Thursday, September 17, 2015

Another year

2 years. 730 days. 17,520 minutes. 1,051,200 minutes. 63,072,000 seconds.

So many things can happen in this time span. You could get married and have your first child. You could travel the world or get a degree. For me though, the last two years have been a little bit different.

Exactly 2 years ago I woke up like any other day and went to sleep that night in a hospital bed. For a week I was hospitalized which included 2 surgeries, a blood transfusion, almost dying, and a diagnosis that would stick with me forever. 

A year later, I was better. I had just learned how to walk again, but I still couldn't go to school or do many things. At this time I was dealing with heart issues and the doctor wasn't treating my pain well so I was likely in bed because I always felt too sick to leave the house. The pain had crippled me to a state where for a year I couldn't walk and even now it is still a constant struggle. 

Now here I am 2 long years later. Even though every single day since had been filled with pain - I'm alive. I go to school and do extra activities. I work hard and I hang out with my friends. I run. Most importantly, I'm alive. I survived that which was supposed to end my life. 

Getting to where I am now wasn't easy though. I would be lying if  I said there weren't bumps in the road, but with God and the love and support of my family and friends I did it. Though I have more than 13 physical and mental disabilities I've had to face day in and day out for the last two years and I'll likely have for the rest of my life they have yet to hold me back. 

So today I celebrate that.

I celebrate my body. Sure my blood is pretty screwed up and my joints, nervous, and immune system don't exactly work right, but I still have a pretty good body. It's gotten me through hundreds of needle pokes, hours of scans and radio-active dye, it's had deadly chemicals pumped in it, 2 surgeries, a blood transfusion, and it could literally stop working at any second. Yet my heart is still beating, my kidneys are still filtering, and my lungs still reflate. Yeah I'm sick, but I am thankful for the health I do have. 
I celebrate my mental health. Yes, this past year I have struggled with some mental health issues, but I'm blessed to be in the place that I am today. I'm more hopeful than before and I have a much better mindset.

I celebrate my family and friends. I have had some friends who have left since I've gotten sick, but I am so lucky to have family and friends who have been by my side day in and day out. I'm especially thankful for my family for driving hours for treatment, waiting at doctor's appointments, and constantly putting my health needs above anything else. I will never be able to express the gratitude I have.

I celebrate my determination. To think about how far I've come to get where I am today makes me tear up. I've been through what feels like hell and back. I would be lying if I said that I never thought about giving up, but something in me never aloud it. Months of physical therapy, and months more coming up. Trying what feels like thousands of drugs. Driving 10 hours and calling specialist after specialist. All for this moment; all for the ability to walk, to run, to be a normal teenager. The image of where I am today was what kept me going and to think that I'm there - that yes I still have a lot of pain and am sick, but I can do so much - is a truly an un-describable, humbling feeling. 

I celebrate my God. Without Christ I never would have been able to see the beauty to my suffering and gotten through what I did. It has been a bit rocky, but I know without a doubt God is holding and carrying me through even if I don't always see it at the time.

Lastly, I celebrate my life. Nearly two years ago doctors told my mom that it was medically impossible that I would survive and in the same breath said that I was lucky my leg wasn't amputated. I was given a second chance at life. Sure the circumstances aren't that great, but I have one life and I'm determined to make every moment count. 

Today is not just a day for me. Today is the day that changed my life forever, but because of it I have become a better person and I am thankful for that. Today I celebrate my past, present, and future.

2 years. 730 days. 17,520 hours. 1,051,200 minutes. 63,072,000 seconds. 

So much can happen in that time span. For me, I discovered more of who I was and overcame so much. Yes I'm still sick, but I'm better.

