A normal kid reminiscing about his or her childhood would most likely mention things along the lines of playing in parks, eating ice cream, and throwing tantrums about the pettiest of matters.
But my childhood was different.
I was born with infantile hemangioma, meaning I had tumors made up of excess blood vessels on the surface of my head and inside my skull.
I wasn’t allowed to play and run around too much because my tumors could easily burst if I bumped my head somewhere and thus cause bleeding inside my brain. I got neurosurgery at the tender age of one to get those tumors removed, but sadly the worst chapter of my life had barely even begun.
Unbeknownst to my family and I, that neurosurgery had managed to mess up quite a few nerves inside my head.
So, four years later, at the age of five, I was diagnosed with epilepsy; a disease which again kept me from a lot of things kids my age could and would love to do.
I couldn’t go on roller coasters, merry go rounds, wear those flashy shoes because of the flickering lights on them, or hell, even stare out of the window of my car if it was moving.
And if I did, my body would begin to jerk up and down, left and right, my legs would fly all the way up in the sky at 90 degree angles, my heartbeat would stop, my brain function would go numb, my mouth would bubble up with white foam and extend all the way to my ear.
I felt left out.
The kids at school didn’t want to befriend me. They didn’t think I was worth it. Nothing I did could ever qualify me enough to sit down and have a decent conversation with anyone.
In fact, I was diagnosed with juvenile depression because of this loneliness.
What could’ve been some of the most cherish-able moments of my life were spent rushing in and out of ICU’s, lying down in the loud, haunting tunnels of MRI machines, and having EEG electrodes attached to my head.
I still remember begging my mom to let me get on just one roller coaster and her eyes welling up with tears as she repeatedly said no.
She didn’t know what to say to me. But despite her never explaining what was wrong with me, I still knew I was different. And not in a good way. I knew those other kids made fun of me behind my back because of how many questions I had to ask to get the hang of a concept.
When my medication started, I didn’t feel like talking to anyone. I felt like yelling at anyone and everyone; nothing was enough to make me feel like I was good enough.
I turned into the most irksome little brat who didn’t want to comply with anything, ever.
And so, one day, with all my medicine-backed rebelliousness, I did what everyone had all along been telling me not to do; I sat down on a rotating cups ride at the local fair. As soon as I sat down on it, the feeling of guilt took over me, but the urge to experience the adrenaline I had been craving overpowered everything else.
And before I knew it, the ride was in full swing. My head was spinning, my tongue was tied, my vision went black, and then I heard a sharp sound in my ear.
“What’s going on”, I said in a low voice, as I regained my vision. “Oh god honey, I’m so happy you’re okay!”, exclaimed my mom.
I later explained to her what I had done and the pain I saw in her eyes was more than enough for me to realize just how important I was. And so, I made a pledge with myself to never put my life in danger again. Thanks to that, I am just about to enter my third year of being epilepsy-free.
For a five-year-old, I had way too much on my plate, but going through hardships wasn’t the only thing that plate taught me.
It taught me to be kind to people from all walks of life because kindness was exactly what I needed from my classmates, to realize that I have weaknesses which I shouldn’t try to revolt against, and lastly but most importantly to appreciate myself for who I am.
Yes, I wasn’t like all the other kids; the things they would learn in five minutes, I couldn’t learn in an hour. But that made me work harder, passed onto me a badass work ethic, and made me patient.
So at the end of the day, when I look back at life, I have no complaints. My experiences have shaped me. They’ve turned me into someone unbreakable. And for that, I will always thank life.
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Cover image via Momina Naveed