I've always been told I could do anything, as long as I worked hard and believed in my goals (thank you, mom and dad). Because of this, I've always had a head full of dreams and, when I began my masters in social work, it was no exception. I was proud of being accepted into Columbia, moving into Manhattan on my own, and learning to navigate the city. I'd identified my calling and would be putting my experiences to use by helping kids and families also coping with illness. It all seemed so clear. But when Humira stopped working last year, my foundation was rocked. Pain and illness didn't ask permission, nor did it care what my plans were. Never before had I felt so uncertain, scared, or dependent on other people. Being in that position changed me.
Just like many people living with chronic illness, I feel frustrated that I'll need to be connected to the medical community for the foreseeable future. I'm much more careful with myself now at age 24; something that's hard to swallow when my friends' bodies are at their peaks. Now that my pain is under control, I do feel stronger. I'm grateful for each moment I'm not suffering and I'm gradually growing more hopeful every day. Deep down, though, I'm terrified that if my new medication fails or my disease takes a turn, I'll be right back to square one. So, while I've always been a dreamer, right now it's hard to entirely believe in those dreams. I fear the disappointment if my body doesn't keep up. As a future social worker, I'm nervous to have clients who depend on me, only to let them down when illness knocks me out.
What I've realized, though, is that - fear or no fear - I have to keep dreaming and believing that, even if social work isn't possible, something else will be. This is a central part of my New Year's resolution. I have to remember how passionate I've always felt about committing my life to service; that my life really does have a distinct purpose. If I lose sight of these things, illness will have robbed me of my heart. In former posts, I've said I'd give anything to get back to where I was before last year, but today I'm taking that back. I can't erase the painful memories, nor can I reclaim the lost days. But I can move on. I can stand up to fear and capitalize on the second chance I've been given. I don't wish to go back to "where I was before" because it brought me to who I am - a person I'm proud to be.
If someone told me two years ago about the duration and severity of the pain I'd experience, I wouldn't have believed I'd still be standing. But I am standing and, more than that, my dreams are returning. If you're living with illness, you need to remember something: you, my friend, are a force to be reckoned with. While it's hard to remember when we're at our worst, we can and will make it through. Furthermore, we'll have new wisdom and strength at the other end that will inspire others. So don't you ever give up...and neither will I. Never believe you're alone in this fight and hold on to yourself and to your dreams. This world will be better for it.