I finally did it. I’d been thinking about doing this for quite some time, and I finally made the decision.
I have started fresh with a new blog, over at www.itseryne.com. I hope you’ll come and join me over there! It’s still getting up and running, so bear with me as I continue to add and update.
This blog will remain online for the time being, but will eventually be pulled down. I’m in the process of going through my better blog posts, updating and so forth, and will be posting some on the new site.
Thank you to everyone for your support over here. I will cherish my time here, but it was time to rejuvenate and make the blog a much better to place to visit
This post was originally published on BlogHer on March 19, 2015
I’ve been asked if it was worth getting my social media degree. On one hand, in four short years, most things I learned aren’t applicable today. The social media landscape changes too quickly. But there are overarching lessons that inform how I approach my blog or other social media accounts.
Here are 6 lessons I still use daily when it comes to social media.
Social Media is Always Changing
It moves fast. It changes even faster. What was trending one day as the latest marketing tool, won’t be around the next day. Which means, there is always something new to discover and always something new to learn.
My degree may be four years old and I may have graduated, but I haven’t stopped learning the ins and outs of what’s new in the social media marketing world. Knowing that helps me keep perspective.
You Have the Freedom to Try New Things
No, my degree didn’t give me the freedom to try skydiving (wouldn’t that make for an incredible Instagram post…), but it did provide me with a new outlet to think outside the box. Traditional marketing is all about advertisements, commercials, and so on, all of which are expensive.
Social media allows users to see what works for their companies without spending a lot of marketing dollars. The possibilities with social media marketing are endless. What works for one brand, may not work another. And that’s okay. Trial and error is the name of the game in social media until you find something that works.
It keeps me creative in the workplace.
Connect With Like-Minded People
Believe it or not, there are people out there that don’t care to talk about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on all day. They don’t care about the latest trends, and they don’t care about what new marketing scheme you came up with.
By connecting with others who love social media marketing the way you do, it provides you with a group of people who can be a sounding board for ideas. And that same group of people may also be the group who provides you with ideas you hadn’t even thought of.
Knowing how important it is to find your “tribe” workwise also translates into my daily blogging approach.
Knowledge Makes You an “Expert”
I put that loosely only because it seems like you could throw a rock and hit at least 15experts in social media marketing. Sometimes they are people who have learned much of what they know on their own, by reading, experimenting and the like. Other times, they learned about social media in the classroom.
Does one or the other make you any more of an expert? No. What makes you an expert is gathering the knowledge that will help you market your brand properly on social media.
Someday, that social media degree will be just as common as an English degree. So, yes, a social media degree is useful because it sets you apart as an expert in the field. That is, as long as you keep learning.
Everyone Needs to Work for Followers
As much as I had hoped graduating with a social media degree would mean that I would suddenly have thousands of people who would listen to me on Twitter, it didn’t happen, nor will it happen. But what I did discover were the proper tools and etiquette for building a following.
Thank those who do follow you and follow back. Share their work. Repost their pictures. It takes time and effort, but you will see you social media grow. And the hard work will pay off.
Social Media Is Sticking Around
If the growth of some the platforms out there like Instagram and Twitter are any indication about the direction social media is going, I think it’s safe to say that social media is a pretty solid focus for both undergraduate and graduate programs. It’s a growing field, and as the years go on, the need for social media experts will only increase.
My degree is so much more to me than learning the ins and outs of Facebook. If you love social media, and find yourself on it 24/7, and are interested in analytics, tools, and everything else that goes into marketing, this may be the degree for you.
My classes in social media were, by far, the hardest classes I took. But because I was interested in social media marketing, I loved them and excelled in them. And if you feel as strongly about social media marketing as I do, then you should definitely pursue it!
Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.
Do you ever hit that point where life just feels so overwhelming that you need to take a step back to evaluate and breathe?
I recently did, and if you follow this blog at all, then you’ll now that the blog took the biggest hit.
Life hasn’t been overwhelming in a negative sense. In fact, it’s been the complete opposite. But with the photography season picking up and work being quite busy, I needed to step back and re-focus. I needed to think about my goals and look at time management. I needed to find ways to devote time all of the things I love, without over extending myself and burning out.
So that’s exactly what I did. I stepped back and took a breather.
And in taking this breather, I realized that the only person putting the pressure on me, was me. And what I found was that I missed writing. I missed my little corner of the web. And while it was the first to be pushed to the back, I’ve also realized it probably takes up the least amount of time in my day, especially if I pre-plan my content.
