Ten years ago today, I woke without the ability to speak above a whisper. I didn't worry at first. I usually fall under the weather when the seasons change and it gets cooler outside. Considering I lost my voice about a month before after screaming at a football game, I figured my voice would come back in a few days and everything would be fine.
Fast forward nineteen months because that's how long it took to be able to speak normally again. I won't tell you the whole story right now. I've never been able to get through it all without becoming a crying wreck and that hasn't changed. Suffice it to say, those nineteen months (most of eighth grade, all of ninth grade and the summer before tenth grade) were the hardest of my life.
A lot of things changed over that period. My life as I knew it was over. I've spent so long trying to pretend that I never went through this and go back to the way life was before. Ten years later, I'm beginning to realize that I can't go back and pretend nothing happened and pretend those people who decided that I was lying or just vying for attention don't exist. It happened. I can't change that.
However, I lived through it. I survived and I did for a reason. If I wasn't supposed to survive it, I'd either still be suffering from Dysphonia or I'd be on the other side of the dirt.
I'm not going to talk about those nineteen months right now, but what I learned from them because to me, that's more important at this point in my life.
1. Treat others how you want to be treated. Period. No matter what.
It's hard to imagine that the teasing and scrutiny I endured makes me feel grateful, but it does. I read and hear about these bullies who have taken their cruel and hateful words to cell phones and cyber space. I'm grateful that this happened before social networking blew up. Why? I suffered the most at school, but when I got home, I was able to get away from the hell for a few hours. Had I had to go through that now, when the lies and gossip never stop, I don't know I would've made it.
If you don't want people lying about you and making fun of you, why would you do it to someone else? And why would you do all of this then say that you believe in a higher power? I know there are many differences amongst the world's major religions, but treating others how you want to be treated (or doing unto others and you'd have done unto you) transcends whoever you call your higher power. It's a pretty big deal no matter how you pray to. Act accordingly.
2. Speaking of gossip...
Don't. It's not cool. It's not kind. It can get pretty evil at times. However, had I not been on the wrong side of the gossip mills at school, would I have the same opinion? Would I actually want to read the gossip mags at the check out line? Would I care who Kim K. is marrying or divorcing now? Maybe I would. Going through it all, I despise gossip. I don't want to hear who's doing what. If the information isn't coming from that person, I don't want to hear it. The only thing worse to me than hearing it is relishing in it. Delighting in the fact that someone else is going through a tough situation isn't okay.
3. Don't judge. Anyone. For any reason. At any time.
I think one of the main issues I dealt with were people who knew nothing about me deciding that they knew everything they needed to know about me to make their opinions. Problems: they didn't even bother to learn how to pronounce my name before deciding that I was faking my condition and most talked to people who knew another girl with my same name...a girl I met while playing softball my 8th grade year. Luckily, we were cool, so she was able to tell me about the teachers and principals asking her friends about who they thought was me. Honest mistake, yes, but I'm not even sure they realized they were talking to the wrong people. My biggest beef is that they asked everyone else about me except for me. Never even bothered; ask a couple of strangers, slap a label on me and call it a day.
I used to have this thing. Walk in my shoes before saying something. They didn't even bother trying them on, but they taught me a valuable piece of information. So someone's "different" than you. So what. Don't ever assume or judge anyone. Anyways, what makes them "different?" What makes you "normal" enough to label them "different?"
The more time you spend judging, the less time you have the chance to learn. Remember the whole line about having two eyes and ears but only one mouth. It's true.
4. Through the worst of the storm, try to find the beauty.
For me, it was the friends I made in spite of everything that was going on. People in ninth grade approached me, befriended me and I could never express in words how much they mean to me. I can say without a second thought that I would be dead if it weren't for the friends I made freshman year. Some of them I still talk to, others I don't; but either way, I was so blessed to have them in my life when I did because it made life livable.
5. Being alive and living...two very different things.
I'm still alive. This in itself is an accomplishment. To say that I've lived since then would be an overstatement. There are so many things people my age have experienced that I've missed out on because I've been too afraid to try something new. I'm afraid of situations I'm not used to. I'm afraid of people. Strangers especially, but everyone. I'm afraid of what they think of me, what they're saying when I'm not around. The opinions of others have invaded my mind. What I think of me or what people who know me think don't compute anymore; a stranger's opinion can make or break me for weeks.
True story: I didn't drop out of high school because I knew most people around me thought I would. I went to college because I knew a lot of people around me said that I wouldn't make it. How sad is that? It wasn't for the accomplishment; it was to spite those who hurt me. I've hidden behind my anger and bitterness. I let those fuel my desires for close to a decade now, but I'm tired.
I can't say that I want my life back. I was only thirteen when I lost my voice. Too young to really have a life of my own, so I've never experienced how beautiful life can be. I don't want my life back. I want to take my life over. Stop making it about people who I've let become too significant. Surround myself with people who are positive. Forget about the haters. Their job is to bring as many people down as possible. I won't let it be me anymore.
6. The future starts now
I don't ever want to forget what happened. Even when I did, I couldn't. The thing is: I'm still here. Every morning I wake up, it means that I still have a chance to do something that matters. But it won't happen if I don't unenmesh myself from my past. What happened in those nineteen months are over for everyone else at this point except for me. I can't stop reliving it. What would've happened if one of the adults who hurt me tried to help me? I would've been able to go to the speech therapy that restored my voice months before I actually did. If I would've done this; that wouldn't have happened. I can do that for the rest of my life and never experience anything that's waiting for me down the road. The past is gone, dead, but if it's the only thing that I let myself think about, my future's non-existent.
Sorry that it's so long. I guess I had a lot to say tonight. I heard this from Bil Cornelius, but I'm sure it's been said before now: "You can't have a testimony without a test." My nineteen months with Dysphonia was the biggest test I've ever encountered.
One day, I hope to say that it's a test I've passed.
Until next time...I promise it won't be three weeks this time...