My Partners.

Whenever I make new friends, or am around people that don’t know me very well, and I start talking about “my partners” I know I have about five seconds before the look will appear on their face. It’s at this moment that I realize I now must explain to them that I am in fact not a polygamist, nor am I in a relationship with multiple partners, or any partners really for that matter. I must explain that I am actually talking about the people I spend twelve plus hours with at a time on an ambulance, working. Usually by this point the expression on their face has resolved, but some just still don’t get it, and probably won’t ever.

It’s like that work wife/work husband relationship almost but take that and amp it up by about 100. For many people in their work environment it’s usually just one person, but in EMS it tends to be a few. And in my case if you work at two different places, part time at both then you have more than the usual amount of partners. So I guess after all you could call me a polygamist, well a work polygamist at least.

I knew a year ago when I got into all of this I was going to eventually be paired with someone that wether I liked them or not, I would soon have to become very close to them. This was a very odd concept for me considering I made it through all of high school only ever having really one best friend. The thought of opening up to a complete stranger, and having to become not so strangerish (definitely not a word, until now) was well terrifying. Then throw in the fact that I would also need to inform my soon to be partner, whom I would be saving lives with, that I myself had my life saved not too long ago. Well it was either that or just wait until they stared in amazement eventually one day as I pulled out my giant bag of pills, and they  wondered wether or not they should tell our boss I was a druggie. I am glad to inform you that I have since then almost always chosen the first option.

My partners have been more than understanding, with the exception of a few of course but that is to be expected in this world today. I am so lucky that I have been welcomed with open arms into a company, more like family that believes in me, and gives me the opportunity to live out my dreams.

I got asked the other day how I told my bosses, and coworkers about my accident, and well the answer is simple really; you just tell the truth, you become an open book, and if they can’t see the mountains you’ve moved, and the hills you’ve climbed to get to where you are standing there in front of them, well then they were never deserving of you anyway. I have always been an open book about my accident to those that ask. I feel that if someone has the strength it takes to ask someone kindly about their differences then they deserve an honest answer.

But back to those partners, the ones that I really consider to be my sidekicks, I am so lucky to have them. Somehow they have figured out what makes me tick, and vice versa. They know that if a call goes out to a different team for a pediatric patient, and we aren’t on a run, chances are I’m going to volunteer to take it (even though we aren’t supposed to do that) because sick kids hit home to me. They know that after a particularly long day one of my favorite things is a coke slushy and blue sour punch straws. That when asked what I want for lunch chances are it will probably either be Panda, or Qdoba, and definitely not pizza. But the same goes to them: I know that Tom doesn’t like water. Joey’s favorite flavor of Gatorade is Grape. Jane is a Venti White Mocha girl no matter the weather, and if her hair is up that means something is wrong. I know that Cara likes to get report, while I get the equipment set up so that when she’s ready to roll, we roll. I also  know that she sleeps curled up in a ball just like me, and she is ALWAYS cold. I know that it’s abnormal for Patrick to go a shift without face timing his daughter, and that there are few things he despises less than my driving. (Just Kidding Pat, well maybe not!)

I guess what I’m getting at here is that when you spend this much time with someone they become well, family. Six months ago I would have never guessed that one of the people I am closest to is a 7 foot giant, that somedays makes me want to rip my hair out, but I know I can always count on at the end of the day. Or that I would be attending a wedding for another one of my partners, and am over the moon excited about it. Or that I would call one of them at least usually once a day, and always be able to guess how they will answer the phone “yes dear”.

I’m a lucky girl, what can I say. I work amongst some of the coolest people I know. My life is truly better because of them. They are the reason I get up in the morning to go to work (sometimes even at 5 am) because we are a team, and you don’t let your team down.

Not only are they my partners, but they’re my people, and I’m so grateful for that.

 

A Girl I Called G.

I met her on the first day of high school standing on the metal ramp that lead up to the portable classroom our math class was in. Her name was Gabby.

She was and always will be the best friend I’ve ever had.

In life you form connections with people, what you experience together determines most often what kind of relationship with that person you will have.

I knew on the first day of school that Gabby would become my friend, but what I didn’t know was that she would see me go through more in life than any other friend I would ever have.

I didn’t realize that day at school that Gabby would end up spending endless nights in my hospital bed with me. That she would spend hours washing glue out of my hair from medical tests. That instead of going out with friends to parties she would stay in and watch movies with me. That it would become normal for her to catch her friend as she passed out or had a seizure.

I will forever treasure the friendship between Gabby and I because it was and is something so special. She stuck by my side through all of it. I met up with G for coffee a few weeks ago after having not really talked in two years and it was what my soul needed so badly. I forgot how much I had treasured the friendship, because it was natural and she knew about t it all. G is one of the only people that has ben in my life as a friend since before my accident.

