Tikkun Olam

“Tikkun Olam. It means that the world is broken and that it’s our job to put it back together again.”

I’ve seen more death this week than I have in my entire life.

Unintended death.

Intended death.

Unexplainable death.

But still at the end of the day, death.

When I was little a picture was painted in my head of a god that loves everyone, that forgives us of our sins, and welcomes us back into his arms when it’s our time to go. I was told of a place that took away all pain and suffering, and replaced it with eternal happiness. I was told of a place that washed me of my sins.

But what even are sins anymore? And what makes one persons worse than the other?

What if the person that robbed the bank was doing so because their children at home were starving?

What if the girl that lashed out came from an abusive home and knew no different?

What if the alcoholic that caused the car crash was merely drinking as the only coping mechanism left after losing everyone he ever loved?

So how are we supposed to know who gets to go where, whether we evened out our bad with our good. Wether we get the golden ticket or not.

I don’t believe in the picture that was painted in my head as a little girl, because I’m not the little girl anymore.

I am not naive to the awful in this world, but I am also not blind to the greatness in this world.

I do believe though that from the time we are born to the time we die, we are given an unknown number of days on earth, and what we choose to do with those days is entirely up to us.

I know that whether I like it or not, society will continue on for quite some time after I’m gone. Time does not stop, once my time stops.

So I’m going to believe in Tikkun Olam. I’m going to try to help as best as I can to put the broken back together.

How I’m going to do that I’m not entirely sure, but if it finds me in the back of my ambulance with someone on the verge of death then I’m going to do my best.

This week challenged my strength in more ways than I thought possible. Emotionally I’m feeling slightly numb. Slightly drained of my normal overflowing pot of comfort I usually have to give. But I feel comfort in knowing where it all went.

So when I found myself in the one, two, three, four, five different occasions of death this week it was okay. Because I was doing my best at piecing the broken back together, in the best ways I know how.

I don’t sing, I’ve told you this before, but yet I still continue to find myself in the back of my ambulance using my best singing voice I can muster up as I hold my patients hand and we sing together their favorite songs.

I don’t usually hug people, I’m not much of a hugger, or really a touchy person in general, but yet I found myself hugging my patients loved ones, as their tears left tiny spots on my shoulders.

I don’t pray, but when she said “I’ll pray for you Merideth”, before I even realized it I told her back “I’ll be praying for you too”.

This world stretches me thin some days, and when I don’t think I can manage to put anymore pieces back together they still continue to find me.

I know I will never know why I was put here, but I also know I am going to do my best damn job to piece together as many of the pieces that make their way into my life.

Healing isn’t my job, but helping is, and I will always be there to help, until I can’t possibly help anymore.

Tikkun Olam.

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“We can do hard things.”

“It’s a new me!” “Newer than the ‘new you’ you talked about six months?” “Yep, an even newer new, the newest of new.” That indeed was the conversation I just had in my head with myself.

Yes, I still have conversations in my head with myself.

You see the thing is I very much am still adjusting to life outside of being the sick kid, and  I think more so now than I really ever have. I’m learning and adjusting to focusing on my emotional wellbeing now that I don’t have to spend all that time focusing on the wellbeing of my health. With that comes adjusting my attitude, and my personality, and my thoughts, as well as emotions in general that come with the craziness that is life. I’m learning and adjusting to focusing on my physical wellbeing outside of just merely trying to survive. That means working to keep my body in its best shape, and learning to eat things that are going to better my health instead of the latter.

The last month I’ve been rather negligent to those around me, I’ve distanced myself so that I could in turn give myself the best opportunity to really truly focus on me. This has resulted in more conversations with myself than I could begin to articulate to you.

I’m not saying that in a months time I’ve completely changed and evolved all the impact the last five years has had on me, but I’ve started to. “This is a marathon, not a sprint” who knew those words Dr. M spoke to me five years ago would ring true in so many different ways.

I beat myself up time and time again over the fact that I still to this day struggle with things as a result of my accident. I feel guilty for allowing it to interfere with my daily life. Saying that I have PTSD from it seems wrong, how could I have PTSD from something like a cheerleading accident? How can my daily life still be altered from something that took all of 60 seconds to happen?

But the truth is that’s just life, and life is hard. And as Glennon Doyle Melton, one of my favorite humans ever says, “We can do hard things.” And it’s true. Who am I to judge myself for how I am feeling. I find myself telling those around me all the time in their times of trouble that “Whatever you are feeling right now is okay, no emotion you feel whether it’s sad, mad, angry, happy, upset, none of those are invalid. Your feeling whatever they may be are valid.” so then why am I over here stabbing steak knives and into my head and legos under my feet for feeling things? Maybe because I’m still learning how to feel things again after telling myself I couldn’t feel things for so long?

