The last couple weeks have been landmark ones for me in terms of marking progress in my healing journey. Last week, I began the move into my first home away from my parents in several years. This past Wednesday, I made a trip to the DMV and came away with my license to drive again after 3 1/2 years. These two things alone are huge indications that, after a harrowing journey that sometimes seemed like it had no chance at a truly satisfying and happy ending, I finally have earned my license to heal.
It’s been a long road toward regaining some sense of equilibrium in my life over the last three-and-a-half years. After gaining some semblance of normalcy, as much as one possibly can living with an unpredictable, chronic disease, I was struck with the blow of a completely new condition that literally threw my equilibrium completely off center. One morning, going into teach, I didn’t feel quite normal. My legs weren’t working properly, and I was unintentionally weaving while walking. My zig-zag path was incorrectly guessed to be because I was drunk–at 8 in the morning, showing up to a primary school(?!) Feeling out of sorts anyway, the principal said I should just go home and get some sleep.
Unfortunately, this was not the wisest decision. In the car, I lost control of my arms, and the car steered itself into a snowbank twice. Finally making it to my driveway, my legs stopped listening to my brain, and I crashed into the garage. That day marked my entry into a confusing maze to discover what was happening to my body, and it also was the last day I was allowed to drive for a long time.
Then came terrifying hospital stays, visits to numerous specialists, and endless days and nights where my parents had to watch me like hawks to make sure I didn’t accidentally injure myself by falling, biting my tongue or cheek, choking on my food, etc. Finally, we met someone who definitively diagnosed me with the movement disorder, dystonia, suspected to be caused by autoimmune disease. With a name, we had some potential treatment options.
Nothing was perfect, and it took a long time to find the right cocktail. But eventually, a long-term treatment on the corticosteroid prednisone gave me six months of enough reprieve to do one of my dream jobs and turn into a workaholic. I’d work until the wee hours of the morning and get right back on it the moment I woke up. I felt accomplished. I felt productive. I felt almost “normal.”
After awhile, I began to also feel overworked and exhausted, and I could feel my body crumbling under the physical and emotional stress of the lack of self-care. Before long, even the medication couldn’t hold back the dystonia episodes, which, at it its worst, can look like seizures to the untrained eye. Bloated from medication, crippled by severe muscle contortions, tremors and falls, it was back to the starting line.
It took discipline and dedication to get myself back on track. Weaning myself off medications, really cleaning up my diet, and committing myself to exercise were only some of the pieces of the puzzle. I had to rid my life of the emotional baggage as well. I found emotional and physical strength, through the mind-body practices of yoga, qigong and tai chi. I got back out in nature sparking spiritual renewal, starting with gorgeous hikes and eventually working up to bike rides that lasted many miles.
Eventually, I found my body stronger and fitter than it had been since college. A new treatment came into the picture that brought hope and longer reprieves from the episodes. I found the best kind of love that gives as much as it receives. And finally, a window of time passed where my doctor said I was finally ready to get back on the horse–or behind the wheel of the car anyway.
So on Wednesday, after a week of supervised practice, I relived being 16 years old again by taking a trip to the DMV. I had to take a road test as it had been so long since I’d last driven. The woman giving the test commented on how young I was, saying they usually did these ‘re-tests’ with people in their 80s, though there was one 18-year-old who had lost her license after literally passing out behind the wheel.
After a half an hour of driving around, I was told I seemed good to go. I can’t even begin to describe how awesome the feeling of getting my driver’s license back in my hand was.
For me, for my parents, for my boyfriend, for my friends. No more chauffeuring. No more missed opportunities due to lack of transportation or worry over whether I would have a big episode or not. And with my license, I can finally have the freedom to comfortably live away from my parents again with the love of my life. My focus can return to living joyfully, being my best self and loving with a full heart. If that’s not healing, I don’t know what is!