College brought new experiences, but it also brought new people and friends and that has been the hardest part. I have never wanted to be known as the “sick girl” but I am also not healthy enough to necessarily “hide” that I’m sick. While I would never want to “hide” being sick because it’s a huge part of who I am, and who I’ve become, it would be nice to be able to make friends and meet people and not eventually have to explain to them why I look like a drug addict every morning when I whip out a bag of pills big enough to create my own pharmacy. Or why when if you look real close, or sit next to me that my legs and arms twitch.

I still haven’t quite figured out how to completely open up to new people about what the past five years of life have been like, because well who wants to hear about a girl that was always sick and had to miss out on this and that. I hate being pitied, and that’s usually the reaction I get when I open up to people about it for the first time.

I’m not good at my own emotions, I would make a great counselor for others, but when it comes to myself I suck. I either don’t share enough, or I word vomit and share so much that the person probably doesn’t want to ever see my face again. And I don’t cry, but then every now and then I remember how maybe I would be better at the whole feelings thing if my teenage years had been normal and not spent in hospitals surrounded by doctors instead of hanging out with friends.

But that’s life I suppose, you live and you learn. And sometimes you find people like Gabby, and when you do hold them close. Because those people, they are the special ones, and word vomit and all they’;; pull you in close and show what true friends are all about.

 

I Sang Through the Halls of the Hospital.

I found myself walking through the halls of the children’s hospital, pulling a stretcher, and singing the “Whip and Nae Nae” song…….all because of a patient.

 

I’ve never been a HUGE fan of kids. I mean don’t get me wrong they are adorable, and I have a special bond and love for a handful, but I’ve never been one of those people that just could not wait to have kids of my own. Some of my friends just know that their job in life is to be a mother, they want nothing more than to have kids of their own.

When I think of kids though I think about the sick kiddos that have made their way into my life. I always joke about not being a huge fan of kids, but give me a sick kid and I want nothing more in the world than to be with them. I think a majority of that comes from my past, being a sick kid myself.

They say that kids that grow up “living life inside the glass” (hospital) become some of the most compassionate people on this earth, and I believe it, they go through so much at such a young age, that they are forced to learn the hard way to be thankful for every little thing.

People ask me all the time why I wanted to become an EMT, and the answer is simple, I want to be one of the first faces someone sees on one of their worst days, because I want to make the impact and change the outlook they will forever have about that day.

So there I found myself fixing her pony tail in the back of the ambulance, rubbing her sweet cheeks, and serenading her with a rap song, that proceeded throughout the halls of the hospital.

You don’t do it because you want people to tell you that you are a good person, you do it because you know what it’s like to be the one on the stretcher, to be lost, and scared, unsure of what will happen.

You do it because right there, in that moment you are that child’s safety blanket. You are the one that is there to help heal the hurt. And even when we can’t heal we are there to comfort.

Much of this job is not so much physically treating, as it is emotionally. I can’t take away someones cancer, and I can’t fix the trauma that they’ve sustained but I can do my best to make them feel safe.

And sometimes that means singing a rap song through the halls of a hospital, even when you don’t sing.

And so I sang, and will continue to…….

To My Blue Chair, Thank You.

I found comfort in the four wheels that made me visibly different from everyone around me……

It took me months to accept the fact that I was going to have to be okay with being different. To realize that people were going to stare, and it was going to have to be okay.

And after a year, the four wheels that once made me more self conscious than I had ever been, became my safe haven.

They were the only thing that made it possible for me to be human again. The medicine, it wasn’t a fix, it didn’t make it completely possible for me to be me, but the wheels, they gave me freedom, not the kind of freedom that ones own legs provide, but it was more freedom than I had experienced in months, and it was liberating.

I remember very vividly the first time I ever completely relied on a wheelchair, my mom and I were at the Cleveland Clinic for what we would soon find out would be the turning point in this entire journey. My body was so weak and frail, I could barely stand without instantly feeling dizzy or passing out. It became such a chore for me to walk around, that I was staying in bed most of the time, only getting out when someone was home to assist me to the bathroom. We had no idea how we were going to navigate the city of Cleveland with me not being able to make it more than a few steps. At hospitals, there were wheelchairs but we hadn’t come to realize yet that maybe, after all it was time to consider it. That day we hijacked a wheelchair from the hotel we were staying at, and my mom took me on an adventure. I hadn’t been out of the house in forever, and she knew I was struggling emotionally with it all.

I don’t remember a whole lot of that trip but I do remember my mom pushing me down a torn up sidewalk in the hotel wheelchair, Starbucks in tow. She showed me that anything I wanted was possible in this world, it might look a little different than I had planned it, and it might not be as easy, but it was possible.

We returned home from that trip, and shortly after I was the new owner of a blue wheelchair, I’m pretty sure his name was Murphy but I can’t quite remember. That wheelchair provided me for a year with the accessibility, and freedom I had longed for, for months.