So yes, I told myself it was a new me, and I vowed and promised myself to a few things, as part of the new me:

  • To FIND something that I enjoy doing, and to make it a priority to do it, for myself, and not for anyone else. (I wanted this to be something meaningful, and gaining my strength back is something I have longed for, for a while now. I knew that by doing this for myself it would in turn not only make me feel better about myself, but provide me with time to myself, for myself. I’ve started going to Pure Barre, I try to go every day that I don’t work, and it has been one of the best decisions of my life. I chose this over just vowing to go to a gym because I knew I would feel lost in a gym, the motivation wouldn’t be as strong, and I likely would lose the determination. With Pure Barre I’ve become encouraged by those around me in the environment, the class is structured so I know I am benefitting my body, and I simply enjoy it so I know it keeps me motivated to go.)
  • To FOCUS on eating healthier. (I by no means meant this as going on a diet with intentions to lose weight. I am not at an unhealthy weight currently, however I do often feel hat what I have been putting into my body has made me feel more sluggish, and overall just bleh. I knew that some drastic vegan or paleo eating style was not something that would work with my lifestyle, nor is it something I am really interested in. I decided that making this commitment would mean trying to cut down on drinking things like soda and energy drinks, and instead replacing it with more water. That instead of turning to picking food up for dinner or lunch I would make a greater effort to cook more meals at home. This is a little change type of thing for me. I’m not drastically changing my eating habits, I’m just bettering and adjusting them along the way, in tiny ways. 
  • To LISTEN to my emotions, and to put them as a top priority. (I have a very big habit of going out of my way whenever I can, for whoever I can. This is just my personality, and I know it is not a bad quality to have but it often leaves me feeling emotionally drained, and empty. I decided that I need to be better at listening to myself, and what I need for me emotionally, not what others need from me emotionally. This has caused me some conflict with myself because it at times makes me feel a little selfish, but I am learning to better understand that in order to be the best to those around me in my life, I need to at first be my best. This means taking a step back in situations and thinking them through, deciding what will truly be the best decision for me, instead of rushing into something because it seems like the right thing to do.)

 

Find, Focus, and Listen. These are my goals. I know it’s okay to have bumps in the road along the way of reaching our goals, and I know this isn’t a “snap your fingers” and it happens situation either. I also know I have plenty of more goals I want to accomplish in may life, but that in order to achieve each one to it’s best potential I need to take the baby steps, and to be patient, instead of just jumping right in full force like I tend to do.

“We can do hard things.”

But then…..

I blame him for the fact that I suck at feelings.

I want to scream at him every time I mess something up in my life that’s related to feelings, because I blame him.

I don’t trust the way I used to before him.

He changed everything in my life, and I know he probably didn’t even think twice or consider the fact that he was creating a snowball of a problem in my life.

I know he didn’t think about me.

Because if he did he would have understood just how much he was going to mess up.

I do not find light in him being gone.

I do not find peace in him being gone.

I do not find comfort in him being gone.

My soul is not at rest at the end of the day knowing he is gone.

My soul is ripped in pieces at the end of the day because of his absence.

I do not see out of rose colored glasses.

I cannot see out of rose colored glasses.

I do not see how anyone can see out of rose colored glasses.

Maybe they just haven’t experienced the soul ripping.

I over exert myself in every friendship/relationship I have ever had because of him.

I spend half my paychecks on pointless things for people who have done nothing for me because I fear that they too might disappear.

I over invest myself in every conversation I have ever had because of him.

I don’t shut my mouth and I speak over others because I need to be certain that it is obvious that I am still here, and that I haven’t disappeared.

The truth is Matthew altered every aspect of my future the day he ended his, and everyday since then has been altered.

The truth is I hate more than anything that people can feel helpless, hopeless, and unhappy in this world.

The truth is I feel this way sometimes too though.

The truth is that I spend my life worrying so much that others are content and fulfilled in theirs that it is eating me alive in mine.

The truth, the real actual truth, is that none of this is relatively easy.

This year is 5 years out from the time a permanent decision was made to a temporary problem, and I will forever be scarred by it.

I wish I could say that I understood what compelled him, and all the others, but I don’t.

I sometimes think about the topic, the outcome, should I have made such a decision.

But then I smell the air after it rains.

But then I feel the warmth of the sun after a long winter.

But then I remember the chirping of birds.

But then I remember the sound of thunderstorm.

But then I remember life.

LIFE.

And then I don’t think about it anymore.

And then I don’t desire for it to be over anymore.

And then I don’t wish for an end.

I wish for an eternity.

I wish for a lifetime, and then some.

I wish for every living soul to remember too.

I do not find comfort in his decisions, I find anxiety, restlessness, exhaustion.

I find pure let down.

I blame him for the fact that I suck at feeling because he took them from me and replaced them with overwhelming worry.

I blame him but I am trying not to because there are thunderstorms, and chirping birds, and warm sunshine’s, and crisp air.

And I get all of these things.

All of these gifts are entitled to me.

And suddenly I don’t even think about it anymore. Suddenly I am content, suddenly I can feel.

And it FEELS good.

Sometimes I get Attached…..

One of the first things they told me was to not get attached….

Your care ends after you walk out the doors, your job is done……

You can’t get attached…

and I don’t….most of the time…..

but sometimes I have to….

I NEED to.

I need to get attached so that I can remember why.

I need to get attached so that I don’t forget the feeling.

I need to get attached so that I can keep going.

I need to get attached because I need to remember that it wasn’t all for nothing.

See the thing is my job might be to care and provide for patients, but at the end of the day they’re providing to me.

In a weird emotional way it’s like every time I get the chance to care for someone the giant gaping hole in my heart from all the chaos being sick has caused me heals just a little more.

I’m not sure the hole will ever entirely be full again but I know that everyday I get to care for patients, a day farther out from being the patient, the hole fills a little more.

