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When I Told My Sister My Illness Made Me Feel Like a 'Leech on Society'

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I had a hard time in high school. I only had a couple friends, very little tolerance for other people, and I struggled horribly with depression. I counted the days anxiously until graduation and my ticket out of that tiny town. I grabbed hold of my independence as hard as I could and moved 1,000 miles away to try and start my life anew. I was never completely independent, I was still a broke college student relying on my parents for financial support, but I was much closer to being on my own than I ever had been before. I loved it! Even when I had to deal with the consequences of poor time management or an irresponsible night before, I knew that my choices were my own.

In early February 2013 I slowly started losing my independence. It was barely noticeable at first. The first choice the pain ever made for me was choosing not to accept an invitation to dinner with my grandparents. Gradually the pain and sickness started to dictate bigger choices. Not being confident in my ability to drive myself to an appointment an hour away. Taking on fewer school credit hours because I couldn’t handle school full-time anymore. Staying indoors on sunny days that I used to love. Eventually the pain made the choice for me that school was not something I could handle feeling as poorly as I did. Still do. The choices I’ve had to defer to my illness have gotten larger and more frequent. Sometimes it feels like the old “me” has been completely hijacked by this undiagnosed illness rampaging through my body attacking new systems all the time.

The times when I feel so frustrated and useless are the times I really lean on my mom and sister specifically for support. They both offer different perspectives both from working in the medical field in different capacities and also from being my loving family members. A couple nights ago I was awake from the pain in the middle of the night texting my sister who works the night shift. I was feeling like a burden to everyone around me and believing that I offered nothing positive to those who spent time with me or cared for me. I called myself a “leech on society.” Her response is something I’ve read to myself multiple times throughout the days since. I hope these words can help another dealing with the same feelings.

“You’re not a leech. You’re a living, breathing, beautiful, interesting person with thoughts and ideas and a warm heart. You have pain, yes, but it doesn’t change you. You’re always you, and it’s perfect… The pain is just a part of you for this moment, just like what you’re wearing is a part of you and how you appear to others while you’re wearing it. But your pain, just like your clothes, does nothing to change anything about you. Believe it or not, you’re still the same silly sister I’ve always had. Your personality, your mannerisms, your jokes, the things you like and enjoy… all the same.”

That conversation has been a beautiful reminder to me that even though my plans have gone wildly off course and I feel like I’ve lost everything that once defined me, to those who love me most, I am still me.

Originally published: October 11, 2016
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