To this day I find comfort in wheelchairs. An odd comfort, a safe haven, a reassurance, that I often don’t find in my legs.

I guess that after so long of your body failing you, you begin to doubt it, and search for reassurance and safety in something else, I found that in the chair.

Murphy rests in my garage at home, and most days I forget I even once relied on a chair, unless I see pictures, or spend time with my friend Mia.

If you read my blog regularly you know that my best friend Mia relies on a chair due to a stroke she suffered, as a result of proton therapy radiation. When I’m with Mia I am reminded of what it was like to be in a chair. And while most people look at her and judge her, I understand. I know what it’s like to be the one in the chair. I get it.

It’s hard to be the one on the receiving end of the criticism, and judgement that comes along with being different. Our society is rude, and judgmental to anything that is ‘different’. My best friends mom in high school always joked that I needed a sign on the back of my chair that said “I’m Fine”, because there was nothing I hated more than being stared at. Everyone wanted to know what the normal looking girl was doing in a wheelchair. And I get that, I’m nosey too, we all are, I think.

I’m not quite sure where this blog was going other than the fact that I saw a picture of myself from my best friends prom this past weekend, and I was sitting in her chair, as I often do, and it brought me a kind of comfort, that I don’t often feel. The kind that makes you feel invincible, as if you can do anything.

It’s been four/five years since the accident, and three since I’ve relied on a chair, and I would be lying if I said my body wasn’t still affected from it. I still suffer and struggle with being de-conditioned after spending so much time without reliance on my legs. But everyday I learn to trust my own body, and my legs a little more.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that what might seem uncomfortable/inconvenient at first, may eventually open you up to a world of possibilities.

I’m thankful for what my wheelchair gave me.

I encourage you to be understanding, and treat our fellow souls in chairs the same way you would treat someone relying on legs. We are all the same, and just wanted to be treated equally no matter what we use to get around.

It is okay to be different, and no one should feel ashamed or worried about how the world will react to them.

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I Didn’t Get a Tape…..

I watched “13 Reasons Why”……and I also lost one of my best friends to suicide.

But I didn’t get a tape.

I never found out why.

You see that’s the thing about suicide, the almost silent killer. So often, so many people that are affected by suicide are left in the dark.

There is no answer. There is no note. There is no tape. There’s nothing.

All that is left is a body of someone that hurt so deeply, that to end their life, to discontinue all of their tomorrows, someone suffering so strongly, that to be dead seemed like a better alternative to living.

I didn’t get a tape. I have no idea if there was something I could have done, anyone could have done, that maybe would have changed things. I will never know.

I’m thankful that this series has sparked the conversation on the topic of suicide, and mental illness, because I so strongly long for this society to make it acceptable to ask for help. But it isn’t always like that.

Suicide is ugly. It’s dark, and it’s painful, and it rips a hole in ones heart, so deep that nothing can ever fill it.

For weeks after he was gone there was this pain, so unbearable, that raged inside of me. The thought of doing anything was unimaginable. Anything and everything brought back memories. Everywhere I looked I hoped that maybe I would see his face, that maybe just maybe it was all a nightmare, and he was still here.

But it wasn’t, he was gone, and there was nothing I could do to bring him back.

It has been four years since he’s been gone, and still to this day I reanalyze everything, searching for clues I missed. For things I could have done. For ways I could have prevented it from happening.

I probably always will.

I hope that when/if you watch this show, and if you haven’t lost someone to suicide you realize that it isn’t always like that. You don’t always get the answers, actually more often than not, you are left with absolutely nothing.

And if you have lost someone to suicide then I hope you know you are not alone. We are here with you grieving, and your emotions are valid. It is okay to be angry/mad/sad/frustrated at the world and everyone in it, for taking someone you loved. It is okay to feel what you are feeling. But you must be strong, and you must create better tomorrows and hold tight to those that are still in your life.

I know now that it wasn’t my fault. There is nothing I could have done to stop him.

Because when someone reaches a point so dark in their lives that they despise this earth so deeply, there is no stopping them.

I don’t blame him. In fact sometimes I envy him, because he has found his peace. I am not mad at him, because I have seen how cruel this world can be.

I wish that he was still here, and that he could leave me with his goofy forehead kisses just once more, but I know that he is free from whatever caused him so much pain, and that gives me comfort.

I wish that before he pulled the trigger though, and that before she jumped from the parking lot I could have told them this:

“Your pain is temporary, what you are feeling now won’t last forever. It is okay to ask for help, because I am here, and you don’t need to feel ashamed. This life isn’t easy. There are so many people, and things that will try to knock you down, but I will be here to pick you back up. It’s okay to fall, and fall again, and then again. One day, you will find your happiness, and I promise that it will be worth the wait. You will find the spark that ignites the fire inside of your soul, and it will make sense. Your pain will be gone, and everything that has happened in your journey will make sense. You are enough, you are more than enough. You are special, and you have a purpose. You are worth something, so much. And your life was not meant to be ended in a rash decision. There is so much more than the pain you are feeling right now, and I just hope you will trust me, and hold on a little longer, because I am here, and I know what it’s like to want to leave, but I promise it is worth staying.”