I remember my first hospice patient, and the month after that in which I checked the local obituaries every day wondering if they had passed away.

I remember the first child I said goodbye to, as I tucked them into their bed, whispered in their ear and brushed their hair out of their eyes. I hugged the mother knowing that I was the last medical professional she would see until her child passed away and I stood there until she was ready to let go.

A lot of the memories aren’t happy, in fact most of them are painful. It’s not a career full of glitter and balloons. It’s a rare day that we hear the ending to the story. We are there when it starts, when its happening, but how it ends, we usually never know. For us, it stops at the automatic doors leading back out to the ambulance bay, because we aren’t supposed to get attached.

The truth is talking for half an hour with an elderly patient about our pet cats isn’t just a distraction to them, it’s an assurance that I, me, MYSELF can be the someone, in that moment that someone needs. It’s the reminder that I am capable.

The truth is making stuffed animals talk and growl while dancing through the hallways before the patient goes in for radiation isn’t just to make them laugh. It’s the reminder to me that amidst all their chaos they still have a little bit of their childhood left. That they won’t be scarred forever, their holes will fill too.

The truth is explaining to parents that their child who wants to harm themselves, gets better and that this world is cruel and harsh and difficult for growing teens isn’t just to reassure them, it’s to remind me that Matthew’s pain was temporary, and that these kids that didn’t make a permanent decision to a temporary problem could have been him too.

The truth is that as much as I am there for them, I am also there for me too.

As much as I wake up each day and go to work with the mindset of helping others, I also go to work with the mindset of helping myself.

I find healing, in partaking in healing others.

I find comfort in comforting others.

I find strength in strengthening others.

I am who I am now, with the mindset I have now because of them.

So I have to get attached sometimes….

I HAVE to.

I refuse to be the robot like medical professional that provides care in a uniform way to every patient, every time. Who forms no bond with the patient, who shows no emotion.

I have to get attached, and I have to show emotion.

If those that cared for me didn’t show me the same attachment I have now I wouldn’t be here with this job. In fact I would be as far away from it as I possibly could. There’s some days I left offices and clinics and wanted to never face another medical professional.

But I refuse to be that way. I refuse to make others run anywhere but towards my care.

So sometimes I get attached, because I’m human, and it’s a human thing to do, but also because I need to.

Because it keeps me going.

My Date wasn’t a Death-Defying Date….

Everyone I’ve ever talked to that has had some type of Traumatic Injury/Accident remembers the date.

It’s almost like a birthday, regardless of how many years or decades ago it happened, they can tell you the exact date.

For me: December 7th 2012.

I don’t know if it’s because their life flashed before their eyes, or they had some surreal experience, or they died and came back to life, or should be dead, or what.

All I know is that I never saw the big guy, he never appeared and gave me some big talk about how it wasn’t my time. I never saw the light. I never felt the warmth.

In fact nothing happened, at all.

One minute I was in the air, and the next I was on the ground, with a really bad headache.

I had no out of body experience.

If it weren’t for me falling, that day would mean absolutely nothing to me. It’s the anniversary of my accident, but that’s it. It isn’t the day my life started over, I wasn’t reborn, I wasn’t given a second chance, I literally just fell and hit my head.

I was never close to death. There has never been a point in my life in which it was questionable whether I would live. (Except for that one time I went in to have a scheduled surgery and passed out, and the new RN panicked and pressed the code button. Now that might be debatable but other than that I’ve never headed towards the light.)

I follow lots of different people who have become sort of angels to me. I don’t know them personally but I feel like I do because I just connect so dang much with their stories. I follow their social media platforms that they’ve used to turn into this incredible source of strength and hope. They are like real life gods to me. I find so much resemblance in them. Like when I grow up, I want to be them.

(I got to see one of them speak at an event and I almost peed myself from excitement. I was so nervous and excited that I was sick to my stomach. I was the real definition of a fan girl.)

I relate so much to them.

Except for one tiny, well really big thing.

They all almost died.

(And if it wasn’t physically then it was mentally/emotionally.)

Their dates, their December 7th, 2012’s, those were almost their last.

I don’t know what it’s like to be close to death, to teeter on such a fine line between seeing a tomorrow, and never having another.

So when they discuss their trials and difficulties, it makes sense. They went through this overwhelmingly horrific event. They defied odds, and somehow managed to survive. They fought death, and they won.

And then I look at my trials and difficulties and I’m just confused. It doesn’t make sense. All of these people, they found the good. They had the “re-awakening”, the “realization”. They’re able to have an undying amount of love for life because they know what it’s like to almost lose it.

I run a fine line between my love and hatred for life. I am left in awe everyday of the mere thought of life, because it’s just so cool, but I also have days where I’m just really stinking mad at it.

I don’t have the reminder of why I can’t be mad at life. I don’t have that thing that the big guy or the universe dangles above my head. There is no voice that says “Merideth you can’t be mad at the universe, you can’t hate me, I spared you.”

I just have an unlucky experience, a date that’s just a reminder that something unlucky happened to me. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

For a really long time I wanted the why, in fact there’s probably a handful of these blogs about trying to figure it out. I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t still occasionally hope for it.

I think the reason I so badly wanted a why, was so that I could know that bad things didn’t just happen to people for no reason. I wanted/want to know that the universe, the big guy, don’t just throw hurdles at you for no reason.

