Today I have a special guest post… Let me introduce my little sister, Melissa.
There is a 31-year age difference between my little sister and I, and up until a year and a half ago, we had no relationship. She grew up without me in her life, except for the every so often visit. Sadly, I am one of those family members she mentions in her opening paragraph and I knew nothing of the struggles and hurts in her life. However, she was brave enough to reach out to me last year and I am so truly blessed that she did and grateful that we have a relationship today!
Melissa is beautiful, amazing, talented, strong, optimistic, passionate, gifted, intelligent, loving, kind, generous and wise beyond her years. This is her story…
There have been a lot of days lately where I sit and think about, more like dwell on, what my life was like while I was growing up. Not to say that I’ve had the hardest life, but it hasn’t exactly been easy either. I started to notice that I’ve been called entitled, spoiled, or undeserving, by people who hardly know my situation or even by my own family members. Over time, these words really started to get to me, because I feel like I’m the complete opposite of those things. At least I hope I am. I feel like I had a pretty normal life when I was younger and I was definitely pretty blessed with what I was given. I lived in Hawaii for 3 years before we moved back to California. Both of my parents have been retired since I was in 5th grade, so they were always there for whatever I needed. They were the type of parents that were extremely involved in every aspect of my life, volunteering for school functions, helping out at my soccer practices or games, constantly planning amazing family vacations. I never went without and they always made sure of that.
This all hit a turning point during my sophomore year of high school. Let’s just say this is the downfall of what I felt was the “picture perfect” life. Since 8th grade, I have been dealing with migraines, but halfway through my sophomore year, they became unbearable. I went from being an A and B honor roll student, to D’s and F’s in a matter of weeks. I went from rarely missing classes to missing days on end. To say my life was turned upside down, doesn’t even begin to describe exactly how it felt. I honestly never knew there was such a thing as chronic migraines. I always thought I got a headache once in a while, no big deal. Boy was I wrong. Chronic migraines are a whole different level of pain. Though sometimes I feel like the worst part is the fact that people don’t believe I’m in pain, just because they can’t see it. This was extremely relevant while I was in high school. So many of my teachers failed me because I didn’t “look sick”, they just thought I wanted to get out of class. Tell me…what does being sick “look” like? Is it the same for everyone? I sure feel like I “looked” sick when I spent my nights throwing up or in the ER crying my eyes out. I sure feel like I “looked sick” when I couldn’t leave my bed because I couldn’t tolerate lights, noise, or life in general. If that isn’t sick, then I don’t know what is. Sometimes I just felt like a burden. I was always in pain and could hardly take care of myself so I could never be the good friend or the good daughter.
During the time of dealing with my migraines, I was pulled out of public school and joined an independent study program. By this point I was already way behind and on the path to not graduating on time. I was referred to a pediatric neurologist in Sacramento, where I underwent the first of many awful procedures to find out what the cause and cure for my migraines are. I say awful because at the time, I was terrified of needles. I cried getting a flu shot, so you can imagine how bad it was every time I had to get an IV. When none of those worked, I was referred to another pediatric neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco.
The following two years were spent making numerous trips back and forth to San Francisco to see a multitude of doctors, neurologists, sleep specialists, dietitians, etc. All in the hopes of figuring out how to manage my migraines. As far as treatments go, I’ve had injections into my ocular nerve, infusions of medicines I can’t even remember, and I was hospitalized 6 times, two of which were in the ICU for 10 days. Along with that, I was on about 20 pills A DAY just to try and help control my migraines. Let’s just say that’s not where I thought I would be at 16. Towards the end of my junior year (September/October 2013), I finally had my break through. I tried a new treatment of lidocaine infusions, which essentially numbs and “resets” my brain. This was one of those 10 day ICU admissions. About three weeks after my infusions, I experienced my first day of being migraine free. Two years of having a migraine every single day and I was finally PAIN FREE. I cried. My Mom cried. My Dad cried. For the first time in two years, I was able to catch up on all my homework. I was able to spend time with my family instead of hiding in my room. I played video games with my Mom for days on end. I finally felt like a “normal” teenager. I might have missed out on many things through my high school life, Friday nights under the lights, homecoming, prom, but it finally seemed to be getting better.
