Why This Hospital Photo Is Bravery At Its Finest

In the summer of this year, I experienced a migraine that lasted two months, vision loss in one eye, and endless vomiting with no answers every time I ended up in the ER. I tried everything to rid my migraine and went so far as to get a painful daith piercing, but nothing helped. In October, I experienced the same symptoms that drew me to the hospital once again, except this time, they found five brain lesions and an inflamed optic nerve that’s caused me to become half-blind. I was diagnosed with a rare disease called NMO that requires infusions every two weeks to prevent another relapse.

It’s taken everything in me to get up in the morning. Work has become an endless struggle. I’m supposed to be the strong one, but right now, I feel like a failure – a disappointment in so many areas of my life.

Then I saw a photo of a little girl in the hospital on Twitter that stunned me. Her name is Akane, and she was diagnosed with NMO in November of 2018. She’s lost vision in one eye and she has to have monthly infusions as her treatment. It broke my heart that such a young girl is going through exactly the same thing I am as an adult and yet – she’s smiling.

She is the epitome of bravery in its finest form.

Akane didn’t ask to be sick. Like so many other children diagnosed with an incurable illness, the time they spend in hospitals should be time spent running outside without a care in the world. They should be role-playing make-believe nurses taking care of sick dolls instead of being a sick patient themselves. Life isn’t fair sometimes, but Akane is showing us that though life throws curveballs, we can still be grateful.

Through Akane’s bravery, we too can smile in our pain. We can be brave like her.

Despite the pain that I know Akane is going through because I’m breathing it right now, her smile is teaching me that I don’t have to focus on my pain because I have it. I can ask for some sonic and a board game on my next hospital visit and be content that I’ll have someone to play with. Whether it’s my husband, friend, or mother-in-law, someone always shows up because no matter what, I’m loved. I’m loved like Akane is loved by her mother, Crystal. We have people with us, holding our hand through scary times, and this is what matters- not doing this alone.

It doesn’t matter how bad the pain we are feeling is, as long as we can still feel the love of those that love us, we will survive that pain, again and again. 

Though life threw me a curveball, I can still be grateful I have my husband who keeps me warm at night, a job that pays the hospital bills, friends that have been there for me, my twin who never fails to make me laugh, and a house to come home to.

As this year ends, despite being sick with a scary, unpredictable diagnosis that has changed a lot in my life, I will be OK because Akane is OK. And if a seven-year-old can be OK in her diagnosis, so can I.

If I know anything about what bravery is, it’s because of Akane.

*Photograph for this article is used with permission from Akane’s parent.

*Donate to help find a cure for NMO at the Sumaira Foundation for NMO here.

Sometimes The Bravest Thing You Can Do Is Get Help

I can’t pinpoint when my depression started, but I would say it followed when I was diagnosed with lupus in 2013. I had started an independent life all on my own in the mountains of Colorado only to have to move back to my parent’s home a year later because I could barely pour a cup of coffee.

I ignored my depression for years after moving back home, blaming it solely on the fact that I was physically ill for life. But when medicine started working, and I could pour a cup of coffee without searing pain, my depression became naked.

Blaming it on my illness only lasted so long before the people closest to me could see the pain in my eyes – even when I was laughing.

I met the love of my life in 2016 and we married in sweet November of 2017. Our first year of marriage was a beautiful hot mess. We fought all the time. I cried a lot. He got frustrated. I threw things at doors. He cleaned up broken glass. We didn’t know how to communicate. I was sick – a lot. I winced every time someone awed us saying, “Enjoy that honeymoon stage.” And then, my depression woke up – I hid it under my pillow every night until it was no longer comfortable.

I began to self-harm in 2018 and I did it six times. Every moment was different, but every moment I felt the same hopeless feeling. My brain started to connect the relief from my emotional pain with the act of cutting, and so, it became easier every time.

Try holding this away from your spouse – it ain’t gonna happen. Especially when your spouse is a therapist. My husband knew I hid a lot of my childhood, as well as the ache of my father’s abandonment at 18 and a whole lotta family dysfunction. Maybe it all added up and became too much to bear. My husband did everything he could to prevent my self harming. He hid knives and sharp objects – I tear up as I write it. I was stubborn and didn’t think I needed help.

My body has wounds on my arms and legs, but there were wounds that went so much deeper than anything that bled – than anything you could see. And I needed help.

One morning, with a crick in my neck after how much I had stuffed under my pillow, I agreed to get help. It took everything in me to accept it because accepting it meant I had to face really scary things.

And it was the bravest thing I could’ve done.

I started medication and saw a counselor for a while and today, I’m better for it. And then, as my life would have it, I was diagnosed with a very rare, incurable disease in October that makes me painfully half-blind for months and feels like jellyfish live inside my body. It’s called Neuromyelitis optica – I have my good days, I have my bad days. It’s been easy to fall into depression, but by the grace of God, it’s not prevailed.
Sometimes, I don’t feel like I’m winning, but maybe sometimes we have to fight battles more than once to win. I like to think of my depression as part of my story that had to happen in order for me to be where I’m at today.

I think people who’ve been depressed have a sensitivity and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion and a sincere kindness for others. Maybe we’d not know this deep empathy if we’d not lived through our depression.

If you struggle with depression, here’s a virtual hug and a gentle nudge to seek help if you haven’t. It’s OK. You’re not depression. You have a powerful story to tell. You have a past, a name, and your own quirky awesome characteristics that make you who you are. None of that goes away because you seek help. You’re still you. I’m still me.

You’re already brave.

Who knows, maybe you’ll better for it.