Here's to another year of living life to the fullest.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

What my doctor said that changed it all

           As I sat in the doctor office tying my shoe laces I explained to the psychical therapist what I had been doing recently. I explained that I went on a run every evening because I enjoyed running and it helped with my anxiety, but I wasn't very good. My best time was 14 minutes and 3 seconds. I tried my hardest and pushed myself, but I could never get to my definition of good enough.
           As those words left the safety of my tongue into the open air I felt my face get flushed with a sense of embarrassment. I was 14 years old and had been training for 6 months and that's as far as I had gotten. I knew people who have done two miles in that time and I could barely do a mile. This was no accomplishment. As I began to mentally tear myself down for any "accomplishment" I had ever done she said something that has stuck with me since that day. 
    "Wow that's amazing, you should be really proud of yourself. You've come a really long way."
     My mouth dropped. Proud of myself? For running a mile in a lousy time? At first I was kind of upset at the thought, but looking back she was right. I should be proud of myself because I have come a long way to get where I am today.
    For a year I couldn’t walk. It was a miracle I was even alive – that I even had a leg to run on. I had more pain syndromes and problems with my joints from my lower back down then I could even count. As much as I didn’t want to admit it I do have a disability that’s not going to go away and isn’t easily treatable. I have over 10 ailments between psychical and mental health and I should be proud of any accomplishment I do make. Some of the conditions I have, have permanently disabled people to pain medication addictions and wheelchairs, but I could still walk – I could run and that was something to be proud of.
   Even if I didn’t believe so at the time she was right. She said the thing I needed to hear for 2 years. I was doing a good job exactly where I was. There was no false expectation I had to live up to. I didn’t have to keep a brave face. The barriers and goals I had set for myself vanished and the chronic and disabling part of my chronic illness was acknowledged. I was doing a good job that I should be proud of and so are you.

Maybe you’re fighting a chronic illness like me and the competition to be like everyone else and keep a brave face all the time has overwhelmed you – you should be proud of yourself.

Maybe you’re struggling with mental illness and suicidal thoughts and nobody understands you. Maybe you went a day without hurting yourself or thinking about ending your life you should be so proud of yourself.

Maybe you look in the mirror and hate your body and the urge to starve, hurt yourself, purge, etc. overwhelms you but you restrain yourself – you’re very beautiful and should be proud of yourself.

You could be taking care of a child or family member with psychical or mental illness and you constantly wonder if you’re making the right decisions for him/her – I promise you’re doing a good job and should be proud of yourself.

Or maybe you’re struggling with addiction, religion, sexuality, weight, gender identity, etc. – you should be proud of yourself.

Whether you’re going through something listed or you’re just having a hard time – you’re doing great, and you should be proud of yourself.

   In life we all get defeated and knocked down, but it’s important to remember you
‘re doing the best you can and should be proud of yourself. We were never meant to do this life on our own and it’s always okay to ask for help. We all fall down and that’s okay as long as we get back up and keep fighting.

It’s okay to give yourself the affirmation you need from time to time and acknowledge your strength. Don’t forget to give yourself some credit for how far you’ve come.

Whatever you’re going through, you should be proud of yourself, you're doing a good job. 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hope, coffee, and a lot of Jesus

     As I ride in a hot car with Three Days Grace blasting in my head phones for the hundredth time that day thoughts run wild in my mind. The moment that had given me so much anxiety and loss of sleep was almost here. The day I had, had panic attacks over and waited months for was in less than 12 hours.
      I was on my way to one of the top hospitals in the United States 8 hours away from home to see if they had something that what feels like hundreds to thousands of doctors didn’t – a cure. As I come up on the 2 year anniversary of my own personal hell, memories of every doctor who said they didn’t know or that it was all in my head or this is going to be as good as it gets ran rampant in my brain. Was this even worth it? Would it just be the same thing I had been desensitized to for all of this time or would it have the similar sting it did 2 years ago? Was I just holding on to false hope?  Was I just being an ignorant child for believing that this doctor could have the thing my other specialists didn’t?
    I wanted to go home. I was doing well enough – I was still alive. This was stupid, I thought. Even though I had spoken to others about having hope many times, all of my hope had slowly been drained after being told thousands of times that my best bet was just to take this lethal medication so I don’t die and try to survive the pain as best as you can. So that’s what I had done the only way I knew how.
       I had so many dreams that I would never reach because of my health. Running in cross country and riding horses were two things I had enjoyed more than anything in the world, but since I had gotten sick I’ve had to quit. I wanted to ride a bike. Go to school. Actually sleep at night. But these where mountains I had deemed unclimbable.

