What I Wish I Could Tell My 23-Year-Old Self Before My Lupus Diagnosis
The past few weeks have been a whirlwind for me. I’m moving into a new house and started a new job. There’s another big change that’s coming that I can only tell you about… lean in closer… I’m turning 30 this year! I know, you’re asking yourself: “How can you be turning 30 when you only look like you just graduated high school!?” I really wish that the last statement had an ounce of truth to it. But trust me, living with lupus, I definitely look 30 if not older. As I’m closing a chapter of my life and opening another, I wonder how I got here and what I would tell my 23-year-old self. The “me” that I was before I was diagnosed with lupus. So here it is:
Dear Pre-Lupus Diagnosis Self,
Yes, it’s me. Your future self, writing you to give you some advice to get you through the worst time of your life. Something is going to happen to you very soon. Your body will start to ache all the time and certain things you used to do with ease will soon become very difficult and you won’t know why. Those 15-hour days of school, work, rehearsal and dance will become extremely difficult. Pay attention to those warning signs and don’t just blame them on being “busy.” You’re not busy, you’re using work as a distraction so you don’t have to pay attention to the fact that you’re actually sick and there is really something wrong.
The doctor will poke, prod and medicate you within an inch of your life. Do your research, ask questions. There are online resources you can look into (not just WebMD). You’re going to read horror stories about lupus, but just know that every lupus diagnosis is different. Also, I can’t say this enough so you might as well make a T-shirt out of it: You are not your diagnosis! Start to enjoy the little things in life. All those ideas you have about writing that screenplay or book, jot those ideas down. Brain fog is real and it is not your friend. Don’t take your physical limitations for granted. Learn to enjoy your time resting — trust me, you’re going to be doing a lot of it when you’re in the hospital for six months.
Accept that you’re sick wholeheartedly. Don’t try to ignore it. To be honest, it’s going to be the worst time of your life. You’re going to question your will to live. You will start to wonder if you’re actually going to make it through. This is the precise moment you need to look to your friends and family and realize that they are there, and will always be there. When you have no strength left to fight, fight for them. Fight for your future. Fight for your dad. He’s going through a cancer battle that will eventually end his life and he needs you to live on and enjoy the life that he gave you. You are stronger, smarter and better than your lupus diagnosis.
Stop comparing your accomplishments to your peers. Know that everyone’s path to their purpose is different and you can’t force it or snap your fingers and make it happen. So for now, hang up those tap shoes and open a book, it will pay off in the end (trust me). Don’t close yourself off from love. Either way, it’s going to find you and you’re going to be ecstatic when it happens. Oh, and this letter doesn’t mean we have it figured out by 30. We have no idea what we’re doing and that’s OK because nobody does. Finally, be yourself. Own every awkward, clumsy, accident-prone part of yourself. Let’s be honest, it makes you adorable.
P.S.: The ’90s come back in a big way. So you should be excited about that.