I know that I can’t make him come back, I can’t undo what he has done. But I can try to make a difference.

There is nothing more heart wrenching than picking up a patient that has just tried to end their life. Every time it reminds me of you, and I selfishly wish that it could be you. But I hope you know that I remind them all that they are enough, and they have a purpose. And I hope that maybe just maybe it is enough to keep them going.

We don’t always get a why. I didn’t get a tape. I will never know.

But, I will try my best to make things different for the rest of us, in hopes that someone else won’t be left wondering the same things.

I hope that this show makes suicide something we can discuss, I hope it makes it socially acceptable for people to ask for help. I hope that it sheds light on the fact that it isn’t the answer, and that when someone kills themselves they leave behind a world of people in pain.

I hope this show doesn’t make people glorify depression, and that it doesn’t make suicide look “cool”. Because there is nothing cool about ending your life. There is nothing heroic about leaving your family behind broken and questioning the rest of their entire existence.

I hope this show makes people realize that this is a cruel world, that everything we do/say affects someone, and that we are not the only ones with feelings.

I love you, and I hope that you know we are all doing okay. We miss you tremendously, and we still hurt, but we are doing okay.

 

Flashbacks.

I woke up completely unclothed surrounded by a dozen doctors and nurses all peering over me and discussing things I had no idea what they meant. From what I could tell I was being sponged down by one person as another person tried multiple times to get IV access. It was  all a blur. I had just had one of the worst seizures I had ever had, and woke up in the ER at Methodist.

The nurse had just pushed potassium chloride, in an effort to bring my potassium levels back up. Over the past few weeks my body had been potassium dumping, an adverse effect of one of the few medications available to treat POTS. As she pushed the potassium I instantly felt it as it felt like fire running through my veins. It was late at night and I was all alone. My mom had to stay home with my sister because my dad was out of town and the flu ban was enacted at the hospital. I fell asleep that night in my hospital bed alone as potassium chloride filled my veins, unable to understand why any of this had to happen.

I don’t have a lot of memories of the past five years when it comes to my accident. Most of it just meshes together and it’s hard for me to pick out actual details and specific events. I have vague memories of bigger things but most of it is just small reminders. There are however a few significant things that stick with me, and no matter how hard I try to forget them they will always be there.

I usually avoid talking about things like this because they are unpleasant to hear. In my opinion why talk about the bad, when you could talk about the good instead.

I recently have found myself in a weird position. I’ve gotten used to being the caretaker lately, but have found myself back in the patient position recently. Two weeks ago I had my annual neurology appointment, and my annual labs done. To much shock they came back funky, and I am in the process of finding out if it was just a fluke draw, or if my crazy body has decided to throw a curveball at me. (Anyway enough of that back to the story.)

So as I was getting my blood drawn today I somehow got on the topic of my accident with the phlebotomist, as I explained that I fell ten feet head first I saw the hair on her arms stick up to which she shivered, and announced “Oh my god! That made the hair on my arms stick up, my daughter is a cheerleader!” I laughed, because while I am used to most people responding with the like, ouch or oh my! I have never seen someone cringe the way she did. I kind of giggled in my head as I thought to myself, “oh you think that was terrible, well how about the five years that followed it!” However instead I kindly smiled and responded with “yeah it was rough, oh and by the way could I please have coban instead of a band-aid I’m adhesive sensitive.” She slapped some coban on my arm, thanked me for sharing my story with her, and on my way I went.

As I drove home to visit my sister I thought about our interaction. I got frustrated because she saw me as this “heroic overcomer” as someone who experienced a tragedy and is now something admirable. And don’t get me wrong it’s not that that isn’t what I want to be viewed as, because I do. But part of me gets frustrated because outside of my family, very few people know what I actually had to go through to get where I am today.

But then, in the middle of my frustration I had to stop myself and remind myself that these people weren’t in my life five years ago. How could they have known I used to experience seizures, and everything else? They coldly have known because there is no sign across my head that explains the last five years. I can’t expect someone to automatically know what I went through, and that’s also pretty selfish of me, because how do I know that person also didn’t have something terrible happen to them. I mean come on Merideth, get it together you aren’t the only person on this earth with feelings.

I laugh often with my friends about explaining my accident to new  people I meet, and most people that know me well and are around me often know my famous phrase “my brain is broken” because sometimes I just don’t want to explain the last five years, or tell you about how as a teenager I unknowingly lost control of my bladder.

