group." And it's been like that forever. I don't have the same people to keep me company 24 hours of the day, the same people to do absolutely everything with, and the same people to cling to like glue. I don't have a whole cast of characters to entertain me and care for me and support me. Sometimes, especially when it feels obvious to me, not having a "friend group" makes me feel like a waste of space. If I don't have more friends than I can count, what's the point in trying to make friends at all?

I can tell you that there is a point. As a matter of fact, just because I don't have a close-knit clique doesn't mean I don't have any friends. The friends I have come from all different walks of life, some are from my town back home and some are from across the country. I've known some of my friends for years, and others I've only known for a few months. It doesn't really matter where they come from, though. What matters is that the friends I have all entertain me, care for me, and support me. Just because I'm not in that "friend group" with all of them together doesn't mean that we can't be friends to each other.

Still, I hate avoiding sticking myself in a box, and I'm not afraid to seek out friendships. I've noticed that a lot of the people I see who consider themselves to be in a "friend group" don't really venture outside the pack very often. I've never had a pack to venture outside of, so I don't mind reaching out to new people whenever.

I'm not going to lie, when I hear people talking about all the fun they're going to have with their "friend group" over the weekend, part of me wishes I could be included in something like that. I do sometimes want to have the personality type that allows me to mesh perfectly into a clique. I couldn't tell you what it is about me, but there is some part of me that just happens to function better one-on-one with people.

I hated it all my life up until very recently, and that's because I've finally learned that not having a "friend group" is never going to be the same as not having friends.

SEE ALSO: To The Girls Who Float Between Friend Groups

Cover Image Credit: wordpress.com

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Your Health Journey Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint

Perfection takes time.

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When you first start to do something, you have all of the motivation in the world to accomplish that goal set out in front of you, especially when it comes to being healthier. The problem is as you continue through this journey and food and laziness kick in, motivation slips. It's human, and it happens to everyone no matter how physically strong they are.

Trying to be healthier doesn't always mean losing weight. It can be so your knees don't ache as much, so you don't feel as out of breath climbing stairs, or any goal you have set for yourself. Being healthier is personal and different from person to person.

I will be the first to admit that there are plenty of changes I would love to make about myself. From my weight to my body type and many other things about myself inside and out. I am by no means the most confident person about how I look, but I have worked hard for the past year to be an overall healthier person.

Becoming healthier isn't about looking thinner or fitting into a specific size of clothes. It is about taking care of yourself from eating better to working out more. There comes a feeling of confidence in what your body can do if you put a little love in it.

Perfection takes time, and I know firsthand how frustrating trying to be healthier can be.

Pizza tastes so much better than salad. It is so easy to fall into a rhythm of something that seems never to change whether that is your weight or your mile time. Sadly, you can't build a city, or become healthier overnight.

We see people who are thinner, curvier, smarter, faster, and so much more than us. We all waste time comparing ourselves to people around us and on our timelines, but some of our biggest strengths are our individuality and the gift of getting back up after falling down.

All I can say is, please don't give up on your goal of being healthier because this is solely for you. We can have a great support system in the world and have everyone in our corner, but that isn't enough.

You need yourself. You need to know that if you don't entirely put yourself in this journey, then you won't fully succeed. Your commitment to bettering yourself can keep you going even if you want to give up.

Your motivation may not be at its peak level right now, and you may have every cell in your body screaming at you to quit. Don't do it. Prove to yourself that you can keep going no matter what. Not giving up will be worth it. The results and taking the hard way will make you a stronger person inside and out.

You can do this. You can do anything you want to accomplish if you just believe in yourself. You need to understand that becoming healthier takes endurance. There will be periods where you slow down and may not be going at your fastest pace. The difference is that you are not giving up and you are still trying and moving.

Don't treat becoming healthier as a sprint: short term and quick. That mentality will only leave you feeling deflated and defeated. It is a life-long marathon of pacing yourself and pushing yourself further than ever before.

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