     What had happened to all of the hope I once harbored inside of me?

         As I got closer and closer to the Ronald McDonald House where we would be staying the next few days the fear turned to pure anticipation and excitement. I made a rule with myself a long time ago to never get my hopes up about a miracle cure, but I couldn’t help it. What if they could help me? What if they had the cure I had hoped and prayed for, for so long? What if I’m able to do the things I love again? What if I actually get better?
       Maybe they will have it, or they may not, but either way I had to step out on a limb and try even at the cost of getting hurt again. So that’s what I’ll do. Hope, pray, and step out on faith, because if there’s a chance for a normal life out there then I’m determined to find it.
       As I sit in the room writing this while listening to the same Three Days Grace album thoughts still run wild in my mind, but this time they’re thoughts of hope, the future, and dreams. The hope I once had was more alive than ever as I prepare for the nearly 5 hour appointment awaiting me in the morning. The anxiety still flows through my veins to the point where my teeth chatter, but I know that even if they don’t have the answer to my prayers, I have something that illness, depression, or anything else life throws at me can’t take away  – hope, and with hope, coffee, and a lot of Jesus anything is possible.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Moving forward

Letting go is not about forgetting the past, but living and growing for a better future.” – Brian J. Wyly

The last few months have definitely been the most challenging of my life, but through them I’ve learned so much about myself and grown in a lot of areas. About 5 or 6 months ago after seeing several doctors I was diagnosed with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder. Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event – either experiencing it or witnessing it. Symptoms usually include flashbacks, nightmares, uncontrollable thoughts about the event, and severe anxiety. It can also lead to other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and actions, etc. Although the event happen when I was 10, we didn’t discover that I had PTSD until it was triggered a few months ago and we saw a doctor.
When I was first diagnosed  I never talked about it. Not only because talking about trauma can be hard and scary, but also because the first few reactions from family members where far from kind and made me feel like I should feel ashamed for having this. I was also not in a place to give any sort of advice or consolation whatsoever, but through many sleepless nights and changes I'm in a better place now. Lately though, I’ve realized that each story matters and can make even the slightest impact on someone else. So, the reason I’m writing this is for the girl/boy going through a similar situation and dealing with PTSD – you’re not alone and even though it sounds cliché, things do get better. I promise that everything will be okay in the end.


~ Have a caring support system to help you through. We were never meant to do this life alone, and it’s okay to ask for help sometimes.
~ Find healthy outlets. Running, music, making videos, makeup, helping others, writing, etc. are all good examples. As long as it’s not harming you or anyone else find outlets and channel any anxiety and negative energy into that.
~ Take care of yourself. Just like you wouldn’t go running on a broken leg until you fix it, you can’t expect to function without first taking care of yourself. Take a bath. Go for a jog. Cut out any negativity in your life. You’ll get better faster if you first take care of yourself.
~ Reassurance. Remind yourself that you can handle this pain, even though it hurts right now and you don’t like it.
~ Give yourself validation.  It’s okay to hurt and want to feel better.
 ~ Alter perspectives and realize that even though you’re having a really bad day your track record for getting through bad days is 100% and that’s really good.
~ Don't feel ashamed or embarrassed for struggling with any mental health condition. You are human, you aren't perfect. Humans struggle and that's okay. You should never feel ashamed that you've been through something hard and scary.
~ Forgive yourself. What you’re going through is not your fault and you couldn’t have changed or stopped it. Please forgive yourself for the things you couldn’t have changed.
~ Light a candle and start a new good book or movie. Need I say more?:)
~ If you can, adopt a pet. Having a furry companion with adorable little eyes will instantly boost your mood and help you through recovery.
~ Tell yourself that you are worth it, loved, cared for, not alone, and strong for going through everything you’ve been through.
~ Realize that recovering from PTSD or any mental disorder isn’t going to happen all at once. It’s going to take time and it won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
~ Love yourself. This one is so hard, but very important. You are worth it and deserve to love yourself.
~ Don’t bottle your emotions up. It’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to cry sometimes. It’s okay to be sad. It’s just not okay to give up.
~ Seek medical help. I promise that therapy is not scary or the end of the world. I know seeing a psychologist may make you feel weak, but it’s incredibly strong and the best thing you could do for yourself.