I’m at a point in my life that I knew would happen eventually, well I figured it would, but didn’t hold on to hope or dream about it, or realize it would get here so soon. I’m at the point where my POTS is basically unnoticeable.

It’s a place in my health I’ve never been before. Now I’m not saying I’m healed, because I definitely still have POTS, and I do still have to receive treatment for it. What I’m saying though is that there aren’t any big arrows pointing at me anymore screaming “sick girl”.

I could meet someone new and have a friendship with them, and they would never know I was sick unless I shared it with them.

My Invisible Illness has finally become Invisible.

So what the heck am I supposed to do?

It seems like those that are in the significant date club either end up two ways:

– They get the sign from the universe, they have their magical moment. They end up with a different outlook on life, a reason why. (Or at least they figure it out.)

– They magically get healed and are left without significant deficits/results. They’re able to move on and forget about it. Their date eventually becomes just another day.

(And I guess technically there’s a third ending too: you die.)

So where do I fit in?

None of the above 3 things happened. Big Shocker, but I ended up the odd one out again.

I once wrote a book (or half way did), and if you’ve known me from the beginning of all of this then you’ve probably heard about it.

It was this great (according to my mom) compilation of learned lessons, and acquired interesting outlook on life.

But I stopped writing it. Because I didn’t feel like I had a valid enough reason to write it. Why would anyone listen to a young girls experience if she never even had the “aha” moment.

Why would you read something if it didn’t leave you with a positive push to better your life? I don’t have the qualifications that the people I look up to do. I don’t have the certified death defier sticker that the others do.

I just have this oddball story. This strange compilation of things that have happened to me because one unfortunate event changed everything.

So where do I fit in? Where do any of us fit in?

What happens to those of us that don’t get the fancy message from the universe?

Why are some of us death defiers, and others not?

How do you find your why? Or do you ever?

A long December…..every December.

December is almost over. Thank the calendar gods.

I was once the most festive of festive humans. I LOVED Christmas. I was basically Christmas balled up and stuffed inside a human.

My freshman year of high school I planned a Christmas party at my house and basically invited my entire grade. Christmas was my jam.

And then on December 7th, 2012 I fell on my head and slowly but surely I lost my festivity.

I tried so hard to remain festive, that I even strung Christmas lights on my neck brace.

Yeah you read that right.

I strung CHRISTMAS LIGHTS on my NECK BRACE.

I tried so hard to continue to love the holiday, and not attach the holiday to my accident but that is so much easier said than done. I took the concussion test three times in December. I wore a neck brace for the entire month of December, (and January.) I received muscle relaxing creams and Advil as presents. I became a “frequent flyer” in the ER. But Merry Christmas y’all, let us be thankful and reminisce on all the wonderful things, let us appreciate the cards we have been dealt. All while I model a neck brace and get told by medical professionals I’m faking things. But happy holidays anyways!

How are you supposed to celebrate the holidays and enjoy all of its festivities when you look like a robot. You can only hide so much of a neck brace with a scarf, at some point you’re either going to have to just strut your stuff, or resort to using a curtain as a scarf because maybe then you’ll have enough square inches of fabric. Or I guess in Baby Mer’s case just throw some Christmas lights on there……*facepalm*

So December is almost over, and then I can finally sigh my sigh of relief, and breathe again. Because I hold my breath for most of December, I become a Scrooge, I shut down and am a not so friendly version of myself, I try to ignore all that this month so kindly likes to remind me of. I don’t know why I need to grieve for the entire month. My accident took up all of 5 hours of that month. So why do I need an entire month to throw myself a pity party? I don’t know, I guess because I’m human? Is that a valid excuse? Do I need an excuse? I mean I’m sure I could throw a pity party all 12 months of the year, people would probably get real tired of it, but I suppose I could do it.

I still give the gifts, and I wear the matching PJ’s with my sister, and I decorate a tiny tree. I try to be festive again, but no matter how much I force the festivity it doesn’t happen.

I feel like I’m suffocating in December.

I feel like I’m trapped in December.

I feel like I’m drowning in December.

No matter how hard I try to breathe, to escape, to swim, I can’t get away from it. So I just try to survive.

December is merely a month of survival. I tell myself at the first of December every year, it’s just 31 days, you just have to make it 31 days, then you can breathe again, it will all go back to normal, whatever normal is.

I’m not depressed, I mean I am, but so is every other chronically ill college student, but I’m not depressed about life, well not really, I love life, probably more than most people, but I hate December’s and I dread them, and I loath them.

I picked up over 250 hours this month between my two jobs so that I could try to forget that it’s December. I worked Christmas Eve Eve, Christmas Eve, and Christmas so that I could keep myself as busy as possible in hopes of forgetting things. In hopes I won’t see the festivity as much.

When I see people post pictures of their presents I want to scream in their faces. I turn into the grinch. My Christmas was ruined, stop shoving yours in my face to remind me. And then I have to mentally slap myself because good lord Merideth you are not the center of the earth. It does not matter that you don’t get to enjoy Christmas like you used to, stop ruining it for everyone else. Let them enjoy the fact that life didn’t kick them to the curb on this one.

There’s 6 more days until I can breathe, until I can stop crying about everything, I bet you’re shocked to know I’m crying writing this post right now. For once this month they aren’t tears of sadness, well those are mixed in there, but a majority of them are tears of relief, because finally it will be over, and for 11 more months I can almost completely forget about it like I usually do.

