For most people, the new year begins January 1st. For me, my new year begins in early September. Why? Because I am a teacher. But not just any teacher. A full-time elementary school, who also has two children, runs a busy family, and suffers with chronic pain due to cervical dystonia, teacher.
This is one of my favorite pictures! It is from 2013. (I’m the short redhead with the funky head tilt.) I love this picture for many reasons. These are some of my favorite people, my teammates. Fellow teachers who brave the trenches every day doing what we love. Teachers who have been by my side for years. A new school year is ready to begin and we are all smiles! In this picture, I am happy and excited about the upcoming school year. My smile is not faked. But what you don’t see:
I am in excruciating pain.
I am incredibly dizzy.
I am scared to death.
This picture was taken during a hard time in my life. I wouldn’t wish that pain on my worst enemy. Nor would I the dizziness. I loath dizziness. And why am I so scared? Well, I have no idea what this new school year would bring for my dystonia. How bad would the pain be? How long would the dizziness last? Would this year be the year I break?
This picture also finds me at the end of the summer. The best time of year for my cervical dystonia. Summers are SO good for me. I can move at my own pace, the warm weather does wonders for my body, and my stress level is way down.
Now, here’s my picture from the beginning of this school year, 2016.
I’m still with wonderful, amazing, supportive people that I love! I’m still the short redhead. But my head is not doing that funky tilt thing. I’m still in a lot of pain, but it’s not excruciating, and my dizziness is occasional now. I am still scared but I am no longer scared to death. The fear will never leave me. The unpredictable factors of cervical dystonia will always be with me. Unless someone finds a cure.
Now back to the first picture. Why is that picture one of my favorites with such a mix of emotions tied to it? Well, it reminds me that even on my worst days; I am a fighter. I made it. I survived. And I will always fight, and I will continue to survive. Realistically, the way I am at this moment will change. Living with cervical dystonia has taught me to celebrate daily victories.
As you enter your new year at the end of the month, I wish you health, happiness, and strength. Throughout my journey, I have come to realize that everyone is fighting a battle of some sort. If you are, find your picture of your worst moment, celebrate that you survived, and keep it in your back pocket as you enter 2017.
A big thanks to Patient Worthy for publishing this piece.