Most of you may think that this title is a little ironic in that this year seems to have dealt me the worst hand of cards I’ve ever had. Some people may even call it the worst year out of my almost 21 years now on earth, but after a lot of reflection I’ve realized that while this year has brought me so many unexpected twists and turns, so many blessings have unraveled in the process. All of the debilitating days, heart wrenching nights, illness, disappointment, depression, anxiety, and much more- have all been blessings in disguise. Blessings that go far beyond just being more appreciative of the better days. Blessings that have made a permanent mark on my heart.
First and foremost, I was blessed with acceptance. Accepting the things that I simply cannot change. Accepting unfortunate circumstances, pain, disappointment, and situations that just plain sucked. This wasn’t something that came easily at first. There were a lot of things that I didn’t want to accept, but when I did it became a lot easier. Keep in mind, that doesn’t just mean I accepted these unfortunate things and smacked a smile on my face and forgot about it, I was also blessed with the ability to accept all of my feelings that were sometimes negative. I accepted that I wasn’t weak or wrong to feel frustrated, exasperated, or fed up. I accept the days where I let my burdens weigh on me, and therefore they were off of my shoulders for the next day. You’d be surprised how much easier things become when you just learn to accept that you don’t feel good today, that someone you love isn’t going to be here for you, that you received unfortunate news, you’re going to have a painful procedure, or that sometimes things just suck. When you accept them, surprisingly most of the time all of these things go from being the end of the world- to being okay.
On the note of acceptance, one of my hardest things to accept was losing all of my hair and then finally going public with it. I know there are way worse things that could be happening aside from losing all of your hair, and they were even happening to me. But that doesn’t change the heartache that comes with losing all of your hair at 20 years old. I didn’t just lose my hair, I was robbed of my confidence and self-esteem. I’ve never been a vain person, but when I first lost my hair and I looked in the mirror, I didn’t feel beautiful, I felt ugly. I saw someone that not only didn’t look like me anymore, but was a victim of this ugly disease my body was fighting. If you would’ve asked me a year ago if losing all of my hair would actually turn into a blessing, my vain, junior-in-college-just-wanting-to-love-life self would say hell no and probably have a breakdown just thinking about it. But thinking about it today, I feel blessed to have gone through that experience. I’m sure it sounds cliché, but I truly feel that I finally gained the right kind of self confidence because I lost something so significant of my “outer beauty”. I stopped focusing on how I looked before I went out into the world and what kind of impression that would leave on those I encountered that day, and more on how my soul would affect those I encountered that day. My kindness, my heart, my appreciation for things that looks simply cannot give you. Before losing my hair I never saw things that way.
Sure, there are still days where I wish I could run my fingers through MY hair, not a smooth bald scalp. Days where I could go to the store without being stared at, or not have to mess with a wig for an hour to feel a little more normal. And don’t even get me started on boys. However, the satisfying feeling of inner beauty has made what others see as “a loss” far from it. A lot of people say that they “don’t care” how they look, but I think it takes losing something so significant and being left with no choice to truly “not care” anymore. I feel blessed to be capable of feeling absolutely beautiful despite how I look, and really meaning it.
There’s no way I can reflect on the blessings this illness has brought me without mentioning the arrival of a service pup in training into my life.. This was a pretty obvious blessing, but a blessing none the less. This dog has already stolen my heart and created a bond with me that’s going to help me get through anything and everything the future may throw at me. He’s going to be able to do so much to help me, both physically and mentally. And in the meantime, training him has been such a good distraction for me. He was so much more than getting a dog to just train to help me.. He is security, he is unconditional love, he is hope. He manages to make what would be my worst days.. undeniable good days.
The support I’ve received from those around me is something I’ve mentioned multiple times now, but that’s just because of how great of a blessing it’s ended up being. Not only am I so incredibly blessed to have the people that I do, but I realized how blessed I am to have the people I never even expected to offer up their support in any way they can. I’ve had people come out of the woodworks that I haven’t spoken to in years, or even strangers, that have helped me in so many little and big ways. I’ve hugged and cried with strangers, reunited with old friends and connected more with my current loved ones in ways that I couldn’t even explain. I know deep down that God truly supplied me with everyone I could ever need to uplift me and support me, and each and every person was a blessing from Him to give me the strength I need to power through. I’ve been blessed with way more people than I could count- and then some.
Something i’d never even think would happen also came from this past year of experiences. Out of all of the people that have reached out to me, so many of them have been people thanking me for inspiring them, making them more appreciative, or benefiting them in some way. Aside from the “how are you” “i’ll always be here for you if you need anything” messages, i’ve gotten more messages than I can count from people telling me that they have a loved one that’s going through something similar and it’s helped them understand them better, or that the strength i’ve shown has encouraged them to power through their own obstacles. One difficulty i’ve had going through what I have is going from studying and working to help others every single day, to being alone with nothing to focus on but my sickness. Ever since I was a little girl there’s nothing I enjoy more than helping people, and when people started to reach out to me to let me know that I am still doing something for them.. really made me feel blessed. The satisfaction of knowing that not only am I getting by in my unfortunate situation, but I’m somehow inspiring others and improving their life in some way is a blessing I could never ever have expected but couldn’t make my heart happier.
Another blessing i’ve received through the ups and downs of my situation was my true and raw recognition of the depths of mental illness. I’ve always had anxiety since I was a little kid. Sure i’ve been through my own stages of teenage angst and “depression”, but like I mentioned in my last blog post, chronic illness often accompanies mental illness and I never saw how serious mental illnesses can be until the past 6 or so months. I had never dealt with something so seriously mentally debilitating before, and it really made me realize how vital your mental health is to your ability to make it through things. It was probably the hardest thing of all to deal with, but it’s led me to appreciate how influential your mental health is and how you should cherish it.
Ironically, being let down by a few people who I believed would always be there for everything ended up being another blessing is disguise. If you think you know who your real people are.. wait until things get unbelievably tough and see who is still standing by your side. Wait until it’s midnight on a friday night and see which friend will run across town to hop into an ambulance to you. It’s disappointing losing people during basically the worst period of your life, but i’ve come to realize that I didn’t lose those people, God removed those people from my life because things were about to get real and they weren’t up for the challenge. There were times where I wanted to say so many negative things to those few people, but now all I can think to say is thank you.. Thank you for showing me what it’s like when someone you once cared so much about is no longer part of your life. Thank you for not valuing me or our relationship as much as you should have; it taught me to value myself and my relationships with others even more. Thank you for showing me your true colors; even though they weren’t the ones I needed. Thank you for being a part of my journey, no matter how long or short of a time, no matter if it was just for you. In some way, you allowed me to get where I am. Not everyone you lose is a loss. Sometimes seeing what a conditional love is can be a blessing too.
I think the overall, i’ve taken all of these things as blessings because my situation has also caused my faith to grow immensely. Don’t get me wrong, there have been plenty of times that i’ve cried out to God questioning him and why this was in his plans for me. I’ve doubted Him and i’ve doubted my faith. But after having such a supportive Pastor and church community, i’ve been surrounded by nothing but comfort from them all and it’s gotten me through literally everything (Yes, this is my church facetiming me for the service & saying a prayer for me all because I was too sick to come in).
Most importantly, my biggest blessing was surviving. While my situation could always have been much worse, there were days where I truly questioned if I could do it anymore. There still are. But reminding myself of all of the blessings i’ve been given has also blessed me with the purse will to survive. Sure I still have my bad days, days where I ask myself why me? But out of such an inconsistent situation, the only consistency i’ve been able to find is that some way or another everything ends up being a blessing to me even if it takes me a little while to realize it.