I don’t cry, crying is not my thing, but December turns me into Niagara Falls. The whole entire waterworks plus some. Mention vanilla lotion and how it’s your favorite scent and the waterworks will begin to form because for some odd reason I can’t remember, vanilla lotion is tied into the awful nightmare that is the original December.

So decorate your trees, or your neck braces, sing your Christmas carols. Sorry I’m not overly excited to wish you a merry Christmas and whatever else festive people do now. I try my best to look enthused about the month, but I won’t lie, I’m real bad at fake emotions.

December is almost over, soon I can breathe. I can’t wait to breathe again.

“And it’s been a long December and there’s reason to believe maybe this year will be better than the last.” -Counting Crows

*this post was sad, and I don’t like to end things on a sad note so go ahead, I give you permission to laugh WITH ME about my glowing neck brace.

Linda is…..

There is one thing in my life that is completely predictable and routine, yet completely unpredictable all at the same time- Monday’s.

Every Monday I spend my day in Pendleton, IN. at the fire department. I have for the past 6 months, and I hope to for a long while.

It’s the only real routine in my life, and it’s kind of a saving grace. It’s the one thing I can count on. From 06:00 to 18:00 every Monday my life is the most routine it will be for my entire week, but it’s also the most unpredictable.

I can count that every Monday I will be on the ambulance in Pendleton, but what exactly my day will hold, that I’m not entirely sure.

But I know Linda will be there with me. (Unless she’s taking part in her more adventurous and social life than I live.) So unless Linda’s adventuring calls, I know I will have her by my side every Monday

I won’t lie, Linda scared the crap out of me when I met her for the first time. I questioned wether I should have listened to Gentle Giant about working here…..I had a feeling this woman was not going to like me. I was loud and had no filter, I would annoy her to the end of time.

But I was wrong, well not entirely, I’m definitely positive I annoy Linda at times almost once a week, usually more. But she has become one of the most consistent, reliable, and predictable things in my life.

She’s become my fire mom. I’ve become her fire daughter.

Linda is everything I hope to be one day.

It’s almost entirely too difficult to explain Linda to you. There just isn’t quite the exact, most perfect, combination of words.

Linda is a strong woman, she’s been through a lot in her life, but she still walks with her head held high (except for the days we both pull our backs out while lifting things together we should have left for the big fire guys with the big fire muscles to do), so unless it’s one of those days where we both walk with a slight hunch, then she walks with her head held high.

She is wise, she has decades of experience in this career, and I am beyond lucky to learn from her. She teaches me silently, she doesn’t have to physically explain her ways, she just works, and I learn by watching her ways and picking apart her reasoning.

She is patient, she puts up with me for 12 hours each week. All of my loud ramblings, my broken-brain moments, my useless rants, my hot mess of a life events, and so on, and so on. She is patient and listens, and when she can’t stand to listen to my random rant on the medical marvel that is “fetus in fetu” she nods her head and pretends to listen so that I can continue on in my ridiculous explanations and marvels at all that is science, so that my insides can feel listened to.

She is set in her ways, Linda takes no BS. I wish I was as good at this as Linda is. There is no time for BS in life, Linda will let you know, and when you’ve landed knee deep in BS, Linda will let you know. I wish I could walk out of knee deep puddles of BS like Linda can.

I’m not sure I really believe in fate, or the mushy-gushy “everything happens for a reason”. I think life happens, and sometimes in weird, mysterious, unexplainable ways, sometimes things finally work out in ways they should.

The ability to learn and be taught by Linda every Monday is one of those things.

And while we sit at McDonald’s eating our breakfast this morning, like we do every Monday morning, and tell our adventures and recap our week with drawings and explanations, I am certain that this is where I am supposed to be on Monday’s.

And not because the town of Pendleton needs me, but because I need the town of Pendleton.

I need the Linda’s in the world to be a part of my world. To remind me why I am here, why I chose the job I chose. Why I do what I do.

I used to dread Monday’s, now Monday’s are the one constant good day in my week.

I can count on Monday’s, and I can count on Linda.

Linda and I are a well oiled machine, we are a killer team, we don’t have to talk to know what the other person is going to say (except for when I’m processing things extra slow and don’t get it) we work well, and we work efficiently.

We are a true dream team. An adopted mother/daughter fire duo. We are a force to be reckoned with.

And for that I am entirely thankful, and beyond blessed.

It’s not “Seizure Girl”, it’s Merideth.

They called me “Seizure Girl”.

I haven’t had a seizure in 4+ years.

But they called me “Seizure Girl” anyways.

I’ve become very good about making light of my accident.

Joking not to fall off things or, “you’ll end up like me”.

Joking that “…..it’s the broken brain”.

But they called me “Seizure Girl”.

I’m not a very sensitive person. I mean, I used to be, but then my accident happened. I went through so many different emotions in such a short period of time. It was a rollercoaster. I got so tired of emotions, and having to deal with feeling them that I eventually told myself I was just going to stop, feeling them. That I would pretend they weren’t there.

So when jokes were made about my accident, I laughed and chimed in too. Because I wasn’t feeling emotions anymore. I was pretending they weren’t there.

I’m the underdog in life. I’m the odd one out. I’m the rare pumpkin in the patch, but not the good rare, the strange rare. I have been for five years now.

