What I Wish I Could Tell My 13-Year-Old Self in the Operating Room
Dear 13-Year-Old Self,
You’re not alone. I know you feel that way because no one is telling you anything or explaining anything to you. I want you to know I understand. I understand because I was there many times before. I was you. I see you, sweet girl. I see your body shaking with fear.
I see the tears streaming down your face as the prep process you’ve grown accustomed to and hate goes on around you. I see you cringe when the words, “It’s time,” are spoken, even though the nurse who says it has been nothing but nice to you.
I see the fear flash across your face as the gurney moves forward. I know the thoughts going through your mind as you get closer to a destination you don’t want to reach. “Why again? What did I do to deserve this?” The answer is nothing. You did absolutely nothing to deserve this routine.
No matter what anyone else says, I want you to know you are not to blame. I want you to hold onto the hand the operating room nurse has extended to you. Hold on tightly because she’s being sincere in her actions and in the gentle way she speaks to you. She cares, sweet girl. I know you can’t see the expression due to your vision loss and the mask she’s wearing, but trust me when I say it’s one of compassion and concern. Her words say it all, “It’ll be OK, sweetie. You’re safe. I won’t leave you. We’ll take care of you.”
Those words are true even though you’re too scared to take them at face value. I can see the tears continue to stream down your face right before you’re put out. I hear the soft prayer you utter, crying out to your Heavenly Father for protection. I believe He loves you and He’s there with you. He’s got you and He won’t let go.
Don’t listen to anyone who tells you you’re too old to cry. Crying is a release, and you need to do it. Don’t be ashamed for expressing yourself.
I wish I could tell you this surgery is the last one, but I would be lying if I did. So I’ll say this instead: You’ll soon get a reprieve. I can safely say that. It won’t be for three years, but it will come. Just keep holding onto faith and the kindness strangers show you in your time of need. Before you know it, you’ll reach the reprieve that’s in store for you. And when you do, it’ll last a good long time. In fact, I can safely say, it’ll last 14 years. I know it seems like a long time.
I also know you’re probably thinking: Why can’t it be now? The truth is, I don’t have an answer for you, little one. I know the phrase, “You’re too old to cry,” hurts you more than the IV started on you earlier that day. I know because it hurt me, too. I know all you want is for someone to hug you and say, “It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to be afraid.” If I could, I’d hold you myself. I know that’s what you need. I know because I’ve been in that position more times than not.
Even though people around you may criticize you for showing fear, don’t ever stop expressing yourself. It’ll make you stronger. I know you don’t know this yet, but you have more inner strength than many. It’ll come in handy when you most need it. Rely on it and never be afraid to use it.
I want you to remember I know what you’re going through because I’ve been there. Mostly, I want you to remember you are loved.
A version of this post originally appeared on Conquering the Waves of Life.
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