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What You Don't Realize About My Positivity in the Face of Congenital Heart Disease

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It is often said that laughter is the best medicine. I’ve learned that it can also be a defense mechanism.

I have often been complimented for remaining positive, despite my complex congenital heart disease and compromised immune system. People often see my positivity and make the false assumption that I never see the bad things that inevitably come with having health issues.

I would like to now make it known that I am very aware of the negative things that come with having CHD. Being positive, smiling and making jokes is a conscious decision.

I view my sense of humor as being a shield. I make jokes during cardiac appointments to relieve some of the seriousness I detect in the atmosphere. Laughing and making others laugh helps, not only me, but also the loved ones surrounding me, escape from the darkness.

My laughing and smiling aren’t always me hiding from the darker things that come with CHD. Sometimes, my laughing and smiling is my way of fighting the darker things.

I laugh when I’m scared. When I was about to be placed under a medically induced unconsciousness for a heart procedure, I was terrified. So I laughed, almost hysterically. It was easier to laugh than it was to panic.

I smile when I want to cry. It’s not a mask to my pain but rather a choice I make. Every day is a gift, and I don’t want to miss out on anything. So I make an effort to be hopeful for the new day.

I have to fight. I don’t want to just survive. I want to live. So I have to fight.

If I let go of my humorous shield for too long, I fall into dark thoughts. I’d rather be happy than be in that dark place. Either way, I have heart disease. I may as well make the most of it.

But this doesn’t mean I’m always happy. It’s difficult to always smile and laugh. It’s a choice I have to make every day, and if I’m being honest, sometimes, I don’t have the strength to smile and laugh the pain away.

It’s hard to smile when a needle is digging into your veins. It’s hard to smile when you don’t completely understand your symptoms and you feel like you’re a burden. It’s hard to laugh when you want to be normal but are noticeably not. It’s hard to laugh when you’re tired of dealing with the darkness that comes with health issues. It’s hard to keep a brave face when no one understands your pain.

Sometimes, I struggle with feeling like I have failed because I’m not as positive as I’m expected to be. I have trouble feeling like it’s OK to show when I’m having a tough time because I want everyone to know I’m OK, even on the days when I don’t feel OK.

And it’s not just them. I need to be positive for myself. If I’m not positive most of the time, dark thoughts creep into my mind. I don’t want to be in that dark place. I want to be happy. I want to be the positive person everyone believes me to be. I want people to see my heart, not just the disease that accompanies it.

That being said, I’m learning to be more honest about how I’m feeling. Having medical issues can be difficult, and it’s OK to acknowledge that. We shouldn’t shame ourselves or feel like failures for not being all smiles and giggles when things are difficult. If you need to cry, cry. If you need to talk to someone, talk to someone. If you need to have an emotional breakdown, have an emotional breakdown. It’s OK to fall down. Just remember to get back up.

So yes. Sometimes, my shield of humor hits the ground. I cry. I have an emotional breakdown. Sometimes, these breakdowns happen when I’m alone. Sometimes, they take place in front of someone I trust. Sometimes, I get angry at the unfairness of the situation. Sometimes, I’m angry at my disease. Sometimes, I’m tired of fighting. I have days where I just want to lay in bed and not talk to anyone. Sometimes, I absolutely hate that I’m not being as positive as I think I should be. But some days, I don’t need to smile; I need to cry.

So I have my emotional breakdown.

Then, by the grace of God, I get back up. I can smile and laugh again. God gives me the strength to keep fighting. I am once again filled with positivity.

It isn’t always easy to choose positivity. Believe me, I know that. But for me, positivity is more than an emotion. It’s a defense mechanism. It’s a decision to fight. It comes with the desire for a more quality life.

So I’ll continue to choose positivity, and I’ll honestly be OK most days. And some days, it’ll be really hard, and I’ll feel more negative. And that’s OK.

To me, being positive, being hopeful, doesn’t mean I’ll never cry again.

It just means I know I will smile again.

Getty image by MishaBeliy

Originally published: May 16, 2018
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