Updated: Mar 9, 2022
Written by: Arianna Roeder-Fabos Published: March 6th, 2022
My head spun, I couldn't focus on a single thought, and I felt nothing like myself. As the fluorescent lights shone down on the monotone doctor’s office, I watched as the nurse hooked me up to multiple monitors. She concluded that there was nothing to worry about, to keep monitoring my symptoms, and be on with my day. It was not the answer I was looking for. The day prior, I had been sea kayaking off the coast of Maine, paddling from island to island and setting up camp on each one. The trip had been cut short when I started to experience an unexplainable fog, followed by cognitive dysfunction and fatigue.
As the summer progressed, so did my symptoms. Due to their unexplainable nature, I pushed them aside, focusing on the rituals of everyday life to the best of my abilities. Enriching as my life was at the time, my ability to participate was dwindling. Expressing myself, forming a complete sentence, and having expendable energy were now in the past. Days of missed school became weeks, weeks became months, and soon I was out of school completely.
Being confined to my house, stuck in sickness, felt endless. Dreaded weekly doctor's appointments were my only escape from the mundanity of my life. The year and a half that followed was one clouded by uncertainty and continuity; One so drastically different from my previous endeavors I started to feel lost amidst the precariousness of my condition. However hard it was to fathom an existence outside of my illness, deep down I knew my inner spirit was still with me, out of reach, but bold and unrelenting nonetheless. Thankfully, my will power never succumbed and after countless appointments I was finally prescribed a diagnosis: Chronic Lyme’s disease.
One step down, and many, many more to go, my diagnosis was only still at the beginning of my journey. As the treatments started so did the learning, growing and resocializing. Building myself back up again after it felt like I'd been repeatedly torn down was no easy task. The fog that had once fully clouded my mind was starting to lift, but with it followed gaps in my knowledge I wasn't used too. At the peak of my illness I struggled to speak fluently, comprehend thoughts, and even read at times. My ability to do certain activities which were once normal had dissipated throughout the course of my disease, inevitably leading to an immense amount of insecurity. Entering a disabling and complex abyss, clouded by countless opinions and theories from practitioners and specialists, could easily have consumed my spirit and limited my hopes to a disempowered and fragile wish for some form of miracle. Instead, it became a lightning rod for action, a call to arms that inspired me to listen intently, think deeply, and embark on a path of self-empowerment. I became an informed architect of my healing, choosing the offerings of knowledge that made sense to me and respectfully leaving the rest behind. In the end I transformed my time in a desert of uncertainty with a thirst for understanding, a lion-hearted will to not give up, and gained a determination to find light on the other side of a fog-covered mountain. It is a journey that has helped me to recognize and value the power and gifts of fellowship and at the same time to see myself as someone who has the strength and passion to contribute boldly and vibrantly to any journey I embark on. My next battle was not just recovering, but figuring out who I actually was in the midst of all evolution taking place.
In the time that followed, physical, emotional and mental changes were at the forefront of my healing process. For enduring such a complex and intensely draining time in my life, it's no surprise that I've had my fair share of mental health challenges. However my story is not a dedication to my innate resiliency nor is it a plea for attention. My hope is to shed light on the constant possibility that there is always a brighter future out there, as long as you are willing to make the effort to grasp it. I am a firm believer that mental health awareness is not one size fits all, so to preach about how one can overcome it easily is not my intention whatsoever. I would like my main takeaway to be that there is always light at the end of the tunnel, no matter how dim and dull it appears. Saying that I am fully recovered is an understatement, I have since developed a much deeper maturity than I would've ever expected to be at my age, and developed aspirations for life I would have never dreamt of having.
Since my illness, I have flourished academically, socially, and mentally, continuously attempting to live my life to the fullest, and as optimistically as possible. I plan to continue my education at a four year institution starting in the fall, and cannot wait for what opportunities and connections it can bring me. Throughout the course of my illness I have devoted a majority of my time to educating myself about the environmental crisis our society has built through the means of corruption, power and greed, systematically polluting, disrupting, and endangering both our environment and the individuals living in it. The next journey I am embarking on is to do everything in my power to contribute to resolving this crisis with the newfound hope and resilience I’ve gained from this disease.
"The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, 'Self-Reliance'.