Dear reader, before you begin this musing of mine, please be aware that these are my internal monologues and a reflection on how my chronic conditions affect my sense of self- this is not a mirror of reality or an essay of self-hatred, but a raw view of the thoughts I battle on a regular basis as a result of battling post-concussion syndrome, migraines, asthma, anxiety, depression, and my own desires for my life. I know my own worth, I like, love, and am proud of who I am, but that does not mean that I don't have demons to slay in my own mind.
I wake up every morning and am reminded that for another day, I'm not headed to work. I'm not unemployed, I'm unable to work. And I feel useless, defeated, inferior, as everyone I know heads out into the working world. My head pounds and a wave of exhaustion overcomes my body, even though I'd just slept through the night.
I go out for my morning walk- a serene escape for me - and am reminded that I can't run. My legs can run; my legs love to run; my legs are fast at running; but my head says no and my lungs say no. I'm a competitive person but I can't compete. I'm an ambitious endurance athlete (once not concussed, I'll be training for an Ironman triathlon), but can't run a single mile without walking. I feel weak, heavy, and weary.
I put on my outfit for the day. I've gone up a pants size and I don't like how I look in tank tops. I don't feel feminine or pretty. I can count on one hand the number of times I've worn a dress since the accident, and I love dresses. I seldom wear makeup; it's a fun way to pop color and sparkle into my day but I hardly have the energy. I feel plain, lumpy, and dull.
I check my phone and a friend has asked if I'd like to hang out on Saturday. I hesitate to answer, because my brain is screaming for my pillow but my heart misses my friend. I tell them I'd like to, but need to see how I'm feeling. I already know I'm going to flake on them, but don't want to fully believe it. I feel isolated, wistful, like I'm a spectator in my life rather than the lead actress.
I look at my to-do list. I write more than one a day, because my brain is constantly on red-alert that I'm forgetting a vital line item that will cost me dearly. I never cross off every item because I can only focus on so much, and some days I don't cross off a thing- I stay in bed, in pain. I feel overwhelmed, unaccomplished, and undeserving of success.
It's the evening. I'm fortunate to feel okay enough most days to still be in school. I do skip sometimes, though, and other times I'm present but not fully there. Zoning out is my coping mechanism. When I raise my hand - I'm a talker in class - my words feel jumbled, my ideas feel incomplete. I'm told I'm doing a good job, but I don't believe it. I'm far from my full potential, my brain is foggy, I feel unintelligent and like my classmates would prefer me to stay silent.
I finally get home and get ready for bed. I look in the mirror and I see a strong woman looking back at me. Even with the inability to fully work out, I see the muscles that have formed from years of dancing, swimming, running, and lifting. I see the compassion in my eyes that has made me that activist, teacher, and friend that I am today. I see clear skin and shiny hair that I'd let go in years past to depression, but have done the internal work to have a more pulled-together outer appearance. I see a big heart, I see a person who values how they treat people over how their career path is perceived. I see a friend who wants to listen and give more than she wants to be given, a full 180 from even one year before. I see courage- I see a woman who gets herself out of bed, out of the house, into the world almost every day, and does it with grace even as her vision jumps in and out of control and the pain in her head pounds, throbs, and envelopes her other senses. I see a mind that wants to think, learn, and contribute to the world, even if some sentences are a bit less articulate than others. I see progress, persistence, and growing inner peace.
I see Danielle. I like her.