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Why I Quit Quitting: How Trauma Made Me Resilient


Greenery, Scrabble letters spelling out "resilience"
Photo by Alex Shute on Unsplash

When I was in elementary school, I auditioned for my school's production of Peter Pan, indicating that my first choice part was as an Indian. When I was given the part of a lowly Lost Boy, I decided against the whole thing. I remember telling my friend something along the lines of "If it's not the part I want, I don't even want to bother."


Now, I roll my eyes at my snobbish behavior at the time, for thinking I was way too "above" that part. But I still made choices like this for a number of years. When I was 19, I got a part-time job at a local pharmacy as a pharmacy tech. When I learned they wanted me to work about 25 hours a week, I scoffed at the idea. "That's way too many hours," I complained. At the time, I didn't find standing for hours in a drugstore all that interesting. Now, as an adult who's taken a number of different prescriptions, I think it might have been interesting to learn.


I admit that my motivation was limited since I didn't need the money back then. I saw it as some extra money to spend, maybe to save, and get some work experience. At the time, my parents took care of everything for me financially, and, while I'm grateful, I had no concept of needing to work to survive. Within a few short years, though, I sure did learn.

 

At 24, I experienced my first-ever heartbreak. Something he said to me around the time we broke up has stuck with me all this time: "You don't know what it's like to have to work for something. You've been handed everything to you on a silver platter your whole life."


I remember being defensive in response, telling him how hard I had worked all through high school, college, and grad school. But, in hindsight some 16 years later, I realize that he wasn't all wrong. I put effort in, sure, like the trig course my senior year of high school when I would get to school early every morning to meet with my math teacher and go over the homework (she required us to correct any incorrect answers). Then there was the accounting course I took in college for my business minor; I was clueless until I worked with a tutor and then aced the class.


I admit I did have it pretty easy, just like a lot of other Millennials and Gen Zers. My parents took care of everything and sheltered me. You might even say too much since I never had an education in things like personal finance growing up, though I know they did their best.


I earned a master's degree at the age of 24, something I'm proud of, but I can't say it was all that hard to get. It came naturally to me. love school and learning so much that I've wanted to return for more ever since. For some people, a master's degree is a crowning achievement, but, for me, it never felt like enough.


Despite the trauma I experienced from that breakup, it's led me to become who I am today. It sent me into a tailspin, where I felt lost and struggled to find myself and where I fit. I had to adjust to life on my own after a domineering partner of three years who took care of so much for me (though, in my opinion, more for a manipulative purpose --- for me to feel indebted to him and, therefore, not leave him, putting him in control). I endured years of loneliness, distracting myself with my social life and dating, becoming a more frequent drinker, as I spent more nights out than at home. It was an escape. Experiencing family problems before ultimately losing my dad suddenly in 2011 just made everything worse. I began doing things the old me never would have done. At some point, I turned into someone I didn't even recognize.


It took me another nine years to meet the person I would eventually marry. And it wasn't until after marriage that I learned what it was like to really work hard for something.

 

I often say I've worked harder to achieve milestones in my personal life than anything else I've ever accomplished. "I could get a doctorate more easily than I found it to get married and start a family," I would say.


Over the past four years, we have undergone multiple rounds of IUI (intrauterine insemination) and in-vitro fertilization, resulting in failure and loss. During this time, in addition to the treatments themselves, I implemented major changes to my lifestyle. I got off anti-anxiety medication, cut out caffeine, reduced my Zoloft dosage from 125mg to 50mg, and went from drinking several drinks a week to the random glass of wine on special occasions. Yet, every time I'd overcome one hurdle, I'd be faced with another, like losing my sister-in-law --- my husband's sister --- in March of 2021.


In 2022, I finally began to get some answers, including a long-awaited endometriosis diagnosis in July. This made it easier for me to stick to the diet changes I had implemented to reduce inflammation and help my fertility; there was now proof of something wrong apart from being over 35 and having a thyroid disorder, which doctors made little of. I discovered an inner willpower I hadn't seen in myself for quite some time. Then, in September, I experienced a scary, life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, which landed me in the ER. I underwent emergency surgery to remove it from my left Fallopian tube --- along with the entire tube.


Despite the trauma of this experience, I knew I was that much closer to my happy ending. During a follow-up appointment with my surgeon, who is now also my OBGYN, I learned that most of the endometrial adhesions were present on my left side, as he found from my diagnostic laparoscopic surgery in July. While he removed them at the time, he said that taking out the entire tube would help keep from from coming back.


He also told me --- and showed me --- something during that appointment that I'll never forget. He showed me an pic of the internal bleeding he'd seen during my surgery in September. It was a lot. He said he was shocked that, with all that blood loss, I hadn't felt more symptoms prior to the cramping and lightheadedness that led me to call 911. That alone has showed me the strength I've developed over the years.

"I realize now that there's a reason for everything and everyone that comes into your life --- many times, just to teach you an important life lesson. "
Inspirational message made from Scrabble letters
Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash



Reflecting on how far I've come in my journey and in life, I can say that I've never worked harder for anything and have become quite resilient in the process. I realize now that there's a reason for everything and everyone that comes into your life --- to teach you an important life lesson. Enduring the trauma of the past 15+ years and moving forward has given me the strength to handle whatever life throws at me. Without those experiences, I may have given up easily just as I likely would have done many years ago.


As 2022 comes to a close, I'm proud to say that I'm in a great place. I put limits on my social media use and moved on from friends who were never great friends in the first place. I now choose to surround myself only with people whom I genuinely connect with and who bring me joy.


I'm excited for what 2023 will bring.


Firecrackers spelling out "2023"
Photo by Kenta Kikuchi on Unsplash

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