3:00. The digital clock beside my bed blanketed my mind with an eerie radioactive glow as I tried to go back to sleep. But the image of 3:00 blared in my mind, reminding me that this was yet another sleepless night this month. Time was against me. I feared sleep, but I craved it simultaneously. As I tried to sleep, my heart beat so fast that it left no room for me to breath. I felt like a runner without a destination or the power to stop running. My mind was fatigued beyond possibility, but my body would not rest. I was tearing myself in two; these nights were the worst.
A year later, I was diagnosed with a genetic case of hyperthyroidism, a rare form of Grave’s disease. My physical symptoms ranged from rapid heart rate, uncontrollable tremors, to fainting spells. Of course, that was how the doctors explained it. They did not explain the other psychologically debilitating symptoms that accompanied the disease, such as incessant insomnia, acute anxiety, and manic depression. They were unaware of my irksome questions such as: Why am I crying if I’m not sad? Why does it hurt so much? Why is time against me? Why am I alive? Why is this happening to me? Those questions swirled hysterically around me as I tried helplessly to gain control of my mind and body. I felt like a walking time bomb on crack ready to explode. For the next year, the doctors drugged, poked with needles, prodded with a variety of abnormal objects, and finally injected me with radioactive iodine. While enduring through the endless treatments, and I hoped that I would never have to experience the pain afterwards. This setback was a wakeup call for me.
That was six years ago. Today, after a couple of years on a physical and emotional rollercoaster, I have successfully stabilized my condition and I am now working towards a full, long-awaited recovery. After experiencing pain for those harsh years, I learned that suffering is temporary. Instead of living with despair and self-pity, I realized the multitude of choices presented to me and I chose optimism. My belief in the impermanence of suffering has allowed me to change my attitude during times of anguish. It has opened my eyes to the power of optimism. By holding on to this shining belief, I have been able to put pain and suffering in my past and move on with new hope of happiness for the future. As I look back, those years of suffering felt like another life, another person who was cynical, miserable, and terrified. I would never want live through those experiences again. Although I have transformed my perspective, that little girl who suffered is still very much a part of me. She sleeps in the corner of my mind as a constant reminder of the lessons I have learned.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.