Sunday, May 10, 2009

Learning To Stand On My Own

“Oh, why you look so sad? Tears are in your eyes […]
Don’t be ashamed to cry, let me see you through
Cause I’ve seen the dark side too.
When the night falls on you, you don’t know what to do,
Nothing you confess could make me love you less
I’ll stand by you, I’ll stand by you, won’t let nobody hurt you,
I’ll stand by you.

So, if you’re mad get mad, don’t hold it all inside,
Come on and talk to me now.
And hey, what you got to hide? I get angry too
But I’m a lot like you.

When you’re standing at the crossroads, don’t know which path to choose,
Let me come along, cause even if your wrong
I’ll stand by you, I’ll stand by you, won’t let nobody hurt you,
I’ll stand by you”

- “I’ll Stand By You,” The Pretenders


“When the daylight’s gone and you’re on your own
And you need a friend just to be around
I will comfort you, I will take your hand
And I’ll pull you through, I will understand

And you know that
I'll be at your side, there’s no need to worry
Together we’ll survive through the haste and hurry
I’ll be at your side
If you feel like you’re alone, and you’ve nowhere to turn
I’ll be at your side”

- “I’ll Be At Your Side,” The Corrs


I’d be lying if I said that this hasn’t been a difficult couple of months. Nearly four months ago to the day, my cousin died from radiation-induced dementia, a cousin that I had become close to because, as I’ve said before, we were “partners in illness.” This weekend was his daughter’s Bat Mitzvah. I went home to “celebrate,” but it was difficult. I know that Jeff was the type of person who would have wanted the party to happen, but it was hard to celebrate when there was such a deep void.

My cousin Cindy (Jeff’s wife) is incredible. She’s so strong on the outside, but I know on the inside she’s crumbling. And in many ways, I relate to her. I feel like I put the brave face on a lot of the time, but inside, I feel lost, hurt, and scared. There are times when I have cracked, when I have let the hurt show. Some wounds aren’t as quick to heal, as we would like to believe…

Aside from losing Jeff, the past few years have been spent dealing with a lot of turmoil; losing family, losing friends, losing my health, and at times, losing myself. Some people are in our lives for a brief time to teach us something about life that could only be learned through them. Others show us brief glimpses into ourselves and the people we want to become. Others still are in our lives for the long haul; they aren’t quick to leave. And some you can’t get rid of, no matter how hard you try (LOL!)…

I’m realizing that one of the most difficult parts of growing up is learning that it’s not as important to land on two feet, as it is, sometimes, to stand on your own. And to sometimes admit that you’re powerless to change certain aspects of your life, like illness, no matter how hard you try.

Most of the time, when I tell my friends things, it’s not so much for advice as it is for commiseration. If I’m excited about something, no matter how unexpected or off the wall it may seem, be happy with/for me. There have been some unfair judgments as of late, from people I never would have expected. People who have known me for years and years, and who have judged me on terms that I no longer feel I am capable of living up to.

I never realized that over a year of unknown illness could be easier than the first real year of actually dealing with illness as a reality. This year has been a difficult one. I feel as if school went by without me accomplishing much at all.

I can’t help but feel that many of my closest friends have gotten the short end of the stick and that over the past (almost) two years, I’ve taken more than I have been able to give. My life has been filled with physical and emotional upheaval, which at times has felt like more than I could handle.

And for those newer in my life, I often wish that they could have known me before, pre-illness. But since that’s not possible, I guess they’ll have to see beyond the walls that I’ve become so adept at putting up.

I’m grateful to everyone in my life in more than words can say, for the love and support, and the laughter and the tears, but there are some things that I have to do on my own. And I know that many people might not always agree, but I ask that you respect my choices and be confident that I know what is best for myself.

I have changed a lot in the past two years – surprised my friends in ways that no one, including myself, could have ever suspected. There are some things that have happened over the past several months that will probably never be talked about here. But the truth is, illness made me realize that life is too short to be flat-line all the time. Because lately, that’s how I’ve come to feel. Until recently, my world has been a dismal shade of gray. I’ve had to bribe myself to get off the couch. This has never happened to me before, and this is not the person I want to be.

In some ways, much of this is late-bloomer rebellion. But in other ways, it’s because I am still at the anger stage of coping. Some days I’m just plain pissed off…at everything and everyone…

I’ve realized as of late that I have done all I can to convince myself that illness won’t change my life. But at some point, the power of “positive thinking” turns into denial, which in turn becomes self-defeating. And I can no longer be that self-defeating person.

While I have always relied on others to boost me up, as many have, it’s time that I do some of the self-esteem boosting myself. It’s time that the chapter of my life spent dangling between young adult and adult comes to a close, and that I begin to live my life as an adult, making the big decisions for myself.

I’m saying goodbye to the old me and saying hello to the new me. Most of the changes are on the inside, but hopefully they’ll show a bit on the outside, too.

Good friends are hard to find, and even though many of us are geographically farther apart, you are still close to my heart, and I’m not sure I say often enough how much I appreciate those of you who have stood by me, and attempted to understand.

But the reality is that you aren’t always going to understand my decisions or my thought processes. But you have to trust that I know what is best for myself. In a lot of ways, I don’t really know who the hell I am. And that is something only I can figure out.

I’ve been working through a lot lately, realizing that I have been pretty depressed, and trying to have a more positive outlook on things. What I’ve realized recently is that chronic illness is just one of the many journeys that my life will take me on. I’m 23 years old. This isn’t the end. This is only the beginning.


On a slightly unrelated note, I haven’t been blogging that much because I’m teaching a class spring term, which meets three days a week and is totally exhausting. I’ve also had some medication changes, which is keeping things interesting, as always. But more about all that another time!

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