Hello dear reader. My name is Meredith and I’m 39 (as of this post) living on Long Island in NY. I’m a mother of 4 boys. I also have an autoimmune disease called Sjogren’s Syndrome.
About 8 years ago my life was derailed when I was diagnosed with Sjogren’s Syndrome. Well the diagnosis didn’t derail me technically. I’ve been sick on and off for years since I was a teenager, but I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I was told by every doctor that I was perfectly healthy so I just ignored my symptoms and pushed through. Over time my “perfectly healthy” body got sicker and I became more and more disabled. I beat myself up over it trying to understand why I wasn’t able to keep up with everyone else my age. I couldn’t understand why I was such a cry baby about it. I eventually learned that I was actually battling a crippling illness all these years and I wasn’t just a wimp about life.
When I was younger, I was strong, independent, athletic, determined. I’ve been on my own since I was 16, already working full time while going to school to support myself. I always did everything on my own without anyone’s help. If I wanted to accomplish something, I made it happen and didn’t let anything stand in my way. I especially challenged myself to be tough and keep up with the guys. I enjoyed physical challenges, especially when I was told that I couldn’t do something because I’m a girl.
I was fun, energetic, confident, fearless, and always out and about. For a few years I was referred to by my friends as a Nomad because I didn’t actually live anywhere. I always had a place to stay though, whether with a friend or relative. I didn’t have an actual home where I lived. I didn’t have a safe place to go to. I didn’t care though. I thoroughly enjoyed my freedom and I took full advantage of it. I had no parental guidance, financial support or supervision. I was completely free! I was living life the best I could. I had big plans for my life and I was doing everything I could to reach those goals while having fun. Life was an adventure and I was a brave explorer!
I got married at 22 years old and first pregnancy 6 years later was twins. During that pregnancy, I worked a 40 hour/week office job, went to college after work 5 days a week until midnight, and worked part time on the weekends. Nothing was going to stop me! Until I went into preterm labor at 20 weeks and was forced into hospital bedrest for 4 weeks. My boys were born at 26 weeks and spent 77 days in the NICU fighting to survive. I am thankful they are both healthy and now 11 years old.
Fast forward to now and I’m nothing like I was. I’ve lost my independence, my freedom and at times, my will. I’m a mere shell of who I used to be. I’m not fun or energetic. I have no confidence in myself in any way. I’m incompetent, easily confused, forgetful and weak. I’m an anxious, depressed, nervous mess. I have zero self esteem and feel pathetic most of the time. I constantly mourn the person I was and the person I should have been. I try to accept the new me, but I just can’t do it. I am defeated!
It’s not to say I don’t have a good life. I do have happiness and joy in my life. I have a lot to be thankful for and I have to remember to consciously notice these things. I’m often so consumed by my self pity that the goodness is completely clouded. I do try very hard to see passed this and find happiness. I’ve been practicing Buddhism, so I’m able to find things to be happy and thankful for each day. I have 4 amazing little boys that bring me joy and so much love every day! My husband adores me and works very hard for all of us. He is supportive and understanding of my health problems and never makes me feel bad about my limits or doubts what I’m feeling. He provides a comfortable life for us and affords us luxuries that I never thought I’d experience. I have a beautiful home, a loving family, and a comfortable life.
Life is about growing and evolving. Each day is a challenge, and I try to take each challenge as a lesson. I take these lessons and try to become a better person. I don’t always have the physical or mental strength to keep pushing through, but I do try. When it gets really tough I just repeat to myself “don’t give up. keep going”. It’s all I can do.