The Stories We Write

Having spent eight years at a Catholic elementary school with the same group of kids, it was indeed stupefying to me that, as I stood at the gateway to high school, I should find myself utterly alone. The girls who had been my “group” and with whom I was going to the same private high school with had forsaken me for a now forgotten reason. The summer before my freshman year, my older sister was all I had for a friend and the sewing machine that provided ample opportunity for me to spend my time making a new wardrobe for myself. I could never imagine that the journey ahead would provide me a bottomless well of resources for the rest of my life.

Never a wallflower, I always had a wide cast of friends and relished every one of them. I was a “normal” 14-year-old, with a fair amount of insecurity and self-doubt. I not only was anxious about going to high school but now alone, I was equally stressed about making new friends and worried that the “old” friends would turn any new kid against me. I had myself in such a state that for the first three months of my freshman year I barely slept. Anxiety induced insomnia had me remarkably sleep deprived and while trying to grapple with high school curriculum in a way that only over achievers can, I was constantly on a mission of engaging new people and in non-stop surveillance mode watching “those” that would undo any gains I might be making.

By the time December rolled in I was entirely physically depleted, wandering my house at 3 am with palpitations and butterflies in my stomach. On Christmas morning I awoke with a bright red rash from head to toe. There was NO Christmas excitement, only a fever and exhaustion. My mother mobilized and actually succeeded in getting our pediatrician to meet us that day (yes, a holiday). My mother had incorrectly ”diagnosed” me with scarlet fever because I had been getting treatment for strep throat for weeks. Deciding not to hospitalize me, labs were drawn and the next 24 hours were spent awaiting the outcome of tests. My spleen was enlarged and we were concerned I might have to remove it.

Imagine the surprise to learn I had mononucleosis! So badly that I actually had to remain home for three months…THREE months from school! What would happen to the newly formed friendships AND the faction I was sure was working against me? The truth was, I was in such bad condition that I slept 20 hours a day. I would get up to the bathroom and feel like I had walked 20 miles. I was now in a total recovery mode, anxiety no longer the stimulant to keep me awake and moving…. I had crashed!

One week into my homebound status I awoke to a room full of cards. There were so many that I didn’t have the stamina to read all of them. My new friends expressed such sorrow for my illness and made offers of taking turns to come to my house and review class work I was missing. BUT…. WAIT! There were cards from my “old” friends as well, lamenting the loss of their friendship with me. Individually each told story after story of how they had tried to reconcile with me since the beginning of school but I was so popular it seemed I had no time for them. It seemed I was reading fiction yet as I eventually made my way through the cards I recognized I had created a reality that did not exist. I had created such disharmony between mind/body/soul I had made myself extremely sick!

In those three months of recovery I was able to take in many lessons, all coming back to ME. The importance of my relationships with others but especially myself. I recognised the connection and power between soul and mind to anyone’s physical health. I do believe that is why nursing, my chosen profession, resonated so deeply for me. As I have long journeyed on life’s path, now I am ever cognizant of trusting spirit and verifying truth. Always in a classroom, I remain acutely aware of holding myself accountable to these lessons.

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