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A Challenge to Myself

By June 19, 2018 Artistic Expression

As an intern of the Mosaics team and for someone of eighteen years of age, I tend to believe that I’ve experience quite a number of struggles in a variety of categories but they have really never left the comfort of my mind and confines of my family. This post will be about some of those experiences leaving my head and being shared with you.

From the moment I ventured out of the womb I was no stranger to adversity. Shortly after birth, I underwent an operation called a fundoplication that resulted in having to get my nutrients through a feeding tube into my stomach, because my young self decided that feeding by mouth was too mainstream to engage in. Not too long after that I underwent another operation to my detether my spinal cord. Eventually I healed, the g-button went away, and life became normal. However, in the second grade I was diagnosed with enlarged vestibular aqueducts, EVA for short, and it prompted the addition of hearing aids into my life. I wore them and received hundreds upon hundreds of comments such as, “What are those in your ears?” and “Are you okay? Can you hear me?” These statements were inquisitive but felt malicious. It forced me to believe that I was not like everybody else and I was inferior to them because of not only my hearing loss but also the fallout from my spinal surgery.

My two primary setbacks that were previously mentioned had a huge effect on me throughout school. Both things contributed to my inability to play contact sports (the ones that all of the cool kids played) and made me somewhat of an outcast. Due to my athletic nature and inner competitiveness I sought out a sport that I could excel in. This led to my attempt at swimming. At first I absolutely hated it. I would to try and fake asthma attacks in practice to get out because it was so physically taxing (my coach did not buy my efforts at all) and I thought the weird tights you had to wear were dorky. However, after experiencing the adrenaline rush that came with my first meet, I was hooked. The competitive nature of it lured me in and I fell in love with swimming.

My love for the sport of swimming soon turned into an unhealthy form of an addiction that I wrapped my identity in. At first, I was far from the best athlete in the water but worked my way through the meets and eventually became an accomplished swimmer. In swimming, my hearing loss and back issues didn’t matter and I did not reveal them for years. I felt just like everyone else and felt as if I belonged. However, defining yourself by your ability to perform in athletics, or any other activity for that matter, is a recipe for disaster. During my Sophomore year of high school I somehow managed to fracture my rib while swimming (so much for the non-contact sport) and I ended up being chained to land for nearly a year due to intercostal nerves that tangled around the fracture and prevented healing. I was devastated. My most important priority: gone. My only friends: gone. The ability to exercise: gone. My sanity: gone. I struggled to watch from the sidelines as my peers trained and competed without me and I felt as if they totally forgot about my existence. Prior to that I had struggled to find a place where I belonged in my small school and thus relied on my social interactions from the pool. I now had nothing.

As one might assume, I slipped into severe depression. Despite the fact that mental health has never been avoided as a topic of conversation in my family, as both of my parents have struggled with various things and worked in the world of mental health, I felt alone and unable to talk to anybody. As a child I had struggled and learned to cope with pretty severe anxiety but was foreign to the ways I could train the new malicious beast in my mind. I was no longer the person that I used to be and felt stripped of any form of self-worth I previously had. In order to cope I sought out different remedies, which never seemed to offer a sustaining cure, and ultimately made myself worse. Things built and built and I eventually began to find solace in the thought that I could permanently escape the hopeless feelings encompassing my body and mind through death. It felt like a wonderful option and floated in and out of my mind for nearly a month.

Right around this time, my parents discovered some things on my phone that led to a decision for it to be confiscated. It devastated me. My phone was my lifeline. Social media was the only thing left making me feel connected to the people that used to be my friends and by taking the home of it away, I was crushed. I burst out in tears and revealed everything that had been going on to my parents. I probably cried for two hours straight before composing myself for an hour and beginning for another two or three. After that, I began to see a counselor for my behaviors and thoughts and was able to become better and more stable mentally.

Although this first story will end here, my life story does not. I learned so much through the hopelessness that I experienced and am incredibly grateful for the maturity and life it has brought me today. My struggles have not magically vanished, but they are more bearable and I continue to recognize the importance of human life and my ability to control my thoughts. I still have many stories to share and hope to do so over the course of many more posts. I have heard so many incredible stories throughout my life and I hope that mine can fill an empty page in somebody’s heart or mind. Thanks for reading.

  • Clayton