It should have been just another surgery. It wasn’t my first knee surgery, so I knew what to expect. I knew the recovery would be challenging, but it was OK because it was supposed to fix things for me. To remove many of the limitations caused by 10 years of injuries. It was supposed to open a whole new realm of possibilities for my mobility and activity levels. But instead of waking up with solutions, I woke up to a nightmare.
I knew something was wrong from the minute I opened my eyes. I was overwhelmed by fear without fully comprehending why. I tried to call for help, but no sound came from my mouth. I tried to move, but it was as if my entire body was paralyzed.
The next thing I remember was the anesthesiologist standing by my bedside, explaining that they hadn’t been able to take me to recovery yet because my heart rate was too fast and my oxygen kept dropping too low.
The scariest part was that nobody could figure out why.
When they considered me stable enough to go home, something still wasn’t right. I couldn’t even sit up in bed without my heart rate getting dangerously high. I ended up in the hospital multiple times for mysterious infections and stroke-like episodes that never made an ounce of sense. I started having allergic reactions to nearly every food, leaving me barely able to eat at all. I had the same reaction to my pain medications, which translated to enduring the post-surgery pain without them. Things kept escalating, and before long, I was left bedridden, with no explanation why.
In time, I received diagnoses of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), which explained a lot of my symptoms but left a lot unknown. Unfortunately, with the lack of familiarity with these conditions and the seemingly impossible task of figuring out the remainder of the puzzle, I was sent home without any real help or any real hope.
Depression and anxiety are nothing new to me, but the traumatic medical events, and the fear and hopelessness that came with them, began to bury me. I began to give up on myself just as those tasked with helping me seemed to. I believed I wasn’t worth saving or fighting for. That my quality of life didn’t matter. I felt like I had no purpose and no future.
Shortly after these events occurred, they were compounded by the start of the global pandemic, and then the painful losses of several loved ones. My heart felt every bit as broken as my body, and the weight of it all threatened to break my spirit completely.
This was just one of many times where I have wanted to give up. Where one more day of this painful season of life seemed too much to bear. Where one more minute feeling the absence of a loved one was too daunting. Where I could no longer fathom facing one more second of being tormented by my own body.
I just wanted to be free.
Pain can alter your perception of reality. Grief can be all-consuming. And when you’re buried in the torrential downpour of it all, it’s hard to see a way out. There is no easy answer; no formula for making the pain stop or the loneliness go away. But I was fortunate to realize something: There is help, even though it’s not always easy to ask for. And there is hope, even if you can’t see it.
I make a daily choice to keep going; to anchor myself in a hope that is not dependent on circumstances or the ups and downs of life. It’s not an easy choice, but you don’t have to feel hopeful to choose hope. Hope reminds me that while I cannot choose my circumstances, I can still choose who I become as a result of their presence.
I choose to be thankful for the progress that I’ve made and every tiny bit of healing that has taken place in what seems like a hopeless situation.
I choose to cherish the friendships that have grown deeper as we walk together through the best and the worst seasons of life.
I choose to welcome new friendships and the camaraderie that comes from connecting with others who are enduring similar experiences.
I choose to appreciate every ounce of strength I possess—because even when I don’t feel that strength, I am always learning how resilient my body and my mind can be in the face of extraordinary hardship.
You can make these choices too.
You can choose life.
You can choose the bright future waiting for you beyond the storm limiting your vision.
You can choose to keep walking forward, even if the path ahead is compromised by a lack of light.
Every second of life is something to celebrate. Every moment you are here is a moment made brighter simply because you’re in it. Don’t let the darkness swallow you up. Don’t let the storm rolling through convince you to flee. Because when it calms, and it will calm, there will be something special waiting: the promise of another day.
Whatever you are facing, there is always hope. And we will hold on to hope until you’re able to grasp it yourself. If you’re thinking about suicide, we encourage you to use TWLOHA’s FIND HELP Tool to locate professional help and to read more stories like this one here. If you reside outside of the US, please browse our growing International Resources database. You can also text TWLOHA to 741741 to be connected for free, 24/7 to a trained Crisis Text Line counselor.