The latest ‘Moments That Made Me’ story comes from Bethany Smith, a blogger I recently discovered via Instagram. Bethany has faced a series of huge health challenges over the last year, challenges that have led to some significant life changes and an exciting new venture. I hope you feel as inspired reading Bethany’s story as I did. You can visit her blog by following the link at the bottom of the page.
“It’s difficult to think of life in moments. Minutes turn to hours and hours turn to days. Unless you really take a step back, life can pass you by in a flash. Anything can happen in a moment. Life. Death. Love. Laughter. One moment is all it takes.”
When I think about the moments that made me, some are the happiest times I’ve known. Of course, some memories bring back moments of sadness and complete despair. Some are the moments that seemed so ordinary and I did not realise their significance until they were gone. The last 14 months for me has been a series of life defining moments.
Until recently, I worked full time as a Primary School Teacher. It was a job I had trained for and always wanted to do. It was a job that I loved. The future was looking positive and everything was aligning the way that I had planned. Unfortunately, the universe had other ideas for me.
Last year, I became poorly. I was diagnosed with anxiety. The take over was gradual and at first, the impact on my life was not severe; it was just unpleasant. Gradually though, I began to feel like I had a dark cloud following me around every day. The cloud would darken even the happiest times and stopped me from finding pleasure in the things I used to love. I became tired, irritable, physically poorly. Every day was a struggle and I did not recognise the person in the mirror.
Before my diagnosis, I had never given much thought to anxiety. I did not realise how debilitating it could be. I could understand the concept of feeling anxious for a reason, but to feel an overwhelming sense of worry every day, for no reason at all, was something I could not comprehend.
I began to evaluate my life and considered what actions I could take to fight this illness and stop it from taking over. However, a number of these decisions were taken out of my hands when life threw me another devastating blow. I was involved in an accident which left me with a shattered spine and herniated discs. Suddenly, I was unable to stand or walk or complete any daily tasks. Life as I knew it was gone. I could no longer go to work; I could no longer go anywhere; I became a prisoner in my own home.
After months of chronic pain and a cocktail of medication, I underwent a double lumbar discectomy. Although the scariest, it was the happiest day of my life. The first time being able to stand or walk after 5 months of being bed bound is a feeling I could never describe. I was warned before surgery that there was a chance of paralysis or that I may never walk again. I just cannot explain it. I have never felt a feeling of such intense relief and gratitude. I vowed from that moment that I would not take my health for granted again.
Throughout all of this, my anxiety was ongoing and somewhat worsened by the fact that I had been shut off from the world and spent months hiding from my fears. It made the prospect of resuming normal life seem impossible. Again though, these fears were put on hold when a check-up with my doctor revealed that I would need a further medical procedure – this time, on my heart. I will not go into too much detail about this as everything went to plan. Or so I thought.
A week after the procedure, I had just got out of bed when suddenly I felt a terrible shooting pain piercing through my chest. I became short of breath and struggling for air. Luckily, my mum was in the house and able to calm me down and take me straight to the Accident and Emergency department. I was seen quickly and rushed through to the Major Incident ward. My anxiety was building as I did not know what was wrong and just kept thinking the worst. I’ll skip the middle part of the story, but it turned out I had a blood clot. In fact, I had multiple blood clots. They’re called “Pulmonary Embolisms” and they’re blood clots on the lungs. The doctor told me that if I had not sought medical attention when I did, this would quite likely have been fatal. This moment changed everything.
Months later, I am still in recovery. I still suffer with anxiety and I still take medication for my blood clots. However, I am a survivor and I will not be defined by my medical I.D. I have managed to control my anxiety and stop it from controlling me.
“The last 14 months have shown me how fragile life can be. I’ve heard the saying before that “life is short” but I never really appreciated or thought too deeply about it. Although it would be easy to feel down about the series of unfortunate events that I’ve encountered, I have managed to find a light.”
I decided that I did not want to return to teaching and have recently begun a career in freelance writing; it is a risk that I am not afraid to take anymore. Before my health took a couple of tumbles, I always played everything on the safe side. But now I know that you must make the most of life and take every opportunity with both hands. I need to do what makes me happy.
These moments of relief, panic, sadness and joy have made me who I am today.
By Bethany Smith