Nov 1, 2012
Do you ever wonder what might have been if you hadn't been struck by chronic illness at an early age? For some of us, the onset was gradual. But for others, like me, the onset was startlingly abrupt. One day I was dancing and hosting talkshows and the next I was down in bed barely able to move. Five years later, I have seen some significant improvement but my current self is still a far cry from my former self who could tackle multiple tasks on a daily basis without thinking twice about it.
Ever since I got sick, I have been haunted by my former self. Valedictorian voted "most likely to succeed," president of (nearly) every high school organization and college graduate with three degrees. I had the world at my fingertips it seemed and it was ripped away from me in a heartbeat the day I got sick. People from my past who don't know the whole story of what happened to me must assume that I've become a failure or a recluse, not living up to the outlandish expectations imposed on me by a small town and its overly-interested inhabitants.
While it's true that I care entirely too much of what others think of me, sometimes I can't help but feel sorry for myself. Maybe it's how the chronically ill are conditioned. People are either pitying us, or not believing us. There is very little empathy shown by others. Trying to observe my own situation objectively as if I were an outsider looking in on my own life, I must admit it's a pretty pathetic picture most of the time. Even older people in poor health pity my life, or shall I say existence, as a twentysomething. They know that when they were my age, or even in their thirties, forties, fifties, they were able to do as they pleased without any significant bodily restictions or limitations imposed on their lives. They traveled, raised families, played sports. I do none of those things. I am stuck in every sense of the word. Every now and then, I see a glimmer of my former, pre-illness self start to surface but then quickly fade when my physical symptoms kick in, reminding my current self that it cannot do what it used to, or what it had planned to do in the future.
What would my life look like today if I weren't sick? I ask myself that question all the time. I would likely be living in a high-rise minimalist penthouse in the city with a career that I enjoyed and comfortably afforded my lifestyle. I would have a vibrant social life filled with people my own age and dinners rarely eaten at home alone. I would barely sleep because I would be too busy enjoying life, but when I did sleep it would be restful, restorative sleep. I would shop every single day if I so chose, simply because I'd have the ability to remain upright for long periods. I would be building a house that I designed myself and planning for a future marriage, family, etc. I would take tons of road trips. And sometimes, I would drive for miles and miles and miles just because. I would go to Australia. Heck, maybe I'd live there for a bit. I would dance ballet again, or even teach it. I would live my own life and live it well without caring about what anyone else thought. I would never have doctors appointments to deal with. I would be happy.
I often wonder why those who lack ambition in life seem to never really get sick. Many people would be content to stay home day in and day out living a life of isolation with little stimulation. But not me. This type of existence is for the birds, certainly not for people like me. I can't pretend I am content with my situation. I am not there yet. I want things to change for the better in a big way. I want to be 100% my old self again. That girl had reasons to get up in the morning and push herself and her body let her do everything she wanted to. I want my body to cooperate with my mind's wishes like it used to. I want them to be in sync with each other so that I can be my complete self again instead of the sad ghost of my former self I have become.