At only 19, Alina has already experienced a lifetime of chronic illness, but rather than let it destroy her spirit, she is proud to be focusing on her dreams and accepting of any natural emotions that surface along the way… We are proud of you too Alina!
The Girl with a Story
Hello, my name’s Alina and My story begins on the 16th July 2017. It’s the day my entire life changed. It’s the day my upper limb gave up on me. It’s the day I could no longer fend for myself, take care of myself, do anything for myself. From that very day on, I slowly lost the ability to fully function all of my limbs like I used to be able to. From that very day on, life had completely and utterly changed for me. I was eventually diagnosed with a lifelong, auto-immune chronic nerve pain illness – Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. I never knew pain could be so debilitating, so excruciating. My entire life had changed in under 24 hours.
As you can imagine, being left bed-bound, unable to fend for myself, unable to do anything for myself, had a horrible negative effect on my mental health. There was (and still is) no cure for my illness – I was simply a 16-year-old who spent most of her time in hospital or in bed, crying her eyes out. I tried to fight through the pain, but I was not getting anywhere. I felt suffocated. I was living a life I did not want to live. I struggled to cope with what life was throwing at me. I developed anxiety and experienced months of sadness. I could not see the light at the end of the tunnel. I did not want to be alive with all this pain anymore.
Prior to developing my illness, I had always been a happy, hard working person. I always wanted to strive to be the best at whatever it was I was doing – I was a little perfectionist. I loved studying and wanted to go to university one day to pursue my dreams. I was due to start sixth form in September 2017 and I was determined to get there – I just didn’t know how. With the amazing support of my parents and teachers, I managed to get myself into sixth form on most days. There were days where I could not physically make it to school. There were days where I physically could not make it to my lessons. I always tried my best and I am so grateful for the teachers who supported me. However, school had not always been positive for me. As I physically look completely fine, many of my peers did not believe I was battling a chronic illness. I heard constant remarks about myself from others. I had constant remarks being made about how I was ‘faking’ my illness, how I was ‘pretending for attention’. As you can imagine, this slowly was, both mentally and physically, destroying me. It took me a very long time before I was able to stand up for myself. There came a day where I had simply had enough of all the hurtful remarks, of physically being pushed around, of mentally being hurt by these people. I finally stood my ground and told them to leave me alone, to let me be. It was the most frightening thing I had ever done but deep down I knew it was the only way I could get my point across, the only way I’d be able to make school life better for myself.
All of these events had made my anxiety and sadness worse. I was beginning to struggle even more with learning to cope with the pain and over the last few years, I was diagnosed with more conditions and was experiencing more symptoms. I am now 19 and suffer from Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Widespread Pain, IBS symptoms, Anxiety and I am also being investigated for POTS, a tachycardia syndrome. I have come a very long way with dealing with my debilitating pains and symptoms. I have taught myself how to use my limbs again, how to walk again. It has been the most difficult few years of my life, but I am so grateful for it all. Islam has played a huge part in helping me learn how to cope. I began to see my illnesses as a blessing rather than a curse. Praying helps me to get through my days. Of course, to this day, there are still times where I am so mentally and physically drained from trying to manage everything, from trying to fight through the pain, from trying to keep going, but I try my very best. During these times, I try to give myself time and space to ‘heal’, to cope with what I am going through.
If there is one thing that my chronic illness and mental health struggles has taught me, it is the fact that everyone has something they are going through behind closed doors. Kindness is something that does not cost a penny yet many still choose to not use it. By going through what I have and am still going through, I have become a much more understanding person. Life isn’t always easy but if there’s one thing that I know and strongly believe in, it’s that no soul is put through more than they can handle. This life is a test and those who have the hardest tests in this life have rewards waiting for them on the other end that are beyond what you can even imagine. I always try my best to remember this and most of the time it gets me through my days. However, there are still days where, no matter how positive I try to be, I cannot help but break down, I cannot help but cry and that’s okay! It is unhealthy for someone to have no ‘bad’ days, it is unhealthy for someone to remain positive 24/7. You have to let yourself let out all your emotions. Having a ‘bad day’ does not make you weak, it simply shows you how incredibly strong you really are.
During my first year and a half of diagnosis, I struggled so very much to cope with life, school, my education etc. As I mentioned earlier, I did not see the light at the end of the tunnel, I did not have much hope for my future. However, I did not give up. I kept pushing through, every single day, and I still do. I have now just finished my sixth form studies and am due to start university in a few months to pursue my dreams Insha’Allah.
I never ever thought I’d be where I am now. I never ever imagined myself to have gotten myself this far. Hope and belief in yourself is something that is so very important. Never give up! You can handle whatever it is you are going through; I promise you that. Be kind to yourself, look after yourself, put yourself first – these are things I am still working on, but I know they are very important.
I have an Instagram page set up ( @thegirlwithastory__ ) to raise awareness of chronic illness and to be part of a support network if anyone needs it.
Do you identify as a Muslim having been through emotional distress which has made you stronger? Would you like to join Alina and the other brave voices aiming to end this silent stigma and #Emerge Proud for your own community and humanity united?
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