If you’re struggling with ptsd or any other mental illness I’ve linked some resources below that could be potentially helpful. I know how hard it is to go through something scary then still struggle with it years later, but it will all be okay in the end, and if it’s not okay then it’s not the end. I promise you’re never alone and you’re always stronger than you think. You are all in my prayers.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7

                        Meredith xoxo


Tuesday, June 2, 2015

To the friend of someone who just committed suicide

To the friend of someone who just committed suicide,

I know it hurts right now. It hurts a lot. It's going to hurt. It’s so hard losing a loved one, but knowing they took their own life makes it so much harder. There will always be a part of you that cringes when you hear their name or see something that reminds you of them. One day though, it will start hurting less and less. You will be able to pass by their house without breaking down into tears or when you see someone who looks like them in the store. It's still going to hurt, but it will be easier. I know right now it feels like time has stopped and everything has collapsed, but it's true when they say things do get better. This pain is only temporary, but I promise that your strength is infinite.
When someone you love commits suicide it’s so easy to spiral into a sea of self-hate and blame, but learn to forgive yourself for the things you couldn’t have changed.  Show yourself the same love that you would show him/her if you got to see them one more time. Never think for a second that your life doesn’t matter because you mean the world to somebody, even if you mean nothing to yourself. There was nothing you could’ve done, so please forgive yourself. Forgiveness and self-love pave the way to moving forward and loving others. You did all you could so love and forgive yourself; even if it’s just a little bit at a time.
Even though people call suicide selfish and it’s easy to be angry at the person who killed themselves, try to forgive the person. When people commit suicide they aren’t in their right mental state so they don’t realize they are just giving their pain to someone else. Forgiving the person and the people who made him/her believe it was the only answer, seems unreachable, but can help bring closure. I know how hard it is and it won’t happen all at once, but even though it seems impossible right now, a little bit at a time it will get easier.
Try and think about the positives of that person and the last day or conversation you shared with them; this is especially important if you were the one to find them. I know what it’s like to be negative about the situation and the only picture of them that you kept was a bloody knife or a gun, but try to remember the things that made you love that person to begin with. In the end, your friend is still the same person you love, and remembering the good moments you had with them will make you so much happier. This is really hard, especially at first, but it’s so important.
IT WASN’T YOUR FAULT! I truly, sincerely, promise that it was not your fault!! You did all you could. Suicide is a sad choice people make, so there’s nothing you could’ve done to change the outcome. This was completely out of your control. Please don’t blame yourself. Your friend wouldn’t want you blaming yourself for their suicide, so as hard as it is, please understand that it wasn’t your fault.
I know you must feel worthless right now, like you failed your friend, but you did all you could. Chances are you showed your friend love when no one else would, so just because you couldn’t ‘save’ your friend doesn’t mean you can’t be somebody else’s white knight. You have a purpose in this world, so live for that life you will save and touch because they need you. The world needs you. You are enough. You matter. You aren’t worthless.
As hard as it is try to be happy. Your friend would want you to continue to live your life to the fullest so live for him/her. Experience the things he/she couldn’t and always keep the person close in your heart. You have a life so even though it seems impossible right now, live and learn to be happy again. You deserve to be happy so don’t let your struggles define and confine your perspective and happiness.
Understand that it’s okay to talk about it and keep the person close in your heart. Keeping it bottled up and blocking it all out will only make you feel worse and end badly.
Most importantly, realize that you will be okay. Like I said, it’s going to hurt, but it will get easier. Things will get better and you will be able to feel whole and at peace again. I know it feels like you’ve been shattered into a million pieces, but you are so much stronger then you believe and you will get through this.
Someone who's been through it too

Thursday, May 14, 2015

13 common chronic illness misconceptions

There are many chronic illness misconceptions, but these are 13 that I thought were important to address:

1: "You're too young to have that!"
Chronic illness has no discrimination against age, gender, ethnicity, etc. The sad reality is that anyone can have a chronic illness - including children and teenagers.

