I’m Still Me

Yeah, maybe things have changed a bit. Maybe i’m facing a chronic illness, maybe i’m facing one that is even threatening to take my life. Either way, please try to remember that i’m still me. I know things are different than they used to be and that my world, and maybe yours, has been turned upside down and spun 180 degrees. I might be too sick to get out of bed some days, or have to cancel plans last minute because I just don’t feel up to going out. Trust me, I don’t want it to be this way and though things may have changed, I don’t want you to treat me differently. I want to be that fun loving, excitable, and happy go lucky person that you used to know and somewhere beneath all of my symptoms, I still am that person.

I’m still that person that you shared many laughs with. I’m still that person that you hung out with and talked for hours on end about irrelevant drama with. I’m still that person that you ran around while we were screaming at the tops of our lungs, having not a care in the world. I’m still that person that you stayed up with until 3am binge movies and eating all the junk food we could get our hands on. I’m still that person that you came to when life just wasn’t going your way, and you needed someone who understood. I’m still that person you knew way before all of this happened. As much as things have changed, please help me keep some kind of normalcy in my life. I don’t want to forget the person that I used to be, and I don’t want you to forget it either. I don’t want our amazing memories to fade into the background of my new reality, wether this reality be just for now or for forever. I’m trying to keep those memories alive because right now i’m fighting to get that person back.

No matter what, don’t forget about that effervescent person that you used to know. It might be challenging for the eye to see, but please look just a little bit harder. Beneath the shell of my exhausted body and behind the tears that I occasionally shed, I am still in here. Please don’t forget about the real me.

Dear 15 Year Old Me,

Dear 15 Year Old Me,

Hate to break it to ya, but your life is going to be turned upside down soon. I know you’re probably pretty confused but i’ll lay it all out for you. Listen, before I get into the nitty gritty of it all, know that you’re going to be okay. Despite everything that you are going to face in the coming years, you’re going to make it through each day alive. As long as you’re alive and breathing, things could always be worse. You’ll make it through, that I can promise you. As i’m writing this at the ripe old age of 18 having more experience than I did 3 years ago at 15, I know a lot more now than I did then. Kiddo, you’ll be alright. It’s going to be a long journey with a fair share of its ups and downs, you’ll struggle but you’ll also realize how strong you are.

14 will have been your last full year of health for quite a while. I know, I know, I didn’t write this warning to you when you were 14, but I guess I just wasn’t ready to face this… my bad. As school gets more and more stressful you’re going to start getting sick. You won’t know it for a while, but that hand that is slowing down? Yeah, you’ll lose the ability to use that for a few days. And that nagging oh so annoying back pain that just won’t leave you alone? Get ready because it is going to take things up a notch soon. March will roll around before you know it, brace yourself for what is to come because honestly, it’s going to move pretty quickly from here. You’ll see an orthopedist at first who will shrug the pain off and send you to physical therapy for what was supposed to last for 6-8 weeks; you’re still in it when you’re 18 and will be for the foreseeable future. That hand will lock soon and you’ll be misdiagnosed with something called Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome. I know you’ve always been told that doctors know everything, but explore other options. Ultimately, CRPS won’t be your biggest problem or even your diagnosis. You’ll be in and out of the hospital many times, you’ll have to put up with the torturous PT/OT sessions. I know they hurt but do everything you can to tolerate it, those people have your best intentions in mind.

Unfortunately, your pain will get worse and neuro symptoms will start flaring. You’ll be rushed around from doctor to doctor. Trust me on this one, start getting over your fear of needles and doctors now, it’ll help you in the long run. You’re going to have to deal with nerve blocks, mri’s, blood draws, PICC lines placed, a port a cath placed, etc. Like I had explained about your hand before, your foot will be paralyzed for 8 months. This won’t last for forever, with hard work and an incredible physical therapist you’ll get use of it back. With that and other things, you will be out of riding for quite some time, don’t you even dare think about walking away. There is a horse out there who is waiting for you, i’ll explain that later. You’ll also be out of school completely for over a year, don’t let that put you off. You’ll be back in school, even if just homebound, and you’ll excel as much as you can. None of those are fun and some are scarier than others, but again you’ll get through them. You’re stronger than you know, please don’t let anyone tell you different.

Over the course of the next few years you are going to learn a lot about people. Not everyone is going to make an effort to keep in touch with you, accept it and move on. Those people aren’t worth your time anyways. Doctors, yeah, they don’t know everything and some of them are real jerks. With that being said, they are only human as well. Sadly, not every doctor will be able to help you. Don’t let it get you down, when you’re 16 you’ll find a great doctor who will really help get you on the path to healing. Hang in there. When you’re 17 you’ll find another great doctor who will join the team to help you heal.

15,16,17, year old me… know that it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to have a total meltdown. You won’t start accepting this until you’re 18 but I so wish I could change that. It’s a lot to take on for anyone, let alone a kid. You don’t have to hold it together for everyone else. Crying doesn’t show weakness, it doesn’t say that you aren’t strong, it simply just shows that you’ve had all you can take and need to get it out of your system. Let it out, there is no shame in it. Be strong, but don’t be so strong that you don’t allow yourself to feel.

Along the way a little miracle will come along. That not so little miracle will be a Dutch Warmblood standing at 16hh. January 2nd 2015 you will meet your best friend, your partner in crime, the one who will make you smile even when the tears just can’t seem to stop. The soft nicker he lets out when he sees you, the quiet cuddles when no one is around, the quiet hacks, all those little moments will remind you of the beautiful moments that life holds. Embrace those moments, they will help you get through the tougher times. Despite things that will come up, don’t give up. He’ll take care of you, he knows his job. Trust him, he will be there for you through everything. That Dutch Warmblood will make everything worth the suffering. He is worth it all, I promise you. Stay strong for him if for no one else, he will be your rock.

A few months after you turn 18 things will change and pain will intensify. This is the point that i’m writing from now. I’m not giving up now and 15 year old me, if you could have seen this then, I wish you saw the beauty that life does hold. Things will be very dark for a while but they won’t stay that way, okay? You’ll be alright, you’ll get back on your feet, give it time. Deep breaths, take any pony cuddles, and find joy in the little things that life has to offer. Keep kickin’ kiddo, one day at a time.

Sincerely,

I wish I had known the things I know now

-18 year old me