I am a firm believer in optimism. I have my moments of complaint, mostly centered around hot days where the mosquitos just won’t get the hint, or around the random and completely pointless pain and dizziness that comes with being a POTSy (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome – look it up!), BUT for the most part, I believe in making the best out of whatever circumstances surround us. And I stand by that! It will be a rare and horrible day when you see me out in public without a smile, however real or fake it might actually be.
However. I am also physiologically prone to the flip side of that coin. Prone to days, weeks, even months of knock-me-down depression. Not the kind where you’re bummed about missing out on a birthday party because you had the flu. No, I mean the kind where you kind of feel like a zombie because your utter lack of joy. Like, way to the left of Blahsville, way down past Sadstown, and right smack in the middle of Why-Am-I-Here and I’m-Not-Worth-Being-Happy. Seriously not a fun place to be.
Or a safe place to be.
I’ve struggled with this my whole remembered life. It’s like when life throws itself at me, I just FEEL so much that my whole body and soul are exhausted by the effort, and I crash. Deep. When I was younger, I would crash because of conflict with my parents or brothers, or loneliness, or anything that made me FEEL so much it hurt. And yet nothing hurt worse than FEELING and being told that my feeling wasn’t real, or was an ‘overreaction’, or that I was being overdramatic.
Okay, sometimes I really was being overdramatic. Simply one of my fortes, I guess.
But there were times when the FEELING wouldn’t stop, couldn’t stop, and I found myself doing everything I could to make it stop. My parents didn’t find out until I was an older teen that I – their happy, bubbly, cheerful, loving, obedient, overdramatic teenager – would hide in a closet and hurt myself if the FEELING got too much. It was a fact of life, of survival for me.
Obviously I wasn’t good enough for the world, and so my rationalization was that somehow, I didn’t deserve to be happy and pain-free, so if I was hurting too much on the inside, somehow my outside had to match.
P.S. I was SUPER WRONG!!! And ANYONE that feels that way? Really needs to research and seek out Heavenly Father’s love for them. He made you to FEEL so that you may understand what joy really is! And oh boy, is it beautiful. And exactly what you deserve!
Anyways, this problem started going away as my health deteriorated. I guess in a funny twist of fate, my health challenges provided me with enough physical pain that I didn’t want or ‘need’ anymore. I’m grateful for that, because I know with others it may go farther than it did with me.
At least, until my mission.
If you know ANYTHING about me, you will know that I always wanted to go on a mission. And I was such a good missionary! I had the desire, had been raised by two wonderful and devoted returned missionaries, had the vision of what I wanted to achieve, and was all set and ready to go! Even being chronically ill couldn’t stop me…
Except it did.
After a whirlwind experience of approximately 3 1/2 months, I was put on an airplane back home with a handful of memories and experiences, and a heavy load of remembrances – of not being listened to at doctors’ offices, of finishing a steroid pack for my inability to breathe that “couldn’t be asthma” and the next day heading to the ER in a wheelchair because my asthma attack was so bad I wasn’t able to move, of my mission’s medical advisor pushing a bottle of anxiety pills over to me and trying to get me to take them regardless of my protests that they had caused a severe neuro-physiological reaction that was altogether trippy, painful, and NOT OKAY, and of that horrible, horrible phone call where my dad had to deliver the news that I was being sent home for ‘noncompliance’ with ‘medical advice’…
Yikes. Yeah, those memories are definitely still painful.
Somehow, in all of the commotion and chaos, my heart broke. And with it, some of my fervor for life.
I had literally done all I could do, and it wasn’t enough.
Those were some dark times.
Yet it wasn’t until months later, when my mom and I went to Charlotte to see a specialist who diagnosed me with POTS, chronic fatigue syndrome, and clinical fibromyalgia that I felt like my life was truly over.
So… what happens when you tell any 19 year old girl with big dreams and overwhelming expectations for herself that she will be sick and abnormal for the rest of her life?
Probably more pain.
It was awful. Truly, truly awful.
And that is when I realized, I really needed help.