as we all do during the holidays, i’ve spent spare moments recently contemplating the many things I am thankful for. the usual suspects come to mind—my kids, my husband, great friends, a good job, a roof over my head. and i’ve always been sincerely thankful for these things.
but this year was a little different. it’s been a rough one.
i lost about 2 months out of the year with a devastating case of meningitis. following a wonderful stretch of birthdays, time spent with loved ones, weekends of soul-quenching rituals like working out and eating out, and a visit to one of our favorite spots in michigan fishing, dune climbing, cuddling golden retriever puppies and eating homemade pies, it struck out of nowhere.
raging fevers. near-epileptic shakes. head aches. body aches. and a bout of disorientation/dementia (“scrambled eggs” as my husband called it) that was truly frightening. i spent six days in the ICU. poked. prodded. stuck with needles. spinal-tapped. MRI-ed. catheterized. anesthetized. mortified.
truly shaken. to the core. beyond the physical pain of the experience, which included lingering after-effects that stayed long after i got discharged (think weeks of teeth-chattering shakes, a shrunken version of myself, soft-spoken and weak), i was emotionally scarred. as a constant reminder, i still have the marks from all the lines and IV’s that resulted from the blood letting.
needless to say, the trauma got me into a bit of a funk. i haven’t posted to sea glass in several months. i’ve been exhausted, frantically paddling to keep up with all of life’s demands, feeling frustrated by the things that have fallen by the wayside. a couple times, i’ve sat in front of my computer and felt…nothing. uninspired. just trying to get by.
it was probably the first time i ever experienced first-hand the true fragility of life: the fact that, at any moment, i could lose everything. my health. my intellect. my ability to write without shaking like a 90-year-old granny. my ability to be a mother to my children. a wife to my husband. a sister to my brother. a daughter to my parents. a friend to all my dear, dear friends.
my inner dialogue covered all the typical existential questions that people ask when they find out they’re seriously ill. why me? how the hell did this happen? what could’ve been done to prevent it? is insurance going to cover this? did i suffer permanent damage? will my body pick up where the meds left off so I can go on with my life?
somehow, slowly, i got through it. and now as i sit here, (hopefully) fully healed and healthy, it seems self-indulgent to linger on the experience. there are so many people with much more serious diagnoses to deal with and long, painful roads ahead of them. but my glimpse into their world put everything in perspective.
in the darkest times, there is always light.
it’s hard to think of laying in a hospital bed fearing for your health and the prospect of losing everything as a good thing. but odds are the things you fear losing the most are the things that help you get through. the sheer randomness of me contracting this virus out of nowhere was matched by the randomness that my family just happened to be in town visiting for a week. instead of floundering through this alone, they were there: to love, to advise, to clean, to cook, to care for the kids. flowers and concerned calls flooded in. though I was scared, i never felt more loved. and lucky.
bruised, not broken.
sometimes you go through periods in life where you’re just in the zone. life is good. laughter is abundant. all is right with the universe. and then other times, you hit a wall. you’re knocked off your game. you’re bruised, battered, exhausted from fighting. getting sick like this was a wake up call. a reminder that you’re not invincible. you’re not immune. you’re not as strong as you thought you were…but in pushing through it you realize, you’re also not as weak.
this, too, shall pass.
when you look back on the hard times, it’s not about going through them, but getting past them. somehow you survived. somehow you pushed on. you endured … and you will again.