Today at Camp, they asked us to share one thing that the other campers would be surprised to know about us. When it was my turn, I mumbled something about my twins being boy-girl, a fact I am pretty sure 90% of the other campers already knew.
I have been struggling lately to keep my head above water (or my mind out of panic attack territory) and have been paying less attention to the well-being of my fellow campers. In contrast, my fellow campers, particularly you, my dear sweet Annie, have been incredibly thoughtful and compassionate towards me. You have seen me floundering and you have worried and checked in and offered words of comfort and commiseration.
Today, I had the opportunity to do the same for you and I blew it.
You have spoken frequently of your frustration that your current struggles seem to define you. You talk about your dreams for the future but always with a sense of doubt, as if there is just too great a disconnect between where you find yourself today and what you would like for your life to be.
This is what I should have said to you today:
I am a college drop out. I took a medical leave of absence at the beginning of my sophomore year because I was too sick, too much of a danger to myself to stay. I moved home to live with my mother. I started going to therapy. For awhile, that was all I did. Eventually, I got a part-time job. Then, I took a couple of classes at a local university. Nothing too challenging but at least it was school again. I stayed at home with my mom for a year.
Then, I transferred to a different school, less academically rigorous and closer to my family. I was absolutely terrified the day my parents dropped me off. I had no idea whether I would be okay. But, eventually, I was. I kept taking my meds and I made some new friends. I figured out my major and I enjoyed my classes. I was never not sick, but I was well enough that it didn’t prevent me from doing the things that I wanted to do.
I met my future husband at the beginning of my senior year and I graduated with honors. I took the LSAT and went on to law school and then a clerkship.
None of these accomplishments are intended to be impressive and I know they have nothing to do with your goals, Annie. But these were some of the things that I wanted that I truly believed would never, ever happen when I first became sick and had to leave school. I felt like my life had gone off the rails and there was simply no way it would ever get back on track. I was wrong.
I will never not be sick but it does not define me and has not prevented me from leading a life that I cherish and will continue to fight for every single day. I have a loving partner, sweet, funny children, a fulfilling job, and fiercely loyal friends. I have so much love in my life and joy.
Annie – I can’t tell you it will be easy or that the unfairness of having to fight so hard for normal will ever dissipate. But I do know that regardless of what has happened, you can be whatever you want to be and do all of the things your heart desires. I believe in you.