A year after the surgery, and I have come to several conclusions:
1. Only my family sees what I go through every day. They see me in pain, when I am angry, sad, they see the outbursts, the cloudy days, the restlessness, and yet even they do not truly understand what I go through. Nor would I ever want them to. If given the choice, I would gladly take the pain for any one of them
2. I have about five friends who know the inner details of my life, and are my friends anyway. My life can be so gross at times. Just think, your brain controls EVERYTHING YOUR BODY DOES!!! Even the stuff that you prefer to keep to yourself behind the bathroom door.
3. Pain is NOT A CONTEST!!! I do not understand the pain that cancer patients go through. They don’t understand the pain that amputees go through. And they don’t understand the pain that I go through. (I make the exception for those who have Chiari and survived cancer via amputation, or something similar.) We each have a difficult situation that we have to navigate and chances are there is physical and emotional pain that must be dealt with. We need to respect the journey of those we meet.
4. My pain/condition/malformation is NOT a result of God hating on me. CHURCH! YOU NEED TO STOP THIS MESS! My pain is not a reflection of how of feels about me or how I feel about God. Every major player in the Bible had issues. More importantly, all of them died, so even if Chiari kills me, I am just doing the same thing as my forefathers!
5. My physical condition is not representative of who I am as a person. When a doctor sees me, I am a Patient. To my daughter, I am Mom. To my mom I am Daughter. To my sister, I am Sister. To the client, I am the Designer. To the listener, I am the Musician. To the diner, I am the Chef. To the random person who sees me suffering from a debilitating headache, I am disabled. Yeah. What if I told you that I am ALL OF THESE THINGS AND THEN SOME?! Like the fine diamond I tell myself I am, I have many facets, I am well rounded, and quite brilliant if I may say so. And my carrots? The food of the gods.
6. I am deathly afraid of meeting someone I like. Before, I felt like I had so much other stuff going for me. Now, I don’t work, I don’t go to school, and I am gifted with the headache that keeps on giving. I have no self confidence because I dread explaining myself and my condition AGAIN to ANOTHER person. I haven’t even gotten to the part where I break down when they decide they can’t deal with such a problematic relationship. I also am aware that I have developed irrational fears. Working on that. (Please don’t leave me a comment telling me how what I feel is wrong and what you think is better because of whatever. My feelings are just as valid as yours. Thanks!)
7. I may never be taken as seriously as someone with diabetes or major physical injury. Somehow, seeing someone testing their blood sugar is enough evidence to be able to understand their situation. Seeing the scars left from a horrible accident are reassuring that the person is actually in pain, as you can see the evidence. I get no courtesy in this respect. I get told that I must feel better because I look great! They are oblivious to the 4 layers of concealer that I put on to hide the fact I haven’t slept well in a week because of a headache. If I don’t wear the makeup, then #4 applies. It’s a lose/lose kind of thing.
8. I would not trade this experience for anything. I don’t like the situations I find myself in. I still have scars on my head from when they removed some skin for an EEG. I hate that I don’t know when or how long my head will hurt. I hate that my daughter now has a mom who can’t remember what day of the week it is without a phone. I hate that I can’t remember words sometimes and I feel stupid. That said, I am very lucky. Within 18 months of my car accident I was imaged, diagnosed, and underwent surgery for a condition that routinely stumps medical teams who are unfamiliar with it. I have an extremely supportive family. I would have never made it through this situation alone. I also now know what it is like to not really carry stress from day to day. Because my memory is very unstable I wake up every morning with a clear slate. That is a pretty amazing feeling. I am forced to live today. I can’t really plan for the future because I don’t know how I will feel and I can’t remember much of the past. All I have is right now. I wish I had known how to live this way years ago. Even better, I will be able to use my experiences to speak to other people and spread awareness. And that isn’t so bad.