Overcoming the Fear of the Future
It feels kind of surreal that I turned 25 this July. Somehow, I'm reminded that adulthood is coming and it is coming fast.
I haven't really sat down to think about my life as an adult living with sickle cell. In fact, this is the first time I am writing about it. Thinking about it, I realized that some things scare me about transitioning into adulthood and I will share them in this post.
But first, if I was asked to sum up my experience as a child with sickle cell. I would say it wasn't bad at all. My parents did a good job making me believe that I did not have sickle cell. Luckily for them, I did not experience much physical pain. Physical pain was mild and occasional and I barely visited the hospital.
The bad thing was I didn't grow like my peers. I was skinnier and smaller than the majority of them so it caused me to feel less confident. I would say my major struggle with sickle cell as a child was my lack of self-confidence and social anxiety.
Growing up with pain
As a teenager, I made it my mission to become less anxious about building relationships and meeting new people. I did a good job achieving that, and this was because I had started understanding sickle cell. I started learning about myself and also how sickle cell affects me.
Soon, I experienced my first vaso-occlusive crisis that was triggered by the emotional stress of getting admission into University. When it happened, my parents and siblings didn't know what was happening but I had an idea that it could be a vaso-occlusive crisis.
Towards the end of my days as a teenager, I was 18 already, I was diagnosed with avascular necrosis of the left femur, a sickle cell complication. It felt like sickle cell has come to rob me of my teenage days.
Getting comfortable with "me"
Nothing prepared me for dealing with avascular necrosis as a young adult. I got comfortable with my body even though avascular necrosis was dealing with it. I learned to survive the pitiful stares during the day and the pain at night without feeling sad for myself.
My life started having its own meaning and I started tasting the freedom of adulthood.
I think that at every stage of our lives, we get to meet a new us. We have to start learning new things and exploring new stuff. And as an adult, it gets more interesting because you have the freedom to try whatever you want (well, maybe before settling to start your own family).
One of my biggest fears as I transition from a young adult to an adult is my sickle cell getting worse. Sickle cell is unpredictable, and I never thought that I would be dealing with avascular necrosis now so my fear is, what does the future hold? A complication or no complications at all?
Hopes & fears for the future
As an adult with sickle cell, you need to know yourself and that means exploring to figure out the things that truly spark your soul. Exploring new things with sickle cell can be a double-edged sword. Fun and painful at the same time.
I have never traveled by air so I fear whether flying would trigger a crisis for me or not. It is a major concern for me because I have a list of places I want to visit in my lifetime. Similar to flying is relocating. I have never gone or lived outside my country Nigeria which means that I do not know if the weather anywhere else would be favorable or not.
Someone told me about a sickle cell warrior that had fewer hospital visits after leaving the United Kingdom to relocate to Nigeria. This meant that the atmosphere in the UK was too cold for him. I fear that when I relocate, how would the weather or lifestyle in the country affect me? On my bucket list, I wrote relocating to New York as one of my goals so there is that fear in me.
My last fear is relationships. This time, navigating a romantic relationship with sickle cell. My relationship life has never been something I took seriously, you’d expect that since I am still young. However, as I become an adult, relationships will become more important.
Meeting people of the opposite sex, going on dates, and leaving without pain. For some sickle cell warriors, having sex can trigger a crisis. How would sickle cell affect my sex life?
Maybe all of these fears are all in my head, maybe I am overthinking things, but I am willing to explore and find out things for myself. I won't let fears hold me back.
What awareness month activities do you plan to get involved in?