2: "But you don't look sick." 
The fact is that 96 percent of chronic illnesses are invisible to the eye, but on the inside there's a whole different story. Just because one may look "fine" doesn't mean they are. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean we can’t feel it.

3: "All you need to do is exercise more!"
While exercising is essential for good health, a lot of people with chronic illness try to be able to exercise and be normal, but it's hard when you have limited energy and constant pain. Also, certain exercising could cause the chronic illness to get worse. It's ultimately the patient and doctor's decision as to whether or not it would be beneficial.

4: "Just take wheat or *fill in the blank food* out of your diet and you'll be cured!"
Yes, eating a healthy diet is extremely important, but it can't cure a chronic illness. Fixing your diet won't fix your genetics. While it would be good for you, a certain food or plant doesn't have the magical cure. 

5: "Oh yeah, I had a pulled muscle and UTI once so I can totally relate."
While this may seem like lending out a sweet hand of understanding, it can frustrate some people with chronic illness quite a bit. While dealing with any type of pain is bad, and I feel like trying to minimize anyone's pain is wrong and unacceptable, there's a large difference between a strained muscle and your body attacking itself and causing chronic pain. 

6: "Oh, she's in a wheelchair, she must be paralyzed."
Wheelchair doesn't automatically mean paralyzed just like hospital doesn't automatically mean cancer. You can be in a wheelchair and still be able to walk and move your legs, you just may not be able to walk well or it may be painful.

7: "I wish I could lie around all day like you do!"
Netflix and internet can only entertain you for so long. It's boring and most chronically ill teenagers would rather be hanging out with friends and outside rather than resting all day. Having a chronic illness isn't a luxury.

8: "Look she's walking around, she must be better!"
Just because someone with a chronic illness is able to do more and run one day doesn't mean they won’t suffer from it that night and still be sick. Yay for the good days, but just because one day is better doesn’t mean they’re cured and without pain the next day.

9: "Oh, they're just dumb teens, they don't understand their illness."
NO, NO, NOOO. Incorrect. False. Blasphemy! Teenagers with chronic illness know about their illnesses and what goes on in their bodies better than anybody. They know exactly what they are going through, and treating them like they don't is demeaning and ignorant. No. This is not okay.

10: "Oh, she just takes her mediation for an emotional fix."
I have been told this so many times. While some may take their medication to get high, the majority take it to treat a legitimate and painful diagnosis. Saying this can be extremely unhelpful and offensive. Plus for me I doubt I can get high off blood thinners and anti-seizure medications. Do your homework before accusing anyone of this.

11: "All you have to do is ask for medication then you're fine."
Again: incorrect, false, blasphemy! For somebody with chronic illness, medication doesn't just "fix" you. A lot of times the medications don't even work or the side effects are worse than the disease itself! Medications

for a chronic illness usually just touch the surface to manage symptoms.

12: "You're just lazy!"
When you have a chronic illness your body is literally attacking itself. Attacking your blood and organs is tiring enough, but then add on 5-6+ medications that all have a major side effect for fatigue. Wouldn't you want to take a nap too? It's not laziness when you want to get out and be active, but you have zero energy whatsoever. 
13: "She cancelled plans on me, she obviously doesn't want to hang out."

With chronic illness you have very limited energy and flares can happen at any time. It's not because we don't want to hang out with you, trust me we would much rather hang out with you then be in bed, we just aren't able. 