My photography takes up a good bit of my free time, and I always make time for it because I love it.
This breather allowed me to realize that this blog is an extension of me and I need to make time for this too. It’s also allowed me to refocus and recharge, and I’m ready to write.
Have you ever just needed to step back and take a breather?
Wow. Thank you for the response on yesterdays post ! After a brief hiatus from blogging, it felt good to dive back in and receive such a warm response from everyone on this post!
Now we move on to the first set of monthly goals to help me achieve my yearly goals. You’ll notice this first one is over 6 weeks, as opposed to four weeks, and that’s because I would like to have the goal starts at the beginning of each month, not in the middle. Which means that this first set will be a little bit longer.
Lose 10 pounds
This might seem like a lot for six weeks, however, I have a lot of weight to lose, and I know a good majority of the first pounds that will come off will be water weight. I have a feeling once I adjust my nutrition and begin consistently working out, the first ten pounds will be pretty easy. At least I hope, since in the past it hasn’t been! Losing 10 in the first six weeks will put at a good starting point in my yearly goal as well.
Exercise a minimum of three times per week
My overall goal is to incorporate more exercise into my life consistently by the end of the year and I know to lose weight, I need to keep moving. Starting now, I want to be active at least three times a week this month. That’s completely doable, and still allows for days when I just need to rest.
Create six blog posts that I’m proud of
What do I mean by this? Simple. Not fluff. I don’t want to bring this blog back and have it consist of me rambling about my day. I want to provide interesting and/or valuable content that people want to read and that will want to share and have their friends read and so on. In order to do that, I need to be inspired and plan. I bought a new Moleskine planner that will help me to create a content calendar, so to speak, and keep my posts that are in the works organized. I also purchased a new journal to jot down any inspiring words or ideas that pop into my head.
Complete updating all older blog posts
I’ve been in the process of updating all of my older blog posts, not just with some edits, but also make sure any affiliate links that could be used are. I don’t intend or plan to overload my posts with them, and I’m only including where I mention a product or already link to something somewhere, but I want to make sure they are there. It’s the first step to begin monetizing my blog.
Put an extra $400 in savings (on top of what is already going in!)
I already set aside a good chuck each month for my personal savings (thank you Automatic Savings Plans from Capital One 360), and I’ve been working hard to build my account back up. It was looking pretty sad for awhile. Eventually I will have a mortgage to pay and I’m not going to have as much extra to put into savings, so at some point the chunk I put away currently will get reduced down. Before that happens, I want to continue to put as much extra away as possible.
Treat myself to a spa pedicure
I just had a pedicure at the end of May for a friend’s wedding, and normally I wouldn’t go again until there was no polish left on my toes. But I plan to treat myself again well before then. It’s summer and I want my feet to look nice.
Well, there you have it. My goals through August 1st. I will be tracking everything to be able to give you the most accurate update possible at the beginning of August!
Have you set up monthly goals for yourself? What about yearly?
It’s hard to believe that I’ve entered the last year of my twenties. I have to constantly remind myself that I am an adult. And I have been adult for several years. There are times when I still feel like I just turned 21, and I don’t have a worry in the world, but in reality, I’m in my late-twenties, with bills to pay, a wedding to plan and a full-time career.
29 is shaping up to be a pretty big year with our upcoming wedding and our goal to purchase a home of our own. We have a lot to look forward too.
However, there has been one thing I’ve been bouncing back and forth with for some time now. I’ve been wanting to start finding a way to keep myself accountable with my many goals. And this blog might just be the place to do this.
In this post, you will find my for the next year; all to be completed by my 30th birthday, exactly 364 days away. At the beginning of each month, I will post my monthly goals that will ultimately help me to achieve my yearly goals. At the end of each month, I will post a recap of how I did with my goals for that month, and where I’m at.
Setting goals is important. I’ve come to realize that, at least in my adult life.
In high school, my goals were simple. Ride often, compete and have fun. Study hard, work hard, graduate and get into a good college. In college, they were to study, learn, enjoy the college experience, graduate and find a job. Same with graduate school, minus the college experience and swap out find a job with find a career.
After I finished graduate school, my goals went by the way side. Sure, I set weight loss goals and money goals, but I never really worked hard to achieve them. I simply shrugged them off and said “I’ll just try again,” when I failed.
