“It’s just hard to be around you,” she told me.
She looked down. She hated these harsh words, too. Over time, I’d learn to accept them and even be grateful for her.
One day, I’d appreciate how she didn’t sugarcoat her message.
One day, I’d see that she was being painfully authentic.
But today was not that day.
I wasn’t angry, just destroyed.
We were sitting in my living room of my apartment, the bright sun tried to peek in through the shaded windows to no avail. It was a cloudless midafternoon in South Louisiana, but the only light in the room was a melancholy lightbulb hanging overhead.
I had just confessed I had a crush on this girl, and hoped to pursue a relationship with her.
At first, she said nothing, which I thought was terrible. Suddenly, I discovered what unrequited love felt like.
She took a deep breath. “It’s like you are so focused on your own hardships that people can’t see past the depression. That’s why you’re not invited to be in big groups,” she said.
She looked for a sign of understanding from me, but found none.
“And I know you deal with more than most people,” she continued, looking at my wheelchair. “So, it’s not about your situation, but your reaction to it. That’s the reason I’m not attracted to you.”
I sulked in my seat. She had just given me a critique that was edifying and real, but instead of learning from it, my emotions dictated my reaction.
In the awkward silence that followed, she picked up her purse and left. I never saw her again.
For years, my narrative of the above encounter was “girl said mean things to me and is a villain.”
That way, I didn’t have to think about what she had said or change anything about myself. When we see ourselves as victims in our own lives, we don’t have to change.
We remain comfortable.
We remain stagnant.
We remain a victim.
I was haunted by this woman’s rejection for years. But nearly two decades later, I was tired of being hurt by the memory. Instead of remembering it as if I were a victim, I decided to look at the situation differently, recognizing the truth in her words.
I was preoccupied with my own circumstances, feeling lost in a dark forest. All of the attempts by friends and family members to pull me out of it were unsuccessful. I was unwilling to save myself.
When I stopped viewing myself as a victim, I realized that although I can’t escape FA, I can choose how I relate to others. Maybe I’ll even get out of that dark forest eventually. Spoiler alert: I’m not out yet. But I’m working on it.
I’ve noticed some small improvements. I smile more now. That’s not nothing.
To the girl who broke my teenage heart: thank you. You helped snap me out of a selfish haze. You taught me that if I wanted someone else to love me, I had to love myself first.
I’m working on it. These are the “Little Victories.”
Friedreich’s Ataxia News 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 another 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 or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Friedreich’s ataxia.
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