With the year coming to an end and Christmas coming faster than ever, I’ve become more reflective on what memories 2017 holds. Every year, I find myself saying, “Wow, I never thought I’d be here.” And yet, here I am again, repeating that tradition.
2017 was filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, but that’s life, right? The disappointments, lost relationships with friends, family and loved ones, unusually deep depression spells, catastrophic falls, injuries, and realizing my progression is getting worse were almost enough to say I had a bad year. But that wouldn’t be true, because 2017 was one of the most transformative and eye-opening years I have ever had, and for that, I consider it a great one.
One of the biggest concerns I had at the beginning of the year was caring too much about what people thought of me. There is still a part of me that cares because I am human, and approval is important to everyone. But I can honestly say it doesn’t have a hold on me like it did. It no longer consumes me or gives me anxiety severe enough to make me physically ill. The truth is that I was so insecure and unsure of my future that those emotions were running my life. I didn’t feel intellectual, or like anyone in my life was challenging me mentally. Every time I looked into the mirror, I hated the person staring back. It seemed like I was losing control of my decision-making processes, gaining weight, drinking too much to cope. My personal life withered into oblivion, and I don’t think I was a nice person. I felt hideous inside and I was just putting on a front to seem like I was handling everything well.
I can’t say there was one specific incident that snapped me out of that self-loathing pity party. It was a combination of good and bad situations that helped shape me into the best I am seeking now. I had to go through a lot of honest self-reflection and be accountable for all my actions. The process involved a lot of crying, anger, laughter, and shame. But, most importantly, it involved forgiveness and the ability to move on. I realized how much worse life could be. How fortunate I am to have a support system that I can depend on to help me in all aspects of life.
How lucky I am to have Friedreich’s ataxia and not an illness to put me in a hospital the rest of my life, deteriorate my cognitive skills, or exist in excruciating pain every moment. I’m not trying to downplay anyone else’s struggles, because I know how serious and life-changing it is to have FA in the later years. But these thoughts keep me sane and humble at this moment and time in my progression.
Most importantly, I learned how to listen to others and appreciate everything in my life. The food I eat, the clothes on my back, the roof over my head, the health of my family, the friendships that have continued to flourish despite the difficult circumstances, the opportunities I have been given, and the fact I am still breathing today. It grounds me every day and helps me be humble.
The ability to sit down and vent to someone holds a power I never saw. I was always thinking about what I was going to say next instead of listening. Being an ear to people is sometimes all they need, and I realized how fortunate I am to have so many people willing to be completely vulnerable with me. Why people choose to confide in me, I’ll never know, but I embrace it and treat each conversation as delicately as I can.
We are not here on Earth for us. Our job as human beings is to be tools and teachers for others, to be reminders that all actions have consequence or reaction. To be compassionate and help other people grow alongside you. To understand that life is extremely hard for everyone else, too, and no one has it easy. Absolutely no one. Money, fame, and status don’t mean jack if you are a miserable person. Life is going to continue, whether you choose to accept your illness or choose to be happy or sad. But before you can be that solid foundation, you have to be sure with yourself. You have to be confident in your best and understand you’ll never be perfect. Part of life is learning from your mistakes, and you will encounter situations that are going to seem impossible to get beyond.
As long as you treat people with dignity, live in the moment, learn from your past, attempt to put yourself in others’ shoes, and try to act with good intentions, you are definitely on the way to becoming the best version of yourself.
Note: Friedreich’s Ataxia News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Friedreich’s Ataxia News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.
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