My head was contorted to the left in a painful, awkward position in which the tip of my head brushed the top of my chest. It was as if a puppeteer had gained control of my now jerky, wooden-like legs; I could not walk without aid. My whole body was so weak that simple movements like lifting a glass of water exhausted me. Therefore, I had to be fed, bathed, and clothed as if I was an infant. My speech was extremely slurred and incomprehensible. The physical problems were not what destroyed me the most, however; my mental cognition was severely inhibited. I could not successfully read, write, or even keep up with simple plots of television shows. Everything moved too fast for me. I’d just finished learning about complex trig identities, and I now couldn't even count to ten!
I’d developed a sudden, severe, rare form of dystonia just after my junior prom, but I have never believed in the quote “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” more than during my miraculous recovery, which revealed that my illness occurred to encourage me to stretch my supposed limitations in life’s journey.
My high school principal froze my grades where they were at, but my mother had to contact the college I was dual enrolled with to extend the time to take my French and trig finals. I’d doubted I could even pass my finals due to my current cognitive state. My friends and family held back tears when they visited me. Their eyes stared at my stark white neck brace and awkward limbs, and their ears strained to comprehend my unintelligible speech. I did not react. I could not react. I felt like an empty shell of a human because I could not feel any kind of emotion—happiness, anger, fear, or sadness. I was simply being. Precious values my parents instilled in me–to maintain my faith and to crave the expansion of my knowledge– were gone. Prescribed medicine relieved my pain, but the various neurologists I’d seen could not determine how long I would be in this state; I believed God wanted me to be mentally and physically handicapped for the rest of my life.
Then one day, after many hazy days of nothingness and being unaware of the passage of time, my mother asked me morosely if I would like to enroll in an online school or drop out of school altogether since my condition was not improving. Her words echoed in my mind, and I was immediately drawn out of my vegetative state because I was horrified at the potential reality of my dreams being crushed from something I had no control over. I refused to accept my supposed fate.
I was the one thing in life I had control over.
Every day, I exercised my legs by taking my dogs outside, checking the mailbox, and walking around my room. Instead of watching new shows or reading books, since I could not keep up, I watched movies that I’d regularly watched to practice reading subtitles and interpreting information. Who would’ve thought that Walt Disney’s Tarzan and Pixar’s Bee Movie would be some of the most vital tools of my healing process?
For my trig class, numbers appeared to be Latin. However, after many weeks, I finally was able to solve problems and learn at the original rate I did before I got sick. As for French, I studied it every day to combat my weakened recall. Eventually, towards the end of the summer, I took my finals and aced them, and this success encouraged me to continue to strive for more successes, varying from learning new French words every day to starting my own music business. From my sickness, I realized that even the darkest points of your life occur for a reason, and any success begins with a powerful, true sense of self-determination.