I guess the moral of this post is that it has been a long journey. A lot can change in five years. And with it comes new adventures. Every day as I heal a little more I find myself introducing myself more as just “Merideth” instead of “I’m Merideth, and I have a broken brain”.

While most of my days being the patient are that of the past, every now and then I am reminded of the past, and it does hurt. It hurts knowing that I had to miss out on things because of something out of my control. It hurts knowing that I am even aware of the feeling of sore muscles, not from the gym but from having a seizure.

I’m thankful that as I heal more I am able to talk more about the ugly. I take comfort in knowing that it is no longer my normal, and that instead of it being a what-if fear it is a flashback scare. I think that as I open up and talk more about the ugly times I am able to sort of feel relief from them.

I know that there is nothing that will take away these feelings, and I take comfort in knowing that when I feel like talking about them I have a space of my own to talk about them, where I don’t have to worry about anyone else’s feelings but my own. This little online corner of my life has provided more healing than I ever would have realized at the beginning of its creation. So I suppose with that being said the feelings of this late night post are:

 

Sometimes no matter how old we are, things are scary, and that’s okay.

and

Sometimes no matter how brave we are, things are scary, and that’s okay.

 

I’m thankful for all the medical professionals over the years that have provided the comfort I needed at the time to continue on and fight. And to all of those that comforted my family as well. These last five years haven’t been easy, and I still have my days, but I am so much stronger because of people like you, that were there, for people like me.

I’m also thankful for my friends that snap me back into reality when I try to convince them, along with myself that I have contracted some foreign parasite, or extremely rare virus. (flashback to my last post about me being a worrier, lol.)

The “Worrier” Inside Me, and You.

Hakuna Matata, it means no worries. When I come home to visit my family, as I walk into my bedroom I am greeted by the words “Hakuna Matata”, as they hang over my bed. To many the phrase “Hakuna Matata” is most recognized by the widely famous Disney movie, The Lion King. Hakuna Matata is a Swahili phrase, that when translated roughly means “no worries”. In The Lion King the phrase is turned into a song that teaches Simba, the young lion cub, that he should forget his past, and live in the moment.

I often forget that this phrase hangs above my bed at home, as it has been there for a while and I usually just glance past it. However, today as I came home to visit my family I was reminded of the precious phrase, it means no worries.

In general we as humans tend to worry a lot, some more than others. It can often be an innate thing to do when one is placed in situations where the outcome is unknown. I’ve blogged previously about embracing the unknown, and while that is a task in itself, learning to live with “no worries “can be an even greater one.

I have been a “worrier” all my life, as a child diagnosed with anxiety you can come to your own conclusions on how “worrying” should have been my middle name, I’m sure if you asked my mom she would probably agree. In fact, I am worrying right now about my Anatomy test tomorrow, that I have been dreading for a week. But, we’ll get back to that.

I noticed that after my accident, worrying became something I did a lot less of. I didn’t hesitate as much before I did things, I wasn’t overly cautious about every move I made, and I certainly didn’t think about every possible outcome for the action I was about to take. These can all be recognized as common actions for a “worrier”.

For many, the act of building oneself up to actually complete an action is far worse than the actual doing of the action, or the aftermath that follows it. Every action, has a reaction. Shout out Ms, Klinger, freshman year of H.S. physics teacher.  I am definitely one of those people that would spend nine years worrying about every possibility of crossing the sidewalk, which would only actually take three minutes to do. Would I trip while crossing the sidewalk and land on my head, and obtain a subdural hematoma? Would a car accidentally drive onto the sidewalk and hit me? Would  a flock of young children riding bicycles maul me over? Would a stray dog happen to run past me, and bite me, and infect me with rabies? Would the sky finally fall, as Chicken Little predicted so many years ago? )(I knew I should have listened to that animated chicken.)  I would never truly know if any of these ridiculous hypothesis were to come true unless I was to actually cross the sidewalk, but the nine hours before hand in which I calculated all my risks seemed necessary before I was to do so. I have yet to have the sky fall on me, nor has a stray dog attacked me on the many sidewalks I have crossed, so I believe it is safe to say that you can probably cross that sidewalk you were worrying about but I wouldn’t completely take my word for it, and I would also probably look both ways before doing so.

I realize that I am not a doctor, because trust me I know there’s nothing worse than thinking you’re a doctor when you’re actually not. I mean lets not let our imaginary MD’s get the best of us now. With my imaginary MD set aside, I do realize that anxiety disorders of all kind are well,  a real pain in the ass. The brain works in crazy ways, and the way that we perceive things sometimes, can be overwhelming. There are few things worse than wanting to accomplish something, but being unable to because your brain is telling you that you can’t.

