I used to be a dancer. I spent twelve years of life dedicating my time to the beautiful art. My nights would be spent in the studio dancing my heart out — doing what I loved best. Dance was my identity, and I embraced that for as long as I could. When I was thirteen years old, dance could no longer be my everything. I had to give up more than I was willing to bargain for. I learned very quickly that I was progressively growing ill. When most people get sick, it’s a three-day flu or a cold they’ll get over in a week. My illness doesn’t go away, and nobody seemed to know why.
My concerned mother took me to the doctor, who examined me, stuck a needle in my arm to take blood, and sent me for countless tests, only to tell me that it was all in my head. When that wasn’t good enough for us, she dragged me to another doctor, who did the same things the previous specialist did, only to tell me that, again, it’s all in my head.
Almost none of the friends I had believed I was sick. They would tell me to get over it, because everyone gets sick once in awhile. The support I craved so badly was dragging me down and making me feel terrible about myself. They were too self-centered to open their eyes and see that I was suffering, and while they were out having fun like most teenagers were, I was stuck in bed. And they had the nerve to tell me it’s all in my head.
The pain I was experiencing, the never-ending fatigue that was weighing me down, the hair loss, the stomach aches, the dizziness, the headaches, the insomnia, the hearing loss, the frequent dislocations, were supposedly fake. It was all in my head. So this is what I told myself every day. Every time I stayed up all night due to pain-induced insomnia, I told myself it was in my head. I convinced myself that my pain was only me lying to myself. That I was being overdramatic. I really believed that it was all in my head.
My mom’s energy was invested in researching my symptoms and trying to figure out what I have, because the twelve doctors that I saw couldn’t figure it out on their own. Her life was taken over by my pain and misery. Her persistence led her to find a pain specialist out of state with top ratings and earnings of major awards. We knew he was our last hope. We just wanted someone to tell me that it wasn’t all in my head. I already had given up so much that I didn’t want to let go. I didn’t want the stigma of “it’s all in my head” to be stuck with me forever. I missed dance, I missed my friends, and I missed my good health.
So we prayed to God that this new doctor would have the wisdom and knowledge to help me, and we went to see him the very next month. And guess what?
It’s not all in my head.
Madeline is a high school junior from New York. She loves reading, writing, drinking tea, and playing her flute. Although Madeline faces a debilitating genetic condition called Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, she hopes to pursue a career in music therapy. Madeline hopes that through this possible career and advocacy for her chronic illness that she will be able to inspire and encourage those who suffer like herself. She hopes to one day write a novel to help people understand what it’s like to have a chronic illness. Madeline is passionate about making a difference.