Apparently I’m the “Seizure Girl”.

You know it takes a lot of effort to not feel feelings anymore. Or rather to pretend they aren’t there.

For the last five years I’ve woken up every morning and have been reminded that I’m different.

Our society isn’t very accepting of different.

So for the last five years I’ve joined in on the jokes. In fact I make a lot of them now. Some of them even leave those around me in shock. Those that don’t know me find it odd I would laugh at myself. “She’s used to it” those that know me will say. “She doesn’t care” they add when you laugh or make your own joke about it.

They’re right, I’m used to it. But they’re wrong, I do care.

I care so much that for the last two weeks I haven’t been able to get the phrase “Seizure Girl” out of my head.

“Oh get over it” says family. “You’re better than them” says friends.

But they’ve never been the “Seizure Girl”.

Do you know what it feels like to wake up on the floor of a parking lot surrounded by people staring at you?

How about being told by an MD that there’s nothing wrong with you, that it’s all in your head?

Or even better, let’s get real vulnerable here. Being stripped in an ambulance because you’ve pissed yourself from seizing?

Telling the stranger that used the flash on their camera “it’s okay” after they’ve made you fall over?

Asking for someone to help you open the door for you after they’ve watched you try to in your wheelchair from across the hall for five minutes?

Yeah I didn’t think so. So when you try to tell me that I’m not the odd one out, or the underdog, you’re wrong.

Those things made you cringe didn’t they? They left you feeling uncomfortable didn’t they? You just thought, ‘wait that really happened to her’ didn’t you?

For some reason our society doesn’t want to hear about the ugly, they only want the good. And when they hear about the ugly anyways, they need to quickly make light of the situation, and make a joke so that they can laugh and no longer feel uncomfortable about the ugly. Well let’s face reality, there’s a lot of ugly that exists. Why are we turning our heads to the things that make us uncomfortable? This is life people. Uncomfortable things exist, and they probably wouldn’t be uncomfortable if we all stopped turning our heads and accept that they happen.

Yes I used to have seizures. It was miserable. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But I’m not going to beat around the bush and leave out the parts that were hell for me just so that you can feel better about yourself or warm and fuzzy on the inside. My story isn’t all warm and fuzzy, it’s uncomfortable and ugly too, deal with it. I’m not sorry you felt the need to give me a lousy nickname (and it really was lousy pal, you could have at least called me the fainting goat) to feel better about what happened to me, and ignore the fact that me standing in front of you makes you remember my story, and it makes you feel uncomfortable.

In the last five years I’ve been humiliated more than I could ever even begin to explain. My life is a series of random events that someway or another end up with me swallowing the feelings and stuffing them back inside.

Tell me I’m more than “Seizure Girl”. That they were wrong, go ahead. Tell me all you want. Try to make me feel better about someone else’s lousy choice of words.

At the end of the day I still will have been “Seizure Girl”. I mean they weren’t really wrong were they?

I’m also Merideth though.

And I’ve worked damn hard to get where I am.

I’m not sorry that my accident might make you uncomfortable to the point that you feel as if you need to make a joke about it to “lighten things up”.

Until you’ve been “Seizure Girl” don’t let the words, or any others of the like come out of your mouth again in reference to me.

Because the “Seizure Girl” you’re referencing is much more than that.

I hate the color pink. My favorite food is Indian. I’ve never had a pet dog. My mom and sister are my best friends. I have a cat named Tuna.Monday’s are my favorite days of the week. I’m very loud.

And I used to have seizures.

This world wasn’t made for people that are the odd ones out. It isn’t easy to wake up every morning and be reminded that you are different. No matter how many years ago my accident was I will forever have to jump through extra hoops and leap over extra hurdles just to get to where you are. People don’t understand.

But that’s okay.

I’m not the same as everyone else. That changed five years ago and it will never go back. There’s no undoing it. I got the unlucky end of the stick or whatever that saying is. I can’t forget feelings. I can’t pretend they aren’t there. Words hurt. Reactions hurt. Actions hurt.

I hope you’re reading this and I hope you regret letting the words come out of your mouth. I hope you realize that I’ve been through hell to get to where I am now. I hope you understand that people in my same position, the other “Seizure Girls” some of them are dead now. Yes I said dead, not “passed away” on purpose. Because it’s awful. This “thing” that turned me into “Seizure Girl” it’s an awful thing. I don’t need to be reminded by you that I have it. I’m not trying to make you feel bad about yourself. I mean I secretly hope that you do just a little bit (not so secret anymore.) I’m trying to get you to understand that labels don’t mean shit. That there are more to people than their diagnosis. That as strong as that person may look on the outside, there’s a very real possibility they’re falling apart on the insides.

You don’t have to have been sick to understand that someone that is deserves respect. Stop staring. Stop pointing out the differences. Stop making jokes about them. Stop treating them with special attention or extra kindness or doing that weird thing where you act completely different around me as if I’m not a human and that I’m some weird extraterrestrial creature.

I’ll joke about my broken brain when I want.

I’ll call it a broken brain because it’s how I cope.

But that doesn’t give you the authority to unless I’ve made it very clear that you may.

My name is Merideth, in case you’ve forgotten, or you don’t know, or whatever else led you to coining me “Seizure Girl”…..idiot.

I am not God.

I am not God. My job is not to be God.