Coming from a past emetophobiac, why yes that is someone who has a fear of vomit. I can understand what it’s like to not eat anything that isn’t home cooked because of the fear/worry that it might make you vomit. Growing up as a kid, flu season was always the worst, because that meant going to school with a higher than normal rate of germs going around, which meant possibly catching them, which meant possibly getting the flu, which meant possibly puking. You get my point, ya girl hated puke. And to be honest it still isn’t one of my favorite things. But instead of running and hiding at the good old sound of gagging, I can successfully stroll through the ER and laugh with a doctor at the glorious sound of the stomach flu, and I’ve even become a pro at holding the puke bag.

As you can see though the mind can easily fall into a rhythm of cyclical thoughts, that lead one to nowhere good, thus the term “worrying”. We have all been there one time or another, and wether the worry was valid, or a bit crazy like that of puking. You can’t deny you’ve never worried about something. Some maybe more than others, all eyes on me, shout out Polly the therapist.

As I realize how long this blawwgg post is getting I should probably get to the point. It is okay to worry, worrying is a normal thing. There is a lot in our world to worry about, like the cure for cancer ever being found, and wether Kanye West will run for presidency. It is when we find ourselves unable to live freely because of worry that we should step back, and reassess things. While living Hakuna Matata would be a dream, it is more of a mantra than anything. It would be worrisome if someone lived completely without a worry.

I said earlier that I believe I became a little more fearless after my accident, and I do believe that is true. However, I don’t condone, nor would I suggest falling 10 feet head first so that you can “live a little more”, there’s nothing wildly sensational about your head smacking a gym floor. 0/10 I would not recommend. But I would recommend reminding yourself of all of the amazing things this world has to offer. I would recommend setting your fears, and worries aside sometimes, so that you may pursue things you only dreamed of. I would recommend taking the first step in the direction of something scary, so that you can come out on the other side stronger. I think for me and my “near death/paralyzation” experience, I was able to see how quickly things could have changed, and how much I could have missed. I’ve spoken with a handful of other people who have been involved in fluke accidents, and a majority say the same thing, that their accident helped them to further realize the value in life.

However, I think we as humans should learn to appreciate the value of life, without having to be in a tragic accident. We should stop to appreciate the little things more often, and maybe not spend so much time worrying about the unknown things.

We only have one life, and a life full of worrying is not the way one should feel. You deserve to experience everything you’ve ever dreamed of, no matter how scared it has ever made you feel. The little worries, and the big big worries, I believe you can overcome them.  And that Anatomy test, yeah I will do the best I can and learn from my mistakes, A.K.A prepare further ahead of time, and make better study habits, says the college kid.

You are an overcomer.

P.S. – I’ll get on that rollercoaster someday.

P.P.S – This post was not made to offend anyone, I know first hand how terrifying anxiety can be, and I give all my love and support to anyone battling an anxiety disorder.

The dreaded 9 months later:

It’s been a few months since I’ve spilled my brain out onto these pages. I’ve tried so many times, but everything I’ve written just didn’t feel right. There’s an odd comfort here, I find relief on these pages, it’s a corner that is my own, and regardless of the rest of the world’s thoughts or opinions this little space, is mine.

Identity is something I’ve struggled with a lot over the past four years. Not like sexual identity, or religious identity, in fact I’m not really sure how you would even classify it. You see when I was diagnosed four and a half years ago I felt as if everything I had ever been, had worked to become, was taken away from me. I traded in my “old life” for a new one. I had to give up the things I loved, and it wasn’t because I didn’t love them anymore, it was because I physically couldn’t do them anymore.

It’s been four and a half years now and while some days I feel as if I’ve built a stronger, more confident self through all of this, I still find myself lost in the labels.

There is no solid, concrete evidence as to what someone’s life will look like with POTS 5, 10, even 15 years out after a diagnosis. There is no solid treatment plan that is followed with every patient that tests positive for POTS. There is no “normal baseline” of what one will experience with a diagnosis.

I think this is part of the reason that I struggled so much with identity, because I had no idea what was ahead. Unlike many other disorders, and disease’s where there is a “usual” path a disease may follow, POTS has none. It is so unique to each individual that it has no limits. When first diagnosed, I was told not to expect anything, because we had no idea how my body would react to treatments, wether medications would even work, and if they did how long they would take. I never fully accepted this but I understood that the outcome was “unknown” and it still is.

While today I am so much better, SO much better there is always the possibility that things could change. Because there is so little information and research about POTS, we don’t know what the possibility is for patients to relapse into flares, or if once their bodies return to what their normal once was, if they stay there.

Four and a half years later I find myself the night before my big doctors appointment laying in a hotel bed unable to sleep. This happens every time, and it is always to be expected. I find worry in the unknown. I usually am a person of the unknown, I enjoy unplanned things, I am a last minute kind of person. But these appointments, the unknown, it keeps me up at night. Particularly tonight.