I don’t want to shrug my goals off anymore. I want to achieve them. I want to CRUSH them. I want to turn 30, and look back and say, “Yep, 29 was one hell of a year,” pat myself on the back, and set my goals for the next year. I want to finally achieve my adult goals.
Goals for the 29th Year
Lose 60 pounds (give or take a few pounds)
My weight has been an ongoing battle my entire life. I won’t be documenting everything I eat or do, but I will track the overall goal. I know 60 pounds in a year is attainable; it’s 5 pounds per month. With my wedding coming up, I want to look the best I can, and I want to regain my health. I also want to be comfortable with what I wear.
Create a habit of working out at least 3-4 days per week
Habits take 21 days to be created. I need to focus on exercising for at least 21 days to get myself in a groove and keep up this habit. I want working out to feel like second nature to me. I don’t want to think twice about going to the gym in the morning. I want it to just be part of my routine, and the only way that will happen is to be tough on myself and make it happen. I need to make the time.
Blog 1 to 2 times per week (more if I have time!)
I love blogging. I love writing. But when life gets busy, I push the blog to the back seat. But I want to commit to for the blog at least one or two times per week, with good content.
Make at least $100 a month of the blog
Again, long term goal. I know plenty of bloggers out there that make full-time salaries blogging, but I’d like to make enough to put back into the blog for hosting and monthly fees. My hope is to start doing monthly income reports, like many bloggers do, to show my growth and how I’m doing it.
Join the BlogHer Publishing Network
I’ve been blogging over at BlogHer since last year. I’ve posted many times and have had many featured posts included in the Blogging and Social Media section. Once I get back to blogging consistently again, I plan to apply to join the publishing network. I love this organization and can’t say enough good things about them.
Save an additional $2,000 in my emergency account
Ever since I’ve paid off my credit card debt and my car, I’ve been making it my personal goal to build my savings account back up. I intend to continue doing that.
Finish editing my manuscript
This has been my goal for probably the last 6 years. I finally finished the first draft of it. I decided it needed to be longer. Now I’ve been adding to it whenever I can. I really want to have it completely done, in terms of additions and length, by next June. I want to be able to shop it around or self-publish it if I decide too. But I want to be done with it.
Make time for self-care one to two times a month
Self-care for me means facials, pedicures, manicures, haircuts, waxing, etc.
I feel very strongly about all of these goals. All doable, and manageable, especially given my hectic schedule.
I’ll be posting my first round of monthly goals later this week.
I hate writing these words, but I need to write them.
The blog will be on a bit of a hiatus. You’ve probably noticed my lack of posting already. I’ve always been sporadic, but lately, it’s been more so.
It’s not because I don’t completely love my blog. I do. I finally have a design I love. A look that is all my own. And that’s not going anywhere. It’s because I just don’t have the time. And I always said when I don’t have the time, the blog is the first to take a backseat.
I’m hoping in a month of so, I’ll be able to get back to regular posting. But no guarantees. Who knows. You may even see me before then.
Why the hiatus? The photography season has begun. And I need to focus my energy on growing my photography business, both the shoots and the Etsy shop.
Along with the photography, work is busy. And we’re gearing up for weddings, house hunting and so on.
But I won’t be non-existent. I just won’t be blogging here. Make sure to follow me over at itseryne’s instagram account. I’ll be mini blogging there like I always so. You can always follow along with the photography business at eryn e photography’s account.
You are all amazing. Seriously. And I’ll miss everyone during this hiatus. But it needs to happen, at least for the time being.
I could do a nice in-depth list on what drew me to the blogging world. I do like to make lists. It’s probably my Type-A personality. But this isn’t a list kind of post. This is the story of why I started blogging. I’ve told bits and pieces of this story on and off since the blog began. Particularly when I was trying to brand the blog and figure out what I was doing. Now is the time to tell the whole story.
I’ve been writing my entire life. Ever since I could pick up a pen, I was creating stories. When we got our first computer, I began writing there. I kept a journal all through high school. I wrote in it daily with a calligraphy pen, purely because I loved the look and feel of them. I filled around 12 journals over the course of 3 years. I wrote about everything. Yes, there were plenty of details of my life as a 16-year-old high schooler, but I also thought a lot about my life. In a way, I was blogging long before blogging was popular. Only no one else could read it.
