How the Trauma of Illness Helped Me Fall in Love with Myself

The Trauma Of My Illness Helped Me Fall In Love With Myself Again

I take a look back at what my experience has taught me a year later, now with fresh eyes and an open heart.

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My first year of college didn't exactly go as I had planned. Midway through the spring semester (last year), I was feeling overwhelmingly tired and sick with difficulty to breathe and at first, was misdiagnosed with a normal cold.

After only three days of these symptoms and then starting to cough up blood, I went to the ER at Temple University Hospital and was diagnosed with sepsis, strep, and bacterial pneumonia. Luckily, I was admitted in perfect time- before my organs started to fail before my life would be over.

I was very naive at the time and thought the recovery would be quick and easily forgettable. I can remember thinking "a couple of antibiotics should fix this right?" or "I'll just be here through the night, that's it".

I never would've guessed what was to actually happen- three weeks hospitalized, countless tests, IV's, medications, restless nights, surgery, nurses and doctors 24/7, four chest tubes, forced medical withdraw from school, the tears, the hurt, and the pain.

I missed my friends, my classes, my freedom to walk and use the bathroom on my own, the sight of my family's faces without a worried or tired look, and the feeling of inhaling without excruciating torment and pain.

These little things that I had so easily taken for granted before now seemed so distant, and terribly out of reach. I missed so much and at the same time felt so much helplessness, anxiety, and sadness.

I remember looking at myself in the plastic flimsy handheld mirror and not knowing the person looking back at me. I felt like a stranger in the shell of my body- emotionally and physically detached. I couldn't seem to get out of the negative headspace that was consuming me.

I couldn't help but imagine that I was just supposed to die, that I wasn't supposed to make it through.

I couldn't figure out why I was being punished in this way, a way that made me feel completely isolated, guilty for my name seeming to be in everyone's mouth all of the time, sad that for that span of time I felt like I had failed- even though I didn't ask for any of it.

I didn't want to get sick, I didn't want to 'drop out,' I didn't want to continue being a burden to everyone I loved.

But here's what I had such trouble seeing through my pain: love. I mean, I was so grateful and thankful for the well wishes and visitors of my friends and family, but I was missing the big picture.

Chalk it up to my selfishness at the time, or the heavy amount of painkillers I was on, or that maybe I was frozen in the overwhelming situation, but I truly had so much to be thankful for, and those first weeks in the hospital I was blind to this immense and incalculable love that was around me.

Through all of this hurt, there was so much love. I was so lucky to be alive, I was healing, and I was growing, and I continue to do so now.

It is the love of my friends and family that allowed me to realize how I should have been loving myself before I got sick. I should've been soaking up every moment I have, going the extra mile, and of course, loving myself.

I have since fallen in love with myself again- deeper than I ever have before. I stopped being picky with little things that used to bother me, I now accept myself for my flaws and embrace them, and I allow them to empower me.

I give myself time to heal, process, and figure things out. I don't shame myself for any of my imperfectness either. The love I give myself first then allows me to give love to others as well, to reciprocate the joy and care that others have given me.

This experience gave me new eyes, and I started to see things without the haze of my self-doubt. I feel a strength and power within myself that I never thought I had, which I am so very thankful for, and being pushed to my limits enabled me to understand other people's experiences with even more empathy than I thought possible.

Now, when I look in the mirror I know that no matter what my body may look or feel like- I will always be me, and I am so blessed because of that. My literal and figurative scars show me where I have been, what I have been able to endure, and what I have learned.

They also show me that I can (and will) keep going, keep loving, and continuously be unapologetic for who I am. I don't actually regret any of what happened to me, because it brought me so much closer to the ones I love, and most notably, it made me learn to love myself again.

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To The Person Who Feels Suicidal But Doesn't Want To Die

Suicidal thoughts are not black and white.
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Everyone assumes that if you have suicidal thoughts that means you want to die.

Suicidal thoughts are thought of in such black-and-white terms. Either you have suicidal thoughts and you want to die, or you don't have suicidal thoughts and you want to live. What most people don't understand is there are some stuck in the gray area of those two statements, I for one am one of them.

I've had suicidal thoughts since I was a kid.

My first recollection of it was when I came home after school one day and got in trouble, and while I was just sitting in the dining room I kept thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to take a knife from the kitchen and just shove it into my stomach." I didn't want to die, or even hurt myself for that matter. But those thoughts haven't stopped since.

I've thought about going into the bathroom and taking every single pill I could find and just drifting to sleep and never waking back up, I've thought about hurting myself to take the pain away, just a few days ago on my way to work I thought about driving my car straight into a tree. But I didn't. Why? Because even though that urge was so strong, I didn't want to die. I still don't, I don't want my life to end.