The last time I found myself here I was told the next day to come back in nine months, and we would discuss what the future looked like. Wether it meant coming off of some of the medications I have become dependent on for four years, or if it meant I still needed time for my body to heal, and I would have to wait another nine months.

I’m at this weird stage of it all, I’ve moved past identifying myself as “sick”, in fact I prefer to avoid acknowledging it at all costs if I can. I am trying to figure out what it means to live beyond the diagnosis now. I used to take comfort in surrounding myself with others that were going through similar things, but now I am learning what it is like again to live as someone that isn’t solely defined as “sick”. I enjoy being able to do things I forgot I even had the capability of doing. I long to be rid of all of the things that attach me to my accident, and are a constant reminder of what changed things so drastically for me.

I take comfort in knowing that I have made it this far, through all of the “shit” that has come with it, but also all of the awesome it has brought. I realize that some people aren’t as lucky as I am. For some the pain is something they may never escape from, and their bodies may never get a break, I once thought this was myself but have come to learn that with patience anything is possible.

But I am also jealous, and still mad that I had things taken away from me. While I have been lucky to have things for the most part return to normal, I envy the times I had to give up because of what this disorder took from me. I hold on to the “what-if’s” and I probably always will.

However, I fall asleep eager tonight, for good news. While most nights that I have fallen asleep here, I have been weary of the bad news I knew was ahead of me, tonight I don’t feel that way. I am certain there is good news ahead, because as each day passes I can feel the healing just a little bit more. I have “high hopes”.

The Myth about Caring.

I’d like to think that I’ve always been very honest on here. I try not to sugar coat things, and at times I’m very blunt, sometimes more than what others like to hear, but that’s the thing about life and society today, we care so much about what others think that we often aren’t upfront and completely honest about our feelings, and while I am blunt, I do still worry what others will think about it.

I have sugar coated the last five years often when discussing what my journey has been like with others. Mainly because I didn’t want to be viewed as “weak” or “incapable” by others. When explaining what it was and is like living with POTS, to others I would leave out the feelings that came along with it. Instead of explaining that while the symptoms were hard to deal with, and the pain was at times so intense, I would leave out the one thing that was the hardest part about it: the feelings. Because I didn’t think people cared to hear about how I truly felt, but instead wanted to hear a story of hope, and how I got out of bed every morning and kept on going. But that isn’t how it worked, because in the beginning, most days I barely made it out of bed.

I have these memories of the beginning of my diagnosis that I never bothered to share with anyone. My family was there to experience it, but other than that nobody knew of what I went through, because I was so worried of how I was going to be viewed by others. I watched my sisters face as it all unfolded in front of her, and knew that I couldn’t share the experience with others, because I was scared of receiving the same look again by someone else, that wasn’t family, that wasn’t forced to love me unconditionally even through the ugly.

Only now, that I am able to do and accomplish goals I set for myself, am I able to look back on those days and realize how truly horrible they were. One of my biggest fears in life is that I will wake up one day and I’ll be unable to get out of my bed again. That I’ll succumb once again to the ugly side of this disorder.

When you work in EMS (Emergency Medical Services) you find yourself in the uncomfortable, in the ugly. But not your own uncomfortable, and your own ugly, but others, strangers. And in that moment, it is your job to put all of your own uncomfortable, and ugly aside, and to comfort theirs. When you strip away the medicine in EMS all you are left with is the “act of caring”. And that, is the most valuable aspect of it. No amount of medicine, regardless of the healing capability it holds, will ever provide the comfort that the simple act of caring can.

I get praised often for my ability to do the job I do, but the thing is the ability to care is something innate, it lies in all of us. Wether you allow yourself to care though is a personal choice. Understandably we aren’t all going to go into the field of medicine, and become first responders, but the potential for one to is there, if you allow yourself to care.

I watched both of my grandfathers fade away and die in front of me, at the time I had no medical knowledge. I didn’t understand that the cancer my grandfather had, that started out as simple skin cancer, and then turned into melanoma, that eventually spread to his brain was literally destroying all of the cells inside his body causing him to no longer be capable of everyday tasks. But I did know, and realize that he was losing the very things that made him, him. All I had then was the capability to care. I couldn’t provide him with oxygen so that he would at least be able to breathe easier while he died, I couldn’t check his vitals to know what state his heart was in. But I could help feed him the cinnamon jello that he loved dearly, and I could sit there and keep him company. I couldn’t provide medical care, but I could care.

The greatest thing we can provide to our patients, and humans in general, is not our medical care, but rather our genuine selfless care.

All of the times I spent in and out of doctors, I could care less about what medical terminology they rattled off. I was too young, and honestly too upset about what was happening that I didn’t care about what new drug we would try next to attempt to fix things. All I wanted to hear was that a doctor finally cared enough to not give up on me, I wanted to know that someone actually cared about me, and not just my case. We went through over a dozen doctors before we found the one, that was able to look us in the eyes, and assure us that he would not let us down, that I was more than just a file in his extensive list of cases, and that he would indeed make sure that someday, even if it took years, which he assured me it most likely would, but someday he would find the fix, and I  would be better.

