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Dreaming Again After Chronic Illness Took It From Me


Dreaming is a privilege meant for those who aren’t constantly at war, stagnant and simply surviving. It’s hope and aspiration, meaning and fulfillment that can only exist when there is peace.

When I was 17 I got sick.

My dreams condensed into pain and hospital stretchers, muddy tears and disappointment. Days trickled by; minutes were terrifying and seconds were violent. The doctors said I wouldn’t get better. My illness was rare and untreatable and they’re sorry they didn’t have better news.

So that was it.

My life had stopped before it could start, but somehow I was still breathing. The air was cold, though. Unfriendly. It stabbed my lungs with unsettling determination, mocking the residual warmth of college, new friends and backpacking through Spain. Dreams of lost relevance.

But my dreams used to be vibrant. Vital. They used to be warm reminders of beauty yet to come. Perpetual silver linings waiting to be seen. Pillars of resilience in times of darkness. They propelled me forward through sun and clouds — life’s inevitable but surmountable turbulence.

Dreaming had been my privilege, but the bleakness of my future erased it from existence. All that was left was torn paper and faded writing. Things to be thrown out. Discarded.

Years passed and every day I could hear death’s call, but when it grew loud I stopped finding it enticing. Instead, it made me terrified.

I was terrified of losing the twinkle of Christmas lights, the vibrancy of the setting sun or the softness of felt tip pens on paper.

I was scared of losing my mom’s loving smile, her laugh and her cuddles. My dad’s fierce protection and his unconditional love.

I was scared of losing my little sister, my best friend.

These were the things that sustained me now. Little things, but unmistakingly beautiful. They begged me to live more than my pain urged me to die, so I held onto them with all the strength I could muster.

With time, my dreams began to reappear. I dreamed about walking my dog in the fresh-fallen snow and taking warm showers with lavender soap.

About typing with bright red nails and meditating in the morning sun.

Ordering pizza on Fridays and eating leftovers on Saturdays.

My dreams were different than before and perhaps less spectacular, but they were dreams nonetheless. They were sustaining, oxygenating, living dreams. Beauty in life’s delicate brushwork I’d previously taken for granted, but that had helped me form a new definition of what it means to be alive.

The air I breathe is no longer cold. It greets my lungs with hope — a seedling that has blossomed in a once desolate landscape.

After two idle years, I’m hopeful things might begin to change for me. I’m hopeful things might be different.

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Lead Photo via Nicole Stef/thegoodandgloomy_art