I don't think I've ever told anyone about these feelings. I don't want others to worry because the first thing anyone thinks when you tell them you have thoughts about hurting or killing yourself is that you're absolutely going to do it and they begin to panic. Yes, I have suicidal thoughts, but I don't want to die.

It's a confusing feeling, it's a scary feeling.

When the depression takes over you feel like you aren't in control. It's like you're drowning.

Every bad memory, every single thing that hurt you, every bad thing you've ever done comes back and grabs you by the ankle and drags you back under the water just as you're about the reach the surface. It's suffocating and not being able to do anything about it.

The hardest part is you never know when these thoughts are going to come. Some days you're just so happy and can't believe how good your life is, and the very next day you could be alone in a dark room unable to see because of the tears welling up in your eyes and thinking you'd be better off dead. You feel alone, you feel like a burden to everyone around you, you feel like the world would be better off without you. I wish it was something I could just turn off but I can't, no matter how hard I try.

These feelings come in waves.

It feels like you're swimming and the sun is shining and you're having a great time until a wave comes and sucks you under into the darkness of the water. No matter how hard you try to reach the surface again a new wave comes and hits you back under again, and again, and again.

And then it just stops.

But you never know when the next wave is going to come. You never know when you're going to be sucked back under.

I always wondered if I was the only one like this.

It didn't make any sense to me, how did I think about suicide so often but not want to die? But I was thinking about it in black and white, I thought I wasn't allowed to have those feelings since I wasn't going to act on them. But then I read articles much like this one and I realized I'm not the only one. Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, and my feelings are valid.

To everyone who feels this way, you aren't alone.

I thought I was for the longest time, I thought I was the only one who felt this way and I didn't understand how I could feel this way. But please, I implore you to talk to someone, anyone, about the way you're feeling, whether it be a family member, significant other, a friend, a therapist.

My biggest mistake all these years was never telling anyone how I feel in fear that they would either brush me off because “who could be suicidal but not want to die?" or panic and try to commit me to a hospital or something. Writing this article has been the greatest feeling of relief I've felt in a long time, talking about it helps. I know it's scary to tell people how you're feeling, but you're not alone and you don't have to go through this alone.

Suicidal thoughts aren't black and white, your feelings are valid, and there are people here for you. You are not alone.

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline — 1-800-273-8255


Cover Image Credit: BengaliClicker

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I Stopped Wearing Makeup For A Week And I've Never Felt More Confident

You don't need makeup to look and feel beautiful if you don't want to.

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I began wearing makeup in middle school for special occasions. Whenever there was a school dance, I'd don on some mascara and I would feel beautiful. This continued until the end of my sophomore year of high school when I decided that putting on makeup would become part of my everyday morning routine. Eventually, wearing makeup was something people expected to see rather than something that I wore on occasion.

Things stayed the same until my freshman year of college. There were some days during my first year in college that I couldn't be bothered to wear makeup, because I was in a rush. However, whenever these days occurred, I usually had friends ask me why I was so tired and if everything was okay. I have prominent bags under my eyes that I usually cover up with a concealer, and though I slept enough and tried many remedies, they just wouldn't disappear. Without my makeup though, my friends were concerned and thought that something might be wrong. While they had good intentions, I thought that I must not look good without my makeup.

From then on, I started wearing makeup every day, no matter what. If I went to grab some food quick, I had to wear makeup. Review session for math on Saturday in the morning? Makeup. Volunteering for a club? Makeup. Class? Makeup, always makeup. If there was any chance that I would run into someone that I knew I had to put on makeup because I felt that I would be judged and wanted to look my best at all times.

When I started taking an 8 a.m. class this semester, something changed.

One day, I was running late and was rushing to get to my class on time. I didn't have time to put on any makeup before class. At first, I was self-conscious without any makeup covering up my circles and I felt naked. I thought that people would notice, but I don't think that anyone even noticed. The following week, I had exams and felt that getting a few more minutes of sleep was much more satisfying than putting on makeup, so I went without any makeup that week. At first, I was still self-conscious of not having anything on my face to cover up the imperfections, but as the week wore on, I felt free. Without any makeup, I never had to take any off at night. Normally my mascara takes forever to get off, which is a hassle. Also, I felt that without the makeup, I felt like I looked better over time. I was more confident about how I looked with and without the makeup.

Since that fateful week of not wearing makeup, I've found that not wearing any makeup to be extremely freeing. While I do still sometimes put it on, it is no longer a necessity. If you wear makeup constantly, I suggest trying to go without wearing makeup for a few days. There's nothing wrong with wearing makeup, and there also isn't anything wrong with not wearing makeup either.

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