My Chronic Illness Made Me Feel Alone. One Friend Showed Me I Wasn’t.
It had all started in July of that summer. I had just returned from my freshman year at the University of Florida and was ready to work to make money for the coming school year. My time at UF had been a blast, and I was so excited to return.
I had joined the club lacrosse team the previous fall, and it was one of the best decisions I had made. I loved the team. I loved the sport. When I began, I knew nothing about playing lacrosse. While I was no where near the talent level of our first-string players, I could cradle, pass and (most of the time) catch the ball. More importantly, the girls on the team had become a kind of family to me, and I loved them all dearly. I couldn’t wait to see them again in the fall, but that wasn’t to be the case.
I had lived all my life with stomach problems. Certain foods would send me into vomiting fits, and I frequently dealt with cramps and irregular stools. That July, however, my stomach took a turn for the worst. I had a surgery to have a G-J tube placed into my stomach. The G portion of the tube continuously drained out all the liquids in my stomach, and the J tube delivered my nutrition.
For months I was in and out of the hospital. My biggest fear was that I would lose my place on the lacrosse team. I was afraid my new family would forget about me, and I would become merely an afterthought. Little did I know how wrong I was.
It was about the second week of my fourth hospital admission, and I was beyond depressed. My eyes reflected a deep sorrow and emptiness I felt on the inside. I was supposed to be in my sophomore year of college, not sitting in a hospital room. I was lonely. I wanted a normal life. I knew my life wouldn’t ever again be normal, and I debated whether this was the type of life I wanted to live. I wasn’t contemplating suicide, but I just didn’t want to keep fighting to live.
So, at one of the lowest moments of my life, I decided to log on to Facebook to see what my friends were doing in the hopes of cheering myself up. When I logged on, I saw a notification that said I had been tagged in several pictures. Me in pictures? That didn’t make sense. I was in the hospital, and no one had been taking photos, at least not to my knowledge. I then saw that Nicole White had tagged me in the photos. My confusion only grew because Nicole was one of my teammates on the lacrosse team.
Nicole White started playing on the lacrosse team the same year I did. We were both freshmen, but that’s where the similarities ended. While she was an incredible player and was part of the first string from the moment she joined the team, I was a newbie and at the completely opposite end of the talent spectrum. She was a player full of passion and watching her on the field was truly a show in and of itself. I was never close to her and honestly believed she didn’t like me, but that perception was completely wrong.
As I clicked on the notification, up popped a picture of me with some of the girls on the team. And when I say “me,” I mean a cardboard cut-out of a blown-up picture of me. Nicole had designed it and brought it along on the team’s travel tournament to California. So even though I was in the hospital, I was also in California. I lived vicariously that week through all the pictures Nicole posted on Facebook.
It was the push I needed to keep fighting. With that one simple act, she filled up my hope tank and showed me I wasn’t alone. That I hadn’t been forgotten. That I was still loved. She showed me that I couldn’t give up because they wanted to see my face again. I’ll never forget how Nicole brought me to California while I was in the hospital. It kept me from succumbing to the dark thoughts that threatened to destroy me and gave me the strength to push on for one more day.
If you or someone you know needs help, please visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You can also reach the Crisis Text Line by texting “START” to 741-741. Head here for a list of crisis centers around the world.