Shocking, I know right. But while we are on the topic, if the big guy is out there reading and listening to my rant, let me just tell ya buddy, you sure do like to push my buttons.

Medicine is an interesting world. The job is to heal, and when we cannot heal, it is to treat, and when we cannot treat, it is to comfort, and when even comfort is not possible it is to simply be there, and to listen.

Regardless of who the patient might be.

In your everyday life you are confronted with the horrible, and the evil of this world. Most of the time through the media. But in Medicine, and particularly Emergency Medicine, it usually isn’t from the media that you are confronted with it. It is right there in front of you, real life, not behind a screen, but right before your very eyes. It is impossible to shut your eyes and ignore the evil when it is breathing, living, and surviving in the back of your ambulance.

But I am not God. My job is not to be God.

My patient, will always be my patient.

I do not decide whether they live, or they die.

I have 30 minutes with them usually at the most, and I must give them my best, regardless of where they have come from.

This is hard. Some days more so than others.

Thanksgiving morning I ran a 5k that benefitted the homeless in my city, it provided them with meals.

Thanksgiving afternoon I gave my everything in the back of my ambulance to my patients.

Thanksgiving evening I drove home with tears in my eyes upset with our world.

Our Police Officers keep our towns and cities safe from the evil in our world, Our Firefighters run into burning buildings to save our citizens in our communities. Thanksgiving evening I cared for the evil in our world. I provided my best care to someone many people would consider undeserving.

But I am not God. My job is not to be God.

I do not know why evil exists. I cannot tell you why someone would cause harm and evil on another human. I do not know, I don’t have the answers.

I knew going into this career I would be put in situations where there simply was no explanation. Nobody would be able to tell me why, there would be no answers, other than the fact that evil exists in this universe.

I recently fell in love with a tv series called ‘The Good Doctor’. The show is centered around a surgical resident who has autism. There are many reasons I love this show, but one of the main reasons being how well the trials of medicine are depicted. Two weeks ago they aired an episode called ‘Apples’, since the airing of the episode I have watched it 4 times. It is quite possibly the most brilliant episode in medical dramas to ever exist on television. It portrays the dynamic of medicine and emotion so well. It displays the balance between caring too much, and caring not enough when it comes to a patient. It just gets it right.

I’ve watched the episode 4 times not because I enjoy the show, but because I can connect so well with it. I understand the struggle in trying to distance yourself so that you don’t become attached, but wanting to make your patients aware that you do care.

In my fire station there is a framed saying on the wall that goes something like ‘what happens here, stays here, and never leaves’. I’m sure its mostly referring to the drama that is ever present in a fire station, but I know it is also referencing the things we see on a daily basis.

One of the first things I was ever told when I entered this career was to leave work at work, to never take it home with you. But anyone that slightly has a soul, will know that sometimes it is simply impossible to do.

There will always be the calls that you remember, that for some reason you can’t get them out of your head.

We would have to be robots in order to provide the exact same care every single time to every single patient, and to leave every patient feeling absolutely nothing. It simply isn’t possible. We are humans, and no matter how hard you try to swallow them or push them away, feelings will always make themselves present some way or another.

So my eyes did that gosh awful thing Thanksgiving evening as I drove home with someones homemade spice cake splattered all over my uniform. It wasn’t the spice cake that caused my eyes to water, it was the universe they were flooding for.

I am not God. My job is not to be God.

I will never be able to take the evil out of this world, neither will you.

With all of that being said though I wouldn’t trade my job for the world. I wouldn’t give up the flooding eyes if it was an option.

I get to go to work everyday and be reminded of how freaking lucky we all are to get a chance at life, and that is pretty cool.

I’m Shaking at My Knees.

So I did a big thing. Well maybe not so big to you but to me equivalent to climbing a mountain…..

I made this new friend in my Physiology class this year and she is like #FriendGoals. This girl let me just tell you, I look at her and think “Um hello yes, why haven’t you been around my entire life? Why are we just now meeting?!?!” Her name is Julia. And when I say she is goals I don’t just mean like on the outside but side note, this does apply to her too because she is gorgeous, has the best style, and eyebrows I envy (I’ve got a thing for eyebrows and Jules has some great eyebrows!) but I mean on the inside too. She is strong in her faith, she knows who she is, and what she deserves, and well she just has her life together. (She might not agree or see herself as all of these things but when I think of Julia this is what I see.) She’s just #FriendGoals, okay?!?

Any-who when my new Physio BFF asked me if I wanted to do the Drumstick Dash with her (a 5-K on the day of Thanksgiving) I couldn’t say no, because well she’s my new friend, and friends do these types of things with each other…..right?

I’ve never explained the long story to Julia about my accident, I mention it in bits and pieces but I’ve never given her the real low down, low down. So yeah, I did a big thing, and now I am having some real big fears….

-One being that I haven’t ran an actual 5-K since my accident

-Two being that the words ‘Running’ and ‘Merideth’ don’t really go well together anymore. They used to, but not anymore.

-Three being that this Drumstick Dash is in 10 days…..10 DAYS PEOPLE!

Now to most this isn’t a big deal what’s 2+ miles anyway? That’s easy-peasy, that’s a stroll through the neighborhood, that’s a walk through the park! But to me….to me that is a MARATHON. That is a MOUNTAIN. That is HORROR, and FEAR, and OH MY LANTA WHAT DID I AGREE TO????