Words continued to reign supreme in my life as a Journalism major and English minor. I was in my element. I was writing, but now I was learning to write for a career. Words were my life.
Once graduate school ended in August of 2011, I felt disconnected from the creativity I once had felt. I decided I needed a place to express myself; to be able to write and let the words flow from my fingers once again.
So, A Glimpse Into Eryn’s World was born.
It started as just a place where I wrote. Similar to my journal back in high school. Then, as my photography business began to grow, it became a place to share my favorite imagery. Which I quickly moved away from.
It’s taken me a few years to find my niche and remind myself that I’m not blogging for business. I’m not blogging to make a living. And I’m not blogging to be blogger famous.
Why I Started Blogging…
You know how I said this wasn’t going to be a list post. I lied. This is definitely going to be a list post. Because I love lists.
I started blogging to write more. As I said above, words were my life. And I needed them to be back in my life. This was my way of doing that.
I started blogging to remind myself that I have opinion. When it comes to controversial things, I don’t like to openly express my opinions. I don’t like to get into debates, and I don’t like people telling me my opinion is wrong. I don’t discuss many controversial topics on here, but blogging has reminded me that I’m just as entitled to my opinions as the next person. And if I’m putting them out there, I need to grow thick skin and not get so offended.
I started blogging to allow my creativity flow. There are times when my posts are simple updates. Sometimes they are just a necessity of blogging. But my original thought was to write; personal essays, creative pieces, and more.
I started blogging to share my triumphs, success, failures, and more. I wanted a place, besides social media, to share all the good and the bad. I wanted to share in my success, and I wanted to bask in my failures (which are all learning experiences).
I started blogging because I wanted too. I didn’t start blogging because everyone was doing it. I didn’t start blogging because I wanted to make money. In fact, at the time I didn’t even know I could. I started blogging purely because I wanted too. And that’s what I remind myself every day. Especially when I start focusing on the numbers and the sharing. I take a step back and remind myself that I started this for me. And everything that comes after it is just gravy.
I’m a bit behind on my book round-up. I always try to do this the first week in April, but with vacation and then just trying to get back into my routine, I completely spaced. And now it’s almost the end of April, and I’m just getting to it.
While spring is finally here (it took long enough!), March was definitely still cold and gross. We had a couple of nice days, but for the most part, it was just yuck. Which meant I spent a lot of time reading. Not as much as I have in the past, but I certainly enjoyed sitting on my couch and reading a good book. I read some books for work as well, so I’ll only be discussing the ones I read outside of work.
Synopsis (From Goodreads): Rebecca is young, lost, and beautiful. A gifted artist, she seeks solace and inspiration in the Mediterranean heat of Athens—trying to understand who she is and how she can love without fear. George has come to Athens to learn ancient languages after growing up in New England boarding schools and Ivy League colleges. He has no close relationships with anyone and spends his days hunched over books or wandering the city in a drunken stupor. Henry is in Athens to dig. An accomplished young archaeologist, he devotedly uncovers the city’s past as a way to escape his own, which holds a secret that not even his doting parents can talk about….and then, with a series of chance meetings, Rebecca, George, and Henry are suddenly in flight, their lives brighter and clearer than ever, as they fall headlong into a summer that will forever define them in the decades to come.
Verdict: I was kind of in the middle with this book. I loved the story concept. I thought the descriptions and detail in the book was good. But the book kind of let me down. I think I had higher expectations for it (even though it was a $.99 find!) because the reviews were pretty good for it, but I found it just to be mediocre. I didn’t love it, didn’t hate, but probably wouldn’t recommend it.
Leaving Time – Jodi Picoult
Synopsis (from Goodreads): For over a decade, Jenna Metcalf obsesses on her vanished mom Alice. Jenna searches online, rereads journals of the scientist who studied grief among elephants. Two unlikely allies are Serenity Jones, psychic for missing people who doubts her gift, and Virgil Stanhope, jaded PI who originally investigated cases of Alice and her colleague. Hard questions and answers.
Verdict: I’m a big Jodi Picoult fan. I always have been. And this one did not disappoint. Perhaps I enjoyed it more because I work in a field where I’m surrounded by spirituality, mediums, and so on, but this book really struck a chord with me and I couldn’t put it down. It was a bit different for a Picoult story, but a good one none the less.
