The adventures our lives can take over the course of a year, never fails to amaze me.
I've been spending a lot of time thinking about how dramatically different my life is now than it was last year.
Just over a year ago, I didn't know anyone with EDS. I lost most of my friends, and had given up almost everything I thought brought me happiness. I got sick with Dysautonomia, was going to get a wheel-chair, needed AFO's and put some serious thought into a G-tube. I had no idea what to do with myself, and pretty much lost all hope for anything good. I didn't trust anyone, felt like a total nuisance and completely alone.
Little did I know my life was going to change, and it was going to be for the better.
I was very lucky to be given the opportunity to go to the EDNF conference in Baltimore. I had no idea what to expect going into it, but figured I had nothing to lose. Those four days changed my life. It was then I realized that even if I didn't fit in with the rest of the world, there was a whole other community that I belonged to. A community with some of the most incredible people I know. A community that is pro-active, ridiculously supportive and a community of people who will never walk away. We have all walked that lonely road, and don't wish it on anyone. Bendy friends are vital to survival. I think if we didn't have each other our lives would plain horrible.
A year ago, I was just getting a wheel-chair and completely hated the idea of it. It was one more thing to add to the ever growing pile of braces and equipment. It was a reminder that I could no longer do the simple things most people take for granted. I hated everything about it. After talking to one of my best bendy friends about it, I realized that I had a choice. I could look at all my extra luggage and see it as something that is holding me down, or I could look at it as something that I can use with pride. I still hate the fact that I'm needing adaptive goodness, and I still sometimes have trouble accepting it all. There's no way someone can go through this and be excited about it every step of the way. Once I got over my pity for one, I committed to seeing it all differently. Using adaptive goodness essentially lets us participate in life. It lets us do more, conserves our energy and helps with pain, it's exactly what we need. We can use it as a canvas to express ourselves and send a message. It is something we can make our own, and wear with pride. Instead of being reclusive and passive, we are doing and being. Having adaptive goodness doesn't define us, but how we wear it does. We can do the walk of shame (in our cases probably hobble) or we can show the world that just because we're stuck in a body that's falling apart, it doesn't mean we can't truly live. This year, I'm really excited about getting some custom wheels. I know it will do a lot of good things for me, and I'm most definitely not the "poor girl in the wheel-chair".
A year ago, I was freaking out about all the things that I couldn't do anymore. One of the items on that very long list was work. I had been working 2 jobs at a time for years and loving them. I quickly started losing the energy to volunteer or take on the odd care-taking gig. Eventually I had to stop working completely and start relying on everyone else. That was a giant slice of humble pie, let me tell you that. Just recently, I have un-learned equating gainful employment with self-worth. I have learned that there is no clear definition for contribution, and the ones that aren't fiscal are the ones that make us all a better person. If we give back and do what we can, there is more self worth in those acts than a giant pay-cheque.
A year ago, I didn't think I'd ever be able to even adopt and raise my kids because of the whole EDS mess. Once again the universe gave me what I needed at just the right time. At last year's conference, I met a handful of bendy friends who've adopted their kiddos. I've always wanted to be a mum through adoption, and I was so terrified of that being taken away from me as well. I know I won't be able to do things like back-pack through Cambodia or paddle with them, but it doesn't mean they'll never have the opportunity. Now I am hopeful that being a mum is something that can happen, I'll just have to find more ways to adapt. Oh, and someone who's crazy enough to help me raise them.
A year ago I logged an insane amount of hours at appointments, in the ER and getting tests. Life with Dysautonomia began and I finally understood what being chronically sick really meant. Doctors and specialists that I originally had, started to turn me away because they didn't understand it, or thought I was beyond what they could offer. I've never fought with so many doctors in my life. Outside of all those appointments, I spent most of my days in bed. On the days when my symptoms were down to a dull roar, I could drag myself to work and barely managed to do things like grocery shopping. If I made it out of bed and was able to leave the house for 5 minutes, it was considered a good day. I resigned myself to life being that way forever and began to lose interest in everything. After months and months of trouble shooting, ER runs and hospital admissions we finally figured out exactly what my body needs. I began to start feeling better and being able to really live again. I can now say that it's totally possible to come back from a Dysautonomia crash, and riding it out is worth it.
A year ago, I had a pretty incredible 5 year plan, and was bound and determined to make it happen on my own terms despite being sick. EDS and Dysautonomia had other things in mind and wreaked complete havoc on my body. Those plans are still on hold, but now I'm really starting to see why...I needed to accept that I was disabled and sick so I could redefine my new life. I needed to grieve my old life, let it go, and start over again.
A year ago, my family didn't understand EDS and the concept of me being sick. I had a really hard time being around them, it felt so awkward and uncomfortable. I was getting looks and statements of pity, told that I didn't have EDS and was being lazy. I was told to be glad that I was born with it, instead of it just happening. My favourite one was that I had thrown away my money using natural medicine and that doctors were always right. The absolute worst was the constant comparisons between my twin and I. It never ended. To this day, there are still questions about why I "suffer more" but the answer will never change. I think the really big turning point was when the constant trips to the ER started happening, when I got a wheelchair, AFO's, Jerome and I finally gathered the courage to introduce them to this blog. I have learned to speak up when someone says something out of line, or still tries to "help" me when I have clearly expressed that if I need it, I will ask. The one thing that still drives me absolutely insane is that they can't step back to let me do things for myself. There is always insistence that I can't do something because I'll hurt myself, leaving them feeling guilty. News flash!!!! I hurt myself sleeping, injuries can't be avoided. Get over it. I know they have the best intent for me, but what they think is best and what's really best are sometimes two completely different things. Showing them that I'm okay, and that I have my bases covered all the time is what seems to have made the difference. Being banned from the hospital when I'm inpatient probably has something to do with it too. There's no way I could ever put up with it, so they get one phone call a day until they learn to chill out.
A year ago, I didn't think it would be possible to make new friends who would be accepting of me and my EDS. Forget about any relationships, I was certain that no one would be interested in a girl who was sick. I know EDS doesn't define who I am, but I won't deny that it plays a role in absolutely every decision and action I make. I was most terrified that if I made new friends, they'd walk away like almost everyone else, because having a sick friend was to much to handle. I am so glad to say that I was completely wrong. I've made a bunch of really good friends. Friends who haven't walked away despite all the EDS induced craziness. They understand it as much as anyone can, and are always going out of their way to make my life easier. There is no judgment, criticism of how I'm choosing to live, or hard feelings when I have to cancel plans. The best part is that for the first time in my life, I feel like I truly belong. I am with the right people. I have learned to trust again albeit very slowly, understand that people want to help me, and that it's not out of obligation. I've learned that there are guys out there who will see me for me, and all the EDS stuff is a minor detail. It still blows my mind, but that's for another post. The friends in my life now only dish out love, kindness, compassion, respect, honesty, humor and positive thoughts.
As I reflect on my past year and the gong show that it was, I wouldn't change anything about it. This road has most definitely not been easy or fun, but it has been filled with the lessons in life that I desperately needed to learn. When something goes "wrong", I've realized that it's actually going right and there's a reason for it. The most important lesson I've learned is to trust my instincts and not to worry about what the rest of the world is doing. My life appears to be in shambles and despite that, I am happier now than I have ever been. Take that negativity!!
What doesn't kill you....
6 months ago