“THIS TOO SHALL PASS.”
This is, hands down, one of my all time favorite quotes. It’s a quote that I’ve carried close to my heart for as long as I can remember, it’s one that shaped how I’ve dealt with problems and how I see the universe. It’s a tiny quote from the bible and even though I’m not Christian, I’ve made it my mantra of sorts.
Today, I’m going to tell you a story of faith. A story of having faith in the workings of the universe and how I came to learn that struggles are temporary. This is my story.
It begins in a hospital.
“You have the flu,” the ER doctor told my 14-year old self. “it’s been going around, nothing to worry about. All our beds have been filling up all week.”
My mom had dragged me to the hospital after two weeks of ugly fevers. I want to say that I was also coughing or was exhibiting other respiratory symptoms but details of this are blurry. Regardless, I went back home expecting to get better but with every passing week, my symptoms worsened.
The next five weeks were among the worst of my life. They’ve become a blur at this point, but I could never forget that cold. I would lay on my bed or couch, shivering. There’d be five thick blankets on top of me, but my teeth couldn’t help but chatter. Every day, I got physically weaker, I could no longer go to school or pick up a book.
I remember sitting outside under the sun, trying my hardest to soak the sunlight, let the warmth inside me but not even Florida heat could combat the chills.
By the last week, I could barely get up to use the restroom on my own. I couldn’t leave my bed or even keep my eyes open. I remember staring at my bedroom celling, wishing I could go to sleep and not wake up. I didn’t want to suffer any longer. I pictured what my death would look like and in a weird way, was okay with it. Living had become a burden.
During one of these blurry days, I got up to use the bathroom and passed out in the hallway. My mom had enough, after weeks of me protesting, saying I didn’t want to go back, she said she was gonna drag me there. I shivered at the thought, I was okay with not getting better. I was more afraid of what the doctor would tell me. I told her to wait a day.
The rest of the day consisting of floating in and out of consciousness in a way that I can’t describe. My aunts from Orlando were at my house although I can’t remember why. They took one look at me and convinced my mother that I needed to go to the emergency room immediately, waiting wasn’t an option.
The concern on the nurse’s face was evident the second she took my initial pulse. My heartbeat was fast enough to bypass the usual examination and they connected me to heart monitors and an IV immediately while asking my mother the typical scribe questions. I was running a fever of 105 and the shivering wouldn’t stop.
They transferred me to a children’s hospital within the hour, still unsure of what was wrong with me, but I was admitted regardless. It took about 24 hours to diagnose me with typhoid fever, a disease nearly unheard of where I live but easily treatable. My late diagnosis and ill health, however, caused me to stay at the hospital for weeks. I got blood transfusions and routine rounds of antibiotics, slowly but surely, I was getting better.
Despite this, I was mentally hurting, I missed junior prom. I was stuck within white walls, surrounded by a disgustingly sterile smell while my peers were enjoying the end of eighth grade. I missed so much school that I failed that last term but my grades from other terms allowed me to be promoted into high school. I kept reminding myself it was temporary.
This too shall pass.
That was when things went awry again. I was standing by the hospital sink when a shooting pain went through my body. I clutched my side and began to vomit. My lower abdomen felt like it was on fire, a feeling I would grow accustomed to in the next few years.
A nurse came in immediately, confused by my incessant vomiting. A throbbing pain and discomfort spread through my abdomen, it would come in waves at first, last only a couple hours. But by the time I left the hospital, it became a constant in my life.
As I started high school, I was visiting doctors’ offices regularly. I was in a constant state of pain. From ER visits to gastrologist appointments, sterile scents and stethoscopes became regulars in my life. This took over much of ninth grade, some days were so bad I couldn’t get up to go to school.
It was one night the next summer when I woke up at midnight as I often did, unable to speak or move. As I waited for this growing pain to stop, spots swam before my eyes. I could feel that something was different. I tried to call my mom but there wasn’t enough strength in me to call loud enough for my mother to hear. My phone was dead, I didn’t know how to ask for help.
As I laid there, in the dark alone with nothing but my pain and my thoughts. The phrase “this too shall pass” played over and over in my head like a broken cassette tape.
I was going to get passed this.
It was going to be okay.
This too shall pass.
I somehow mustered the strength to walk to my mother’s room. I was clutching my stomach, tears were crawling down my cheeks but I was determined to be okay. I knew it was temporary. And for the second time in my life, I found myself in an ambulance, on my way to an emergency surgery. A CT Scan confirmed that I had appendicitis, a common operation would be a quick fix. Surgeons worked on my bursting appendix in a seemingly smooth procedure, but the recovery didn’t go as expected.
The pain came crawling back before I had the chance to get discharged from the hospital. Rashes covered my abdomen and legs from an allergic reaction to the adhesive and my incisions refused to heal. The one-week recovery stretched into months. I switched to online school, and once again, I was isolated from my peers and my friends.
I felt alone but I told myself it was temporary.
Being in a tough situation, it’s easy to forget that this moment will be a tiny fraction of your life once you’re eighty.
Those months were some of my worst.
But they didn’t last forever.
They, too, passed.
By November, I was back at school. Stomachaches and fatigue still haunted my life, but I told myself I was going to get diagnosed eventually. My friends were familiar with my stomach problems and it wasn’t uncommon for me to get up from the lunch table, clutching my stomach or to be unable to speak during class because of the pain.
I went to six different gastrologists over the next year. I became familiar with a plethora of different tests, medications and diets. During mid-junior year, one blood test in particular, came back positive. It took one endoscopy to confirm that I had a rare autoimmune disorder called celiac disease. And with that knowledge, I went on one final diet that would change my health completely. I started gaining weight and color in my cheeks. It took years, but I became healthy. We eventually figured out that the typhoid fever was so harsh on my immune system that it activated the celiac disease which I was pre-disposed to because of my genes (thanks, dad!)
Those few years were part of a hardship I’m convinced I was meant to endure.
Th universe is funny, I’m writing this in my public health seminar class where I’m learning about the prevention of communicable diseases such as the one I was struck with as a fourteen-year-old. I’m now surrounded with people I love, I’m healthy and happy. I can run, jump and be free no longer confined to concrete walls.
I wish I could go back and tell myself that I was going to be okay.
In fact, I think that each one of those days made me stronger, braver and more ambitious. They taught me the value of good relationships and understanding that shit happens, and then it’s over.
I’ve approached every situation since my final diagnosis with that mindset. Some days are hard, some aren’t. I’ve learned to focus on my present and understand it’s fleeting. I appreciate the good moments and live with the understanding that the bad ones will pass.
Each one of us is going through struggles others don’t know about. It’s important to realize that they will end. Five, ten years from now whatever you’re going through will be a tiny bump that helped you get to where you needed to. The universe doesn’t burden us with weight we can’t bear. If you feel you’re going through hardship it’s because you can handle it, even when it feels like you can’t.
Life is tough but you are tougher.
There is much life ahead of you.
Please remember, everything will be okay.
This too shall pass.