I am not my story. For the past twenty (two-zero!!) years I have let a three-week event be the sole story that’s guided my life and lead me to who I am today. Who am I?
I am a twenty-seven year old woman who does not trust my body.
I am hyper-focused on my health.
I am good at self-care.
I am better at self-control.
I am a foodie with intention.
Let’s be real, I am a food snob.
I am an exerciser with intent.
I am entirely too particular.
I am a doctor’s most obedient patient.
I am a perfectionist.
I am in favor of predictability, always.
I am a healthy living blogger, health coach, and college graduate of food science.
I am in tune with every ache, pain and subtle feeling from my hair follicles to my big toe.
I am a Nervous Nelly.
I am uncomfortable being alone.
I am afraid of the unknown.
I am flooded with chronic waves of cortisol.
I am a worry wort.
I am ashamed of my panic attacks.
I am rigid.
I am controlling.
I am “a square.”
I am fearful of harm in any form.
Is this who I am?
At age seven, I got sick. Really really sick. I was rushed on a medical plane to a children’s hospital in the Bay Area for premium care. A helicopter could not get me there fast enough. Both of my kidneys were down for the count. IVs decorated my little body. I couldn’t urinate. I had 19 units of blood transfused into my frail body. I lived in the intensive care unit for two whole weeks. After 19 long days under exceptional scrutiny and care, I was released from Children’s Hospital into the colorful streets of Oakland, California. I left the busy city hospital with less weight on my bones, pale skin, and a set of scars from the dialysis catheters (plus a car-ful of stuffed animals, get well cards, and two elated parents).
The curt conclusion: I survived and my body has thrived.
At age seven, I did not know my kidneys did not work, that my blood was toxic, that I had 19 blood transfusions, that the dialysis machine broke and another had to be transported via taxi from another facility, that my mom
slept didn’t sleep in the stiff wood chairs by my hospital bed for 19 days, that, at the time, I was one in a handful of children who were affected by a severe case of E.coli 0157:H7. I did not know these things.
I heard these things. I learned the dire details of this event each time the story was shared. I adopted these facts and made my them own. I made this my story. My story rarely includes the visitors from afar, the time my favorite Whoopi Goldberg look-a-like nurse, Phoebe, wheeled me downstairs to the hospital gift shop (I’ve always loved shopping!) for an anticipated outing, the male nurse from Boston with the incredible accent, the time my dad broke a glass jar of Jelly Beans all over the hospital floor — oops!
The scary – and yet very real – facts make for the better story though, right? And that is what I adopted. I also adopted the worry and anxiety that my mother, my father, and my family carried then as they witnessed the breadth of my battle with E.coli. And for the next twenty years, I have worn that worry and anxiety on my sleeves and inside every cell of my body.
I am not this story in entirety.
This story is a piece of me. But when I have allowed this life-threatening event to dictate the path I’ve taken in life, to encourage my hobbies, to inspire my passions, to hinder the relationship I have with my body, to guide my career choices, to pick like-minded people to populate my life, to control what I eat, to determine the books that take up space on my bookshelf… who the hell is this twenty-seven year old woman if that is simply a short chapter in the beginning of my life’s story?
I will never regard the fall of 1996 when I spent 19 days in a hospital bed fighting for my life as an insignificant marker in my life. It is a part of my story, but I do not want to continue living my life the way I’ve lived the last twenty years — in sheer fear and distrust of my body. After all, it’s only proven to me its resilience and strength and ability to heal time and time again.
Inspired by my compassionate primary care physician, here is to rewriting my story — telling it my way, and figuring out who I am in the process.