Today’s article was originally posted as a response to a question on Quora. The question was, “When you get knocked down, will you stay down or get up?” The most popular answer was a personal story shared by Abby Smith, a 19-year old woman who has been knocked down. But every day she gets up again and faces her life in the bravest way possible. With her permission, I’m sharing her story. Here’s Abby . . .
I rarely ‘tell my story,’ because I feel like I’m just awkwardly talking about myself, but here goes . . .
I was 16 years old and in high school, and I asked my mom to cut my hair for me. She did it quite often so I never thought twice about asking her. Tonight, though, when she cut my hair after dinner, my entire life changed.
As she took out the scissors and began snipping the lower lengths of my hair, I asked her to trim a bit higher on my shorter layers as well. She moved the scissors upwards, and as her movements brushed by the lower left quadrant of the back of my skull, I screamed and lurched to floor, sick to my stomach and overwhelmed with intense, staggering pain in my head. I was screaming at the top of my lungs and begging Mom to make it stop. I thought I was dying. Mom, who is an RN, freaked out and dragged me to the doctor’s office the very next day and we didn’t leave until someone came in to see me face-to-face. I was diagnosed with Trigeminal and Occipital Neuralgia, more commonly referred to as the ‘suicide disease‘ because people take their own lives to escape the severity of the pain.
Unfortunately, I am one of the worst cases of neuralgia that the neurologists have ever seen. There is no known cause in my case. Nearly every day is a living Hell for me. I went from a bouncy, happy, cheerful 16 year old girl to a girl who never went out, whose mind is constantly fogged up by the 40+ pills she takes daily. High school was incredibly hard for me. Everyday, I got up, slathered on makeup to hide my dark circles, my drying skin, my blood vessels broken from crying. I’d feel terrifically insecure about myself. Due to one of the medications I was on, I gained 25 lbs in the space of three months. I’d arrive at school and as I would walk up the steps, I’d paste on the brightest smile you’d ever see. I’d grin and laugh to pretend like nothing was wrong. Few people knew I was even experiencing a trial until I was hospitalized for a week in my senior year of high school. My peers came to visit me, brought me cards, gave me hugs and kisses. But as grateful as I was to each of them, I felt jealous. Everyone was living the life I was supposed to have. At the end of each school day, I’d go home, fall asleep for several hours, wake up for dinner, then take a shower and go back to bed. Some nights I’d fall asleep again, just to avoid the pain. Other nights I would SOB. I’d cry so hard the back of my throat would go numb and my lips would crack and bleed.
I cannot even begin to describe this pain to you. It is like a white-hot knife being twisted into the back of my skull. It cripples me. It exhausts me. It is something that I will deal with for the rest of my life. Eventually, I came to realize why it is called the suicide disease. NO ONE wants to live this way. It’s hardly living at all. I was perilously close to taking my own life. I knew exactly what to do and how easy it would be, but something held me back. It’s a slow trudge to the realization that your life sucks. You will never feel a breeze blow and enjoy it, because it causes too much pain. You will never feel your lover’s kisses on your neck, because it makes you cry from pain. You will never get a solid night’s sleep, because the sensation of the pillow on your head is excruciating. You will never be healthy, because your medications make your weight yo-yo and some days you are stuck on the floor of the bathroom praying for it to end. Your immune system is obliterated. Someone sneezes and you automatically go to the other side of the room in order to protect yourself.
As if these issues weren’t enough, I began experiencing heart and chest pain my freshman year of college. I missed classes fairly often because I was so violently ill at home I couldn’t even move. One day, I received an email from someone on my school’s administration. I attend a very strict private university, and because of that, the laws that apply to normal university students don’t always apply to me. In this case, I was withdrawn from all my classes and threatened with indefinite suspension if I didn’t become healthy enough to attend church at least twice a week. At that point, I genuinely gave up. I gave up on everything. My life, my relationships, my education, and my dream. I didn’t care about anything anymore.
However, by the grace of my religion and the support of my family and friends, I came back to life. I am now fighting for my right to attend university, and I will achieve my dream, no matter what they say. It is my life and I will do what I dream of doing. I want to teach English over in South Korea. I will do it.
My life has changed. I’m now 19. I’ve lived in Hell for the past 3.5 years. I’m on countless medications and the hospital staff here know me by name now. No one actually knows how to help my health situation, but they are all doing their best for me. I am still getting back up from being cosmically knocked down. It’s going to take me a long time, but that’s okay. My life is worth it. It’s my own choice to either let the universe walk all over me or buck up and show them what a powerhouse I am. I’ll never get anywhere if I just lay in my dust.
by Abby Smith