What does love look like?
For the past 3 years I have tried to keep the mentality that I am not defined by pulmonary hypertension. I try to avoid referring to myself as a "patient," and avoid using phrases like "my disease." I happen to have a disease, but I don't want to limit myself as being defined by it.
Can you have ownership of an illness?
I didn't go shopping one day and decide that pulmonary hypertension would go great with my black bow Ted Baker sweater. I didn't go to a pet store and decide to adopt pulmonary hypertension as a companion. I didn't go to university to study how to become sick, hoping that an illness would strike me with the bullshit-lottery-lightening-bolt.
I really wanted more for myself, more for my future, and more out life. Unfortunately, sometimes we don't get a say in what happens. Perhaps the only control we have is how we handle these obstacles, but sometimes that feels out of my reach as well.
It can be hard introducing myself to new people. Often times people will ask what I do for a living, and it feels like a long story to explain.
Booking appointments somewhere new, from a hotel stay to a salon, can cause the same problem. I don't want to lead with "I have pulmonary hypertension," but it always seems to happen.
I have to ask if establishments are accessible. I have to make sure they know that I cannot be around sick people. Sometimes I have to ask if someone else who isn't sick can help me. This usually makes me look as if I am rude. There are so many things in my life I have to navigate around that I can't worry what other people might think of me, no matter how hard that feels sometimes.
"Could I have my meal prepared with no salt? I have a heart condition."
I have just met a waiter at a restaurant and they already know one of the monumental parts of my life story. I am sick and I can't have salt.
I am not the same person that I was before diagnosis, but I still don't want to be defined by an illness. I think it caused a ripple effect, like a stone being through into a pond. Do we think a pond is different just because a stone has been thrown in? No, but I guess we start to think differently of the pond when it starts to dry out- which is what living with a life threatening illness feels like.
So what makes me who I am?
Well, I didn't decide to get sick, but I did decide to start writing after my diagnosis. I went to university for art, but traded my paint brushes for words. I have always been a creative person, but now my outlet feels a little different.
Although my life is heavily dictated by navigating through life with pulmonary hypertension, I still try to make it a life worth living. It isn't always easy, but what other choice do I have? Like I said, I didn't decide on having pulmonary hypertension in the same way I got to decide what cup of tea I would have tonight. (By the way, I picked Honey Lullaby from DAVIDsTEA.)
Maybe what we decide to do with what we are in control of makes us who we are.
To anyone who is just meeting me- please give me a chance.
I might have to ask some weird questions to ensure my own safety, but I promise there is a person beyond a seemingly scary diagnosis, and a handful of strange questions.
Nice to meet you. I am Serena and I am sick, but I also want to talk about Sleazy Nick from The Bachelor. I want to talk about how Riverdale is the perfect mix between Gossip Girl and Twin Peaks I never knew I needed. Did I tell you about my Boston Terrier yet? He oinks like a pig. I like make-up, and idolize my girl Oprah. A day without a cup of tea is like a day without sunshine, and I put my bra on one boob a time- just like everyone else.
Behind all my precautions is a pretty normal girl, I just happen to have pulmonary hypertension.
You can follow me at worship-and-tribute.com