By Ashley Doonan
You are okay. Your bones are softer than you think. Leave the molding to the sculptors.
It’s 7:28 on a Thursday night. I just left my apartment in my pajamas to buy a candle and m&ms from Rite Aid. I’m sitting in the living room of my apartment for the first time since I moved in, which was last August.
This morning, I drank two caramel-swirl lattes in rapid succession for breakfast while calling countless doctors in hope of scheduling an appointment at a time that both fits into my schedule and is in-network for my insurance.
It started snowing as I limped to class on my crutches. Everything felt blissful, in the most ironic sort of way. As I navigated through the decrepit building in which all of my classes are located, I was faced with countless acts of kindness: strangers opening doors, offers to carry my belongings up to my classroom, a warm reassurance from my professor that I could leave the seminar at any point if I needed to receive a phone call from the doctor. Even my meek, ill-reasoned contributions to our seminar discussion were praised. I make a conscious effort to appreciate it all: congeniality and genuine human understanding is grossly underrated, especially in academia.
The remainder of the day was a blur: more snow, more slipping, more gripping. But now, as I’m nestled on the floor with my body pillow and my candle, I’m content. My eyes are heavy. These sentences are probably more or less repetitive fragments. But that’s okay, because I’m content.
I’m in a very reflective mood. I like organized chaos. My favorite things include the moment when you learn something for the first time, overpriced coffee, natural lighting, and post-colonial literature. I like getting fixated on things.
For instance, five years ago I got fixated on not eating. February 2010. That fixation was a manifestation of my need for control, my desire for perfection. Constant numbness, lack of concentration, looks of disgust from strangers, cold insults from loved-ones, hair and nails that ceased to grow, thoughts that ceased to exist, and a menstrual period that took a prolonged hiatus. Ultimately, it was a four-year deterioration of both my body and my mind.
April 2015. I am healed, both physically and emotionally–a statement that I know all too well that many that have been in my position are not able to say.
So yes, I take pride in the small things–like opening my curtains, paying my bills, asserting my beliefs, enjoying a new book, or dinner with an old friend. I do too much, say too much, and think too much, mostly to make up for lost time. I enjoy all that I have because I know what it feels like to lose it all.
I don’t believe in dwelling in the past, for I know that I cannot change what was. However, I am reminded (lately more than ever) that the past does not simply disappear when we desire it to. As I learned in ninth grade physical science, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Repercussions exist to remind us of that.
So here I am.
In the past year, I’ve done more than I ever imagined possible: I graduated from college, had a wonderful internship, leased my first brand new car, did a color run, received a tuition scholarship, maintained various on-campus positions, moved into my first “real” apartment, dealt with less than ideal roommate and landlord issues, presented at my first graduate conference, flew across the country to visit a school, and met some of the most incredible and intelligent people that I’ll likely ever encounter. That was my 2014, in brief.
My ambitions for 2015 have been typical of my personality: forceful, anxiety-ridden, and utterly persistent. However, I am only two months into the new year and 2015 has been a fierce reminder that I, too, must face the repercussions of my actions.
In October, I was diagnosed with early-onset osteoporosis. My right shoulder has been the region most effected, but with limited insurance and my refusal to accept off-campus referrals due to lack of resources (time and money) I have ignored the issue for as long as possible. Although I am recovered from my eating disorder, I am still coming to terms with the notion that I have to take special measures to maintain my health as a result of it. My bones are comparable to those of someone three times my age. My mind still has trouble grasping it.
About three weeks ago, I felt a nagging pain in my hip. At first it wasn’t noticeable, but it quickly amounted to an obvious limp. As the pain progressed, I eventually fell on an icy pathway directly on the aggregated hip. Said hip is now suffering from a stress-fracture. This widespread muscular-skeletal pain is a sensation that I honestly wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy.
It is hard for me to conceptualize that I was once that fragile, scared, shell of a person. It’s even more difficult for me to conceptualize the physical toll that this has taken on my body. I am on a college campus, with thousands of active individuals that are more or less my age. Yet, my body is in such a degenerative state that I struggle to walk across the room.
Much has changed in the past five years–I could make some declarative and sentimental statement about how life is “fixed,” but to me, it’s never quite that way. I will give your this advice: human beings are far more adaptable than we give ourselves credit for. Never forget that.
More MRIs and medical procedures are to come, and it’s a challenge for me to justify that I am “worth the expense” (i.e. monetarily). Those words just don’t sit well with me. However, what does sit well with me is my unwavering persistence, my willingness to confront adversity, and my reclamation of my voice.
Your biggest fan, Me.