Survival Lessons – Alice Hoffman
Synopsis (from Goodreads): Fifteen years ago, Alice Hoffman received a diagnosis that changed everything about the life she’d been living. Most significant, aside from the grueling physical ordeal she underwent, was the way it changed how she felt inside and what she thought she ought to be doing with her days. Now she has written the book that she needed to read then. In this honest, wise, and upbeat guide, Alice Hoffman provides a road map for the making of one’s life into the very best it can be. As she says, “In many ways I wrote this book to remind myself of the beauty of life, something that’s all too easy to overlook during the crisis of illness or loss. There were many times when I forgot about roses and starry nights. I forgot that our lives are made up of equal parts sorrow and joy, and that it’s impossible to have one without the other. . . . I wrote to remind myself that in the darkest hour the roses still bloom, the stars still come out at night. And to remind myself that, despite everything that was happening to me, there were still some choices I could make.
Verdict: If I was going through a health crisis, or knew someone that was, I would definitely recommend this book to them. I had gotten this book when it was on sale. I didn’t realize it was short (under 100 pages) and more of quick thoughts, not an actual memoir, when I bought it. But, I’m happy it was the first thing I’ve read by Alice Hoffman because now I know more about her personal story, and know that she is a phenomenal writer.
Synopsis (from Goodreads): An exploration of lives touched by greatness and tragedy in equal measure, Roorbach’s latest novel traces towering Princeton graduate and NFL player–cum–restaurateur David “Lizard” Hochmeyer in his attempt to unravel the tangled conspiracy behind his parents’ murder in 1970. When his parents are killed in front of him at a restaurant, David believes the culprits are connected to his neighbor, the elegant ballerina Sylphide, whose rock star husband also died under mysterious circumstances, and with whom David has fallen heedlessly in love. As David trades a career in football for one in food, his sister, Kate, a tennis star with “tough girl” endorsements, slides into paranoia over their parents’ deaths. It is a soapy and thrilling indulgence, a tale of opulence, love triangles, and madness, set against a sumptuous landscape of lust and feasts, a sensory abundance that fails to mitigate the sorrows of David’s youth.
Verdict: I had a hard time with this book. The synopsis drew me in. It sounded so interesting. The premise was good, but it was almost too descriptive. And it bounced around quite a bit, which could get confusing. And I don’t get confused easily. Let’s leave it as this. There were parts I enjoyed. There were parts I just wanted to get through. And there were parts that were neither here nor there. Read if you wish. Perhaps you’ll like it more than me.
Help for the Haunted – John Searles
Synopsis (from Goodreads): It begins with a call in the middle of snowy February evening. Lying in her bed, young Sylvie Mason overhears her parents on the phone across the hall. This is not the first late-night call they have received, since her mother and father have an uncommon occupation, helping “haunted souls” find peace. And yet, something in Sylvie senses that this call is different than the rest, especially when they are lured to the old church on the outskirts of town. Once there, her parents disappear, one after the other, behind the church’s red door, leaving Sylvie alone in the car. Not long after, she drifts off to sleep only to wake to the sound of gunfire.Nearly a year later, we meet Sylvie again struggling with the loss of her parents, and living in the care of her older sister, who may be to blame for what happened the previous winter. As the story moves back and forth in time, through the years leading up to the crime and the months following, the ever inquisitive and tender-hearted Sylvie pursues the mystery, moving closer to the knowledge of what occurred that night, as she comes to terms with her family’s past and uncovers secrets that have haunted them for years.
Verdict: Another book I thought sounded pretty incredible. Thankfully I wasn’t as disappointed with this one. I always love a good mystery/ghost story, and was thrilled to get my hands on this one. While it was a mystery of sorts, it didn’t have as much of the paranormal aspect as I had hoped. But, it was a good story nonetheless, and I enjoyed getting lost in it.
I hope you enjoyed the March round-up! April’s will be here before you know it! Guess I better get reading 😉
(Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. By purchasing items via these links, I will earn a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay for said items.)
I hate writing these posts. I hate putting it out there. I’ve done it too many times. I’ve started and stopped my health and fitness journey more times than I can count. I lose the weight, then I gain it back and then some. It’s discouraging. It’s scary. And I hate it.
And yet, instead of changing things all those others times I stopped and started, here I am starting again. I’m not going to say it’s the last time, because that sets me up for failure. But this time, I have to work as hard as possible. I can’t let myself feel defeat. I have to push. If I don’t see results right away, I need to be patient and work harder.