Monday, May 11, 2015

To the teenager just diagnosed with chronic illness

To the teenager just diagnosed with chronic illness,
                          Helpless, hopeless, lost. These are words that could likely describe how you feel right now.  I understand completely and I wish I could reach through my computer screen and give you the biggest hug right now. Being a teenager with their whole life ahead of them come to an abrupt stop from the damaging affects of chronic illness is scary and not easy by any means. While I'm still trying to figure a lot of this out myself, I came up with a few things I've come to realize throughout my journey so far. 
As time continues the shock of the diagnosis will fade, but the suffering will remain. This is all part of the process, and coming to realize this was my new 'normal' was hard at first, but then made everything somewhat easier. The sooner the dust settles and the smoke clears and reality sets in - in a strange way - the easier it gets. While I believe that God does work miracles and there is always hope, being able to let go of the fact that there wasn't a cure in a way made it somewhat easier.
I know you probably don't understand any of this right now and your head is probably spinning, that's okay. Soon, you will become a doctor and pharmacist without a diploma and know about your disease better than your doctors. Understanding what you have is good, but remember not to google it too much, otherwise you will likely convince yourself that you're going to die in 10 minutes. Knowledge is good, but remember to not let your diagnosis dictate you life. You are so much more than screwed up antibodies or a non functioning organ. You are a human being. A living, breathing person who was just given a bad hand in life. You are not your struggles, you are so much more than that.
Remember that you are not obligated to do everything a healthy person does. Sometimes you will have to sit out or take a nap in the middle of the day. This is okay. I know it's hard to watch everyone have fun while you have to wait on the sidelines, but your time will come. Being a teenager, I know you want to push yourself, but learn to be patient and understand your limits so you don't hurt yourself. Also understand that you are allowed to have bad days and cancel plans. You can't help that your health has made you unable, and you shouldn't have to apologize for that. If all you can do today is walk to the bathroom and back to bed, then you've accomplished so much for someone in your state and you should be freaking proud of yourself! Throw yourself a party in bed because at least you got out of bed you little warrior you!! Remember you're still just as strong on the bad days as you are on the good. 
There are going to be so many by products of your chronic illness that are going to feel so overwhelming - rude doctors, hours of scans, life threatening treatment, chronic pain, and don't even get me started on the *cue sarcasm* absolutely lovely depression and anxiety that comes along with it. These are just roadblocks in your way that seem like mountains, but with God and the right support system you can cross any bridge and climb any mountain. 
Not many people will understand what you're going through right now. In their world, teenagers can't get life threatening diseases and chronic pain so you'll probably get quite a few rude comments that will make you angry and cry. It's okay to be hurt, but remember that they don't understand, heck I don't understand it sometimes myself! Then comes the many times being called an 'inspiration' and 'strong for such a young age'. As sweet and amazing as this may seem, it will probably get to the point where it feels like you always have to be strong. Take it from someone who's been there and done that: trying to fake a smile all the time to make other people feel more comfortable will only make you feel worse and very anti-social. It's okay to show weakness every once and a while. It's okay to not be an 'inspiration', you're not obligated to be anything but yourself. It's okay to be human and cry. It's okay not to be okay. As long as you don't stay in a dark place for too long, then by all means cry and get angry (as long as you don't hurt those around you) then get back up and keep fighting. Always remember to never stop fighting. Sometimes it will feel as though your shoulders are being constantly weighed down by your struggles, but fight for a better tomorrow and remember that things can get better. 
You are never as alone as you think you are and believe it or not there are hundreds of people going through the same things you are. And as much as you may hate your scars right now, they are proof of how incredibly strong you are. God gave you this life because you are strong enough to live it, and I know you probably want to give up right now, but you are stronger than anything chronic illness throws at you. Your illness isn't your fault and you're so much stronger than it.
This new 'normal' you've been handed seems so scary and overwhelming, but through it all you will be able to find yourself a little bit at a time. Sure you'll lose a few things along the way, but sometimes some losses can be the true gain. And if I could tell you one thing it would be that you're never as broken as you think you are and you're always stronger than you think. Oh, I know how scary the future seems, but please don't be afraid, you will learn to enjoy the ride. 

                                         Just another chronically ill teen