Strength through Struggle

Happy Saturday Hearthside Adventurers!

Many of you may be facing the first real cold of November- I hope you are staying warm. Here in NC it got down to 20 degrees last night. When I lived in NY I would think nothing of that temperature. Now…it seems so bleak! I wish that you could be reading this sitting by my fire. Ah well, perhaps you have one of your own!

I have been debating on whether or not to write this post for a while. However, I have decided to “man up” as my father constantly tells me. We all face struggles, and perhaps sharing the struggles that we have worked through will give strength to others who are also struggling.

Four years ago I was a naive and boisterous college freshman. I could do anything! Absolutely nothing held me back. I had been top of my class in high school. I was a runner, a dancer, and my father had been grooming me for Air Force ROTC.

I was so strong. I never had a moment when my body didn’t do what I told it. While I was at school I received intensive language training in Farsi. I was absolutely dedicated to my career path in the Air Force. However, budget cuts made it clear that I would not be accepted to field training, or given a commission. Bummer.

I followed my father’s footsteps and dropped out of college. My mother was completely horrified. I confidently strolled into a recruiter’s office and enlisted. I made it through MEPS and was completely set to take my place. I was going to live the dream. I was going to be an Airborne Cryptologic Linguist. I absolutely aced the DLAB (language aptitude test).

Then, slowly, getting out of bed became painful. I shrugged it off. I was used to muscle pain and found it to be satisfactory. It meant that I was getting stronger. It got worse. Moving became harder. Workouts that were simple became monumental efforts.

The doctor at MEPS had noted that I had one hip that was higher than the other. I moved just fine through processing and I didn’t think anything of her comment. When I went to the doctor complaining about back pain they brought it up again. One shoulder and one hip was higher than the other.

They sent me to get an MRI. It was March. I was set to leave for basic training in August. The results revealed that not only did I have scoliosis, but I had also worn out the cartilage protecting the discs in my spine, slipped several discs, and damaged many others. The scoliosis had lead to pressure being unevenly distributed so my exercise routine had more or less permanently damaged many places in my spine. Because the curves where the trouble spots existed were so tight, the neurosurgeon that I was sent to declined to operate. He said that the risk of paralysis was too great.

On top of this they had found a tumor on my thyroid. After several sonograms a thyroid specialist decided that it might be cancer and that it needed to be biopsied.

I was released from service. My career was over before it had started. The tumor on my thyroid turned out to be benign. However, the damage to my spine could not be fixed. I was doled out pain medication and informed that the condition would deteriorate over time.

No…things like this don’t happen to people like me. They just don’t. I completely spiraled into depression. I wore a trench in my mattress from the days that I could not be coaxed out of bed. I cried and mourned for my lost career like I had lost a loved one. The Air Force had been home to me. I had grown up on military bases and loved my childhood. It was the future that I wanted for my family. My parents and fiance  had no idea how to drag me out of the abyss I felt myself drowning in.

It was a future that no longer existed. It took me a year of mourning to pull myself back together- and even though after a year I was returning to education, my heart was still longing for what I thought should have been. I didn’t think that I would ever find the camaraderie that I had grown to love in ROTC and I yearned for that fellowship.

Time heals all things…and in the many dark nights that I lay awake I decided to do something that I hadn’t done since high school. I pulled out my laptop and started writing. I wrote poems at first. Then, one night I opened a blank document and a narrative just started flowing. I have been working on that story ever since. It has changed as I have. It has been given more depth as I gave it more thought. It languished for a little while- untouched- while I put myself back together. One day, I swear to myself that I will finish it.

I am no longer on pain medication, and even though pain is a constant struggle I finally adapted to my new life. I have found the brotherhood that I thought I would be deprived of in all of you! I have discovered that people who write absolutely love to talk shop with those who are eager to learn. Writers are such amazingly giving people who aren’t afraid to share the secrets to their success. We are a community. All of us.No matter what style, no matter what genre, we are united under one banner: we are writers.

I am so thankful for each and every one of you. I have read your posts. Many of you have written through your own struggles, and I have felt your pain. You share your joys and I have smiled with you. Life may take us down unexpected paths, but I am so happy to share the journey with a group as worthy as you!

Love,

Sarah

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