“I thought no man would ever want to touch me again.”
Nakeyah and I giggled on the phone the other day over existential crisis thoughts, tubing issues, transplant and relationships. One of the most important things I finally chose to do was to start making connections with other young women with my same disease. It lightened the sense of alienation, and it truly gives you a feeling that you have finally found your own species. You can exchange insurance rants, your wishes to be a mom, and your paranoid thoughts with people who will not judge you for not being “positive enough” but instead collapse with you as they know exactly what roller coaster you have been unwillingly placed on.
Nakeyah writes “I have met quite a few women in the community that I connected with on a positive and spiritually growing level. We support one another whether it be helping each other understand information, or supporting one another through difficult times or experiences. It is great to be able to talk to people who actually get and understand where you are coming from.”
It is not uncommon for patients to avoid IV therapy – almost to the point of risking their lives. Why? Simply because what people will think of them. That was my story – living up almost 9,000 feet in altitude and avoiding IV therapy like the plague against my doctor’s advice. “Why?” she would ask. Simply put, for the one hundredth time, I didn’t want to be attached to a pump. In the days after it was placed, laying in the hospital, I told my mom I did not want to go back home. I didn’t want to be around people again, and I didn’t want to be around men. I had already been with men who judged me for not being able to birth their children – what about now? I was worthless to the human race.
Having a machine attached to me has been a process of regaining self-confidence whether it is through the exposure of my chest, or rocking a cute ass fanny pack because the fanny pack is truly freedom for anyone with a pump. A year and a half later, I will always be self-conscious in some situations. But I have grown into my necessary medical care despite it’s trials of trying to walk around home only to hear your gameboy device crash behind you, or the famous “what happened to your chest” questions. Nakeyah joins the army of young women with Pulmonary Hypertension who simply put – are bad ass, beautiful and sexy.
“I struggled so much with having to be connected to a machine 24/7. My self-esteem dropped dramatically and I feel that it made me over think how others were looking at me. Its tough being young and still having to deal with the pressures of fitting in with your peers, and the world when others are so conditioned to judge others based on their looks.”
“When I was about 14 years old, I began experiencing episodes of shortness of breath, dizziness, sweating and feeling as if I’d faint whenever walking up stairs to go to classes. I never understood the issue, but I knew something was not right. I told my mom about my concerns and she brought me to my pediatrician. I was told over the course of the next three years that I was overweight (I was about 160 lbs then.) I’ve suffered losing myself and trusting in myself. People are conditioned to view sickness or sick people a certain way. When you have an invisible disease, it is difficult for some to believe in you or your day-to-day struggles. I have been through numerous situations with doctors, nurses, paramedics, and other healthcare professionals that do not understand the disease and try to discredit my word, or say I am not as sick as I say I am – simply because they don’t understand the disease. I had to go through years of rumors, lies being made up about me and judgment all because others don’t get what Pulmonary Hypertension is. This has taught me to have thick skin but also to trust myself and not try to prove myself or what I am going through to others.”
Ladies – and men – who currently have a tube in your chest; do you remember your final pre pump days? Do you remember how terrified you were when you realized that doing the simplest thing sent your heart rate sky-high, intense pain flooded your body and you literally suffocated? We will never forget that pain. The pain of literally starving our bodies of oxygen. Coming home from the hospital was paranoia city trying to trust that my body could simply walk to the car without trying to die. To feel the weight of our pump but the freedom in our chest made this life changing and appearance altering treatment worth it. Sean Wyman texted me in the hospital in my spiral of hatred towards the pump, “but you are alive. This will be worth it.”
“It used to be no man is ever going to touch me, and now it’s you’re lucky I even let you touch me.” Nakeyah laughs. Her photo above is proof that we are living in the new world where old ideals are dead. Disabilities have become abilities, and people attached to machines are people.
It. Was. Worth it.