Where was my brain at when I said “sure!” like it was nothing? CLEARLY IT WASN’T LISTENING RIGHT! Instead did I hear “Do you want to go to target?” Because the answer to that is “sure!”, but to RUNNING, and more than to the mailbox? The answer to that should have been, ‘I’d rather eat the Thanksgiving pie for breakfast’.

So here I am 10 days our from what could potentially be my last day on earth. Okay you’re right that was a little dramatic but bear with me.

I grew up running. In fact I probably came running out of my mother’s womb the day I was born. I am a ‘Need-For-Speed’ kind of girl. I ran 5-K’s in elementary school kids, like we are talking 4th grade Mer, she ran 5-k’s, and no that is not an exaggeration that is an actual fact. My mom was the leader of the ‘Running Club’ in elementary school. I was a runner y’all, I was legit. I used to run for fun. And not around the playground, but like miles, FOR FUN.

And then my accident happened.

Running was no longer fun anymore. Running was hard. For a while Running was IMPOSSIBLE. I could barely walk to the mailbox. I could not run.

I am capable of running now. But I have yet to run a distance farther than a mile since my accident. And it’s not a breezy mile either. It’s a ‘oh crap why did I think this was a good idea’ mile. It’s a ‘my lungs are on fire, my legs are jell-o, I can see the light, I am going to the light’ mile. And it is not the 7.5 minute mile I once had, oh no it is a 15 minute mile, ON A GOOD DAY.

So somebody PLEASE for the love of all things good and holy PLEASE tell me why I said ‘sure!’???

There are not many things in life anymore in which I compare myself to my healthy peers. I am at a point where I am able to do just about anything my peers are able to do.

Except…..RUNNING.

One of the very few things I capability wise do not compare to my peers, I agreed to do.

Now I told myself this morning when I woke up and realized the ‘Dash’ was 10 days away that I needed to be in the gym everyday for the next 10 days or else I either won’t make it to the finish line, or I will make it there and then have a heart attack. I know very well I will not go to the gym every day for the next 10 days. I might go 3 out of the next 10 days and if I’m feeling extra motivated maybe 5 of the next 10 days.

See the funny thing is I’ve been speaking to a lot of college and graduate lecture classes recently on POTS. I usually tell my story and then do an information portion on POTS. Depending on the level of the class I grasp the extent of the medical knowledge and terminology I will use. If it’s a freshman lecture I try to stick to the basics, to explain things in the easiest of ways. However if it’s a graduate class I know I can use more medical terminology and describe things more in depth. Last week I was speaking to a class of primarily freshmen and sophomores. When I’m done speaking i always open up the floor to questions. I got a question I have yet to receive before:

“Do you have to maintain a certain lifestyle in terms of activeness with a diagnosis of POTS?” it was somewhere along those lines. – Basically she asked if I need to be more active in order to stay healthy while living with POTS.

I clenched my teeth, and bit my tongue. I thought of ways to avoid answering the question but still managing to provide her with an answer that would seem to satisfy her question, while also continuing to make me look like a model POTS patient.

And then I opened my mouth and said: “I should, but I don’t.” I went on to explain that in order for patients with POTS to experience the maximum improvement in symptoms and overall well-being it is extremely important they maintain an active lifestyle. Exercising is key to improvement. The less a POTS patient exercises the more physically drained they are going to feel. I explained that it is difficult for POTS patients to exercise because they often feel more fatigued as a result of it or have a harder time doing the activities but that in the long run they are more likely to have an increased stamina and improvement in their overall wellbeing. I then looked into the audience and said, ‘this is an area in my recovery/treatment that I don’t do so well at’, I embarrassingly grinned while I told them that maybe every other month or two I run a mile, and that I tell myself I don’t need to exercise because I lift patients and pull heavy things at work, and then I laughed and told them that really isn’t entirely true because I often leave the heavy lifting to the firefighters on both sides of me, and that with the push of a button I can load my patient into the ambulance all by myself without having to lift a thing.

The fact of the matter is that I don’t take care of myself in all aspects of my treatment. I excel in some areas and am a model POTS patient in some, such as getting adequate rest, and drinking lots of water. But I fail miserably in others, like staying physically active.

We can’t all be model patients, and I know that. I work with the way below model patients everyday, and I usually commend myself for taking good care of myself so that I don’t end up like many of my patients, who for a handful of reasons have not taken the proper care they need to for themselves. I don’t need to be a model patient, but I do need to do better, I should want to do better. I should feel a drive to take better care of myself, so that I am in return able to provide my absolute best care to my patients.

I don’t run, or at least I haven’t run in a long time, but maybe now is the time. Maybe my spur of the moment ‘sure!’ was the universe nudging me in the direction of running, so that I can better myself.

Believe me, I want to love running like I used to, to have it as a weapon to release any emotions I choose. I miss being able to run for miles and miles in whatever direction I choose.

Julia doesn’t know all of the hardships that have brought me to this day. But at the same time I don’t know hers. She might not know all the emotion that crossing the finish line will hold, all the work that has gone into making it possible for me to even run, or in my situation slow jog. But that’s okay. Not everybody has to know, this is my journey, this is my bettering of myself.

I’m thankful for my new friend, and her encouragement to help me do something that may have me shaking at my knees, but what ultimately will mean a better me.