After what seems like years, I graduated high school (on time thankfully) and felt like I was finally moving on with my life. I got a job as a nanny because I love working with kids and started going to college to become a veterinary technician. I’m not going to go too into detail here, but a couple more bumps in the road and I had quit college and moved in with a then boyfriend who was 15 years older than me. This caused a whole lot of problems, that looking back now, I wish I had known better. At the time he seemed like an amazing guy though I quickly learned the truth. Not many people know about this, but he was abusive, sometimes physically, but mostly mentally and emotionally. I spent every day with someone who put me down constantly over little things, silly things. I had what felt like the weight of the world on my shoulders, having to take care of everything while he sat around all day. I finally started to notice his true colors when I became pregnant in February 2016. Due to the stress of the situation, I had a miscarriage shortly after finding out. As someone who has loved kids and always wanted kids, it was devastating, but became even more so when the person you’re with blames you for it. I wish I had learned right then to get away from it, but at 18 I didn’t know any better. It took me two years, a multitude of fights, hours of crying, and a lot of strength to finally stand up for myself and get away from it all. I know I skipped a lot about that relationship, but it was all bad and that’s all that can be said.
However, during all of this, there was one thing that shattered my world the most. My Dad was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s when I was 17. If you’ve never been in that position, you don’t really understand the thoughts that go through someone’s mind when they get that kind of news. At 17, I had to face the fact that one day my Dad wouldn’t know who I am anymore. He would never be there to watch me graduate college or fall in love. He won’t be able to walk me down the aisle or participate in the father daughter dance. He’ll never get to meet his grandkids or see what I’ve become. At 17, I started losing the most important man in my life because he would never be able to witness the most important moments in my life.
My Mom and I spent the last 4 years taking care of my Dad around the clock. Whatever he needed he got. It’s safe to say that these have been the hardest moments of my life. Watching the man I look up to slowly slip away right in front of my eyes. It’s hard to watch someone that was once so independent, not even know how to butter toast and need help getting dressed. To watch the Dad who played board games with me or helped me with my homework, unable to put together a sentence. In March 2018, my Mom and I made the tough decision to place him in an Alzheimer’s care facility because we were unable to give my Dad the care he needed. Let me tell you I have been wrecked with guilt and regret since that very day. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve cried myself to sleep. There are so many things I regret and wish I could change, so many moments I wish I could take back. I wish I could have been a better daughter, not a grumpy teenager at times. I wish I would have been more grateful and said I love you more often. I wish I didn’t get so irritated at times when he couldn’t help it due to this disease. To simply put it, I wish I was better.
Over the years, I still put myself down about that a lot. I’m too hard on myself most days. I’m in college once again and the perfectionist side of me always seems to be in charge. If I’m not getting an A on all assignments and tests, then I feel like I’m a failure. I put everyone else first before myself, even if it leaves me exhausted or hurt in the end. Some days I’m happy where I am and other days I’m not. I could sit and nit pick all my flaws and not believe anyone when they tell me otherwise. I’m a bit hard-headed to say the least. Even after all of this, on some days I still feel like I made it. I’m where I’m supposed to be and I have so many more places to go.
If I could change anything, I’d go back and remind myself that life isn’t always easy. There will be twists and turns and roadblocks. There will be days where I feel like I’m on top of the world and days where I feel like my world is crumbling. I’d tell myself that it’s ok to be upset or scared or hurt, but to not forget to be brave. I would remind myself that I can do anything I put my mind to, no matter what other people believe. To stand up for what I believe in, but most importantly stand up for myself. That failing doesn’t make you a failure, it just means you have to come up with a new game plan to succeed. To spend my time with those who make my life better, and rid myself of those who don’t. To cherish every moment, because you never know what the next day could bring. But most of all, I’d tell my future self to not forget where I came from, but never lose sight of where I’m going.
Hey there. My name is Melissa. I’m a daughter, a sister, a dog mom, and a friend. I work as a nanny while going to college full-time to follow my passion of becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife. Most importantly, I’m working on bettering myself each and every day.
I am so sorry about your dad. I am much older and had my dad for all those things you missed, but it isn’t any easier losing touch with your dad at 62. My dad had a stroke in July and though he still knows us most of the time there are times when he is not there. He appears to be developing Dementia and and memories are slowly slipping away. Today is the 5th anniversary of my mom’s passing. Now I am losing my dad too and he was the strong one for me. I may be a grownup with kids of my own, but somehow it isn’t any easier. God bless you!
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Thank you Tessa. I’m sorry you’re going through it as well. God bless you!
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I’m sorry to hear about your dad. I cared for my great-grandmother (she had Alzheimer’s too), who I really never knew, while I was in high school. It was heart wrenching. Hugs to you and your sister.
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Thank you! It is truly heart wrenching.
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