I had a little moment with myself the other day. I was driving along with the windows down, my sunglasses on and a nineties playlist crackling through the antique speakers when I realised something rather wonderful. I am thankful that I had encephalitis.
In the past I have always looked back on my illness and wished it had never happened. I had somewhat idolised what used to be and almost felt like I was grieving for the life I once had.
Now if any of you have been through a life changing illness you may be wondering how I could ever be thankful for something that came along and tried to destroy everything I had. The answer is quite simple.
It has taken a long time (almost four years in fact) but I have finally come to the stage in my life where my illness no longer defines me and I can see it for what it actually was, a life lesson.
When I look back at the incredible progress I have made and what I have achieved since becoming unwell I feel a tremendous sense of pride. Of course, relearning to walk and talk were huge achievements but it is the relearning of how to be as a person that has made me feel the most proud.
For a long time I felt guilty about everything. Everyone had given up so much for me and I thought there was no way I could ever repay them. Now I realise that the best way to show those people just how much I appreciate everything they have done for me is to stop feeling guilty and start living my life to the full.
As I was swimming in the lido in the glorious sunshine with my friend Sandra (who has been through even more life lessons than me) we both realised just how lucky we are. If we had not had encephalitis we may not have met each other. If we had not had encephalitis we may not have appreciated the sparkles shining on water. If we had not had encephalitis we may not have been the strong, independent women we are today.
I could easily sit at home feeling sorry for myself. I could think about everything and everyone I have lost. As they say, going through something life-changing really does show you who your true friends are. Instead though, I have decided to strive to achieve my goals and dreams. From a young age I have always wanted to do a ski season, and just last week I was successful in my application to be a chalet host this winter. Yet another aspiration that I could not have achieved had I not had encephalitis.
I know that I have a long way to go, but I also know that I am surrounded by people that love me. I am strong enough to come through something that tried to take my life away.
I am a survivor.
And when you are a survivor you realise something; life is just too short.
Sandra and I at the lido