My name is Dara. I’m twenty three and am currently living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, what the locals call “Delmarva”. I was born in Washington DC and grew up in the suburbs. I went to ten different schools growing up. I know to most people that would be a nightmare. Always being “the new kid”, but I didn’t mind. I never had any friends to miss, no relationships to break, no family to leave behind. It was always just my parents and I, and our pets. I’ve always loved animals, all creatures. I could never kill a snake, or even a spider. I spent many years riding and training horses, I’m thankful for the years I was able to pursue my passion, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. But things change, people change, hardships smack you in the face right and left. Already being a survivor of domestic abuse and sexual assault by the time I was seventeen, I had figured I had already had my fair share of life’s horrors. I was young, foolish, and hopeful.
I took a “hiatus” from college and took on a full time position as a radio personality. It wasn’t an easy job, the hours were rough, I had a lot of responsibilities, the pay was horrible, and most of my coworkers were completely insane. I loved it. I loved being “DJ Dara”. I loved having such a huge platform to speak my mind, to make people laugh, but mostly to make people think. I had been working for the station for two years, dedicating my life to this job, waking up and breathing “show prep” and “voice tracks”, current news and the newest music. Then one sunny day in July, 2012, a few days after my twenty first birthday, I woke up in the most intense, life shattering pain you can imagine. By December, I had to leave my job and go on disability. Unable to walk or drive, quickly losing all sense of independence and confidence I had gained. Those first months are mostly a blur now, its probably better that way.
For the past two and a half years I’ve been living in and out of hospitals and doctors offices. Getting surgeries, going to therapy, having painful tests done, even living off of infusions three times a week for six months because I couldn’t keep food down. My list of diagnosed diseases changes constantly, but at the moment they believe I’m suffering from Gastroparesis, MS, Lupus, Lymes, Raynauds, Connective Tissue Disease, Endometriosis, POTs, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and plenty more. While most people my age are busy going out and having fun, being young and strong, I’m laying in bed barely able to sit myself up. Constantly feeling like I had just ran a marathon, and then got hit by a truck.
No one can understand chronic pain unless they suffer from it themselves. And no one understands the twenty three year old who walks slowly with a cane and shakes like a leaf. Not to mention all the embarrassment that goes along with these chronic illnesses. But that’s where I stop myself. Why am I embarrassed for something that isn’t my fault? Why am I looked at and treated so differently, and why the hell do I care? That’s where I draw the line on my sob story.
Anyone who can relate to my life knows the struggle of wanting to be “normal”. But you know what? We’re not normal. My life is far from normal and it never will be. Accept it, embrace it, use it. There’s a good chance that my health will get worse, and that impending thought is enough to drive anyone crazy. That this pain will never go away, that pain is all I have to look forward to. Once I learned to accept that, I was able to take a metaphorical step back and see my life in a new light. People have it worse. So many people in this world have it so much worse. Everyone needs to remember that. I want people, struggling or not, to understand that. Take a minute to think about that facebook status you’re about to post about hating your job, or god forbid having a boring, sober weekend. How many people would kill for that opportunity? Out of the billions of people in this world do you know how many would die to walk a day in your shoes? Open your eyes and see the world for what it really is.
I want to spread awareness. Not only for my illnesses, but for the simple fact that you need to be great full for everything. Your family, your friends, your smart phone, your health, your independence, everything. My illnesses have taught me to enjoy and love the little things in life. A visit from a friend, a nice hot day, the new season of The Walking Dead, all things to be great full for. Just because someone is sick or disabled doesn’t make them any less of a person. Just different. They can still be just as smart, loving, and beautiful. That’s the awareness I want to spread.