Since his promise to care, I have gone on to obtain a role in which it is part of my job to assure my patients that I care. I carry his promise with me every day that I work, and remind myself before I ever meet my patient face to face, that it is my job, my responsibility to care.

It’s not always easy to care. There are some days when you are so drained, wether physically or emotionally that you simply just don’t think you have any care left inside of you, and while it is far easier to do the job without caring, that is not what we, what I exist for. I believe that people choose EMS because they understand it is their job to care, and while I know that unfortunately that isn’t the case for everyone, I would like to think it is for the majority.

There is a myth in our society that we as humans, don’t care to hear each other’s struggles, but that is a myth. The human being was designed to care, it is an innate response, and we need to acknowledge it, and allow it to happen more often.

The Great Unknown.

There’s this saying that says: “You are your own worst enemy”, and it’s true. At the end of the day the only person that is really truly holding you back is yourself. If there was a cover model for that saying it would probably be me. I am the queen of settling for less, underestimating my capabilities, and not giving myself the chances I deserve, just because I don’t think that I have the potential to do so. In the last five years I have become so comfortable in choosing the easy route, that when I am given no option other than the challenging path, all I can do is buckle at the knees and worry, only to somehow find a way out of it. It’s not because I don’t have the capability or potential to succeed on the challenging route, but rather because we have been raised in a society that tells us to choose that path that requires the least amount of work to succeed, and be successful, because then we can never fail. I have been raised to fear the unknown, and I am not the only one.

The fear of failure is so great that some of us will live our entire lives without ever stepping outside of our comfort zone, to take a leap of faith, and to explore the great unknown. I don’t know why we are so afraid of failure, and I probably never will, but I do know that without risks we never truly understand what some of our greatest capabilities are. You always hear stories of people dying, or watch in movies as they say their last words and it is always something along the lines of: “I wish I would have _____,” or “Tell so and so _____”. I will never forget the first time I watched someone die, as they took their last breath right in front of me. Their chest rose for the last time, and as they slowly exhaled I watched the monitors fall, and then I heard the flatline of the machines, and there right in front of me, in a matter of just a few minutes they were gone, forever. And I wondered, did they do everything they wanted to? Did they tell everyone they loved, that they loved them? Did they leave with regrets, or were they content with the life they lived.

I know I am not the only one that sets goals and ambitions for myself, only to push them aside and tell myself “I’ll get to it someday”, only to realize later that the someday I so often speak of may never come, and that I had in fact just let something slip through my fingers for some reason or another. The whole idea of life really is strange, and I think it’s really easy to take advantage of without ever realizing how quickly it can all be taken away.

I assume often that the people I love know I love them, that my ambitions are known, and that should for some reason I leave the earth today, that I would be content with the life I have lived. But I am not sure that is the case because I so often assume that those around me know that I love them, that I forget to even say it, and I assume that I will get around to my goals someday because I have a whole lifetime ahead of me, filled with so much time.

I don’t know everything, in fact I know very little, after all I can’t even explain to you how to efficiently cut a mango and everyone should know how to do that, but I do know that so often we settle for less, and forget to live effortlessly for fear of whatever is ahead.

I have this theory that if maybe we all started to live a little more confidently, to believe in ourselves a little more, and to not let our past determine our future, then maybe we would have the capability to create a society that encourages others to take a leap of faith, because they know that if we have no fear of failure, then we can’t fail, we can only learn, and maybe, just maybe actually succeed!

I have done this “thing” for the past five years where I have come up with a handful of reasons as to why I was not capable of achieving what I wanted to, the most common offender:” because I am sick”. Every now and then someone will call my bluff and say something along the lines of “bull shit Merideth, you are no different than anyone else”, and then in a matter of seconds my pity party for myself has come to an end and I am forced to grow up and attempt the challenging route, because someone else around me has noticed my potential and won’t stand around to watch me once again, settle for less. I am thankful for these people, because they remind me to live body, and to continue to challenge myself, but they are not always there, and they shouldn’t be. I need to learn, and to teach myself to be my own biggest supporter. I need to train the voice in my head to push myself to new heights, instead of tell myself to crawl back into my zone of comfort. We need to continuously and constantly support, and push each other so that someday we will be instilled with the confidence to overcome, and pursue, even our wildest of dreams.

The easy route is always easy, and the hard route is always hard, but the hard route comes with great feeling of accomplishment, and that is something we should always strive for, because you are never guaranteed another tomorrow, and you should never have to leave with regrets, and unsaid words. The great unknown will always be unknown, but it doesn’t have to be scary, and we don’t have to gip ourselves of someday making it there.