I need to know that it was a long process to put this weight on, and it’s going to be a long process to take it off. It’s not going to happen overnight. But I can do this.
Why this post on a Monday morning? Because I’m starting my health journey for the millionth time this morning. I’m refocusing myself. I’m reminding myself that I have to do this. I can’t keep living at the weight I’m at. It’s not healthy. It’s not about appearance anymore. It’s about my health. And that needs to change.
In less than a year, I will be getting married. Yes, we will finally set a date. In two months, I start trying on wedding dresses. While I know, in two months, I won’t be anywhere close to my goal, I hope to be down at least 10 pounds. I know dresses can be taken in, and that’s my plan.
I know a year is plenty of time to lost the amount of weight I need to lose (around 65 lbs). But I’m just going to focus on doing the best I can do.
So here we go. Starting over again. But this time, I feel like the switch finally turned on and I’m ready to do this.
At 4 years old, you never expect to end up in one of the largest hospitals in Boston, surrounded by doctors in white coats, enduring test after test, prick after prick, all in the name to walk again.
But I did.
Let me back up. 25 years ago this coming April, started out like any normal month. I was an active four-year old. An only child of two wonderful parents. I was in pre-school, and was getting ready to enter kindergarten in the fall. I loved arts and crafts, playing on the swing set, and just being a typical kid.
At 4 years old, I had learned to walk just a couple of years prior. I was starting to become more independent. I was finally becoming a big kid. I wasn’t a baby anymore. Well, at least in my mind I wasn’t.
But in a just a couple of day’s time, that all changed. I had been fighting a virus. Like every other child that spring. Except mine had ulterior motives other than to keep me off the playground.
The details surrounding my diagnosis are a bit fuzzy. I was four after all. So bear with me.
This is what I can remember from that fateful April morning, in bits and pieces.
I remember riding my bike in a circle in our small garage. I still wasn’t feeling well. I remember falling off, and landing on my knees. But I was having trouble standing, and walking. I remember my parents rushing me off to my pediatrician’s office and him asking me to walk down the hallway. My pediatrician knew what was happening just by my gait. A rare illness called Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
I remember being rushed to Boston in the back of my parent’s blue station wagon, while lying across the backseat. I can’t remember if falling off the bike and going to my pediatrician’s all happened in the same day. But I know it was pretty close together.
My parents told me when I was older that my pediatrician wanted me to go by ambulance. That I would get to Boston faster. He made a call to Mass General Hospital and they were ready for me. But my parents didn’t want me to be traumatized, or scared, by the ambulance ride. I was 4. I didn’t know what was happening to me. I just thought I was having trouble walking.
They also told me later on that they had never driven so fast. They were pulled over as they neared the city, and my dad explained what was going on to the police officer. He told them to go. To get me there as fast as they could. If I could meet that cop today, I would thank him. He didn’t keep my parents waiting for a speeding ticket, when they could have at the hospital, trying to figure out what was happening to me.
They were ready and waiting for us. They whisked me off for test after test. I remember being surrounded by doctors on a hospital bed and covered with white sheets. I was in the pediatric ICU. I underwent a spinal tap, along with multiple other tests, to see what was still working (legs, arms, etc.)
I was treated by one of the top pediatric neurologists in Boston, Eileen Ouellette. If anyone reading this knows her, I would love to get in touch with her. The last I found of her is either she is living on Nantucket now, and she was elected vice president of the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2005-2006. Without her, I don’t know what my life would be life today.
She confirmed the diagnosis. Guillian-Barre. And at the time, a very rare syndrome. So rare, in fact, that the Boston hospitals had yet to see a child with it. They consulted with doctors across the country trying to determine a course of treatment.
I spent 3 days in the pediatric ICU. I was isolated. My parent’s had to stay in a small room down the hall. I was alone. And at 4 years old, completely petrified. I remember screaming for my parents and buzzing my buzzer. I didn’t want to be myself. I was in a scary hospital, in a scary room, hooked up to all kinds of machines, and I couldn’t get out of bed without help. But after three long days, I was transferred to a regular room in the pediatric unit for the remainder of my stay.
I stayed at Mass General Hospital for a total of 7 days. 7 days of rigourous treatment. 7 days of painful therapies.
I have two very vivid happy memories from my stay. The first? Playing in the children’s playroom with other pediatric patients. All of us in wheelchairs. Laughing. And completely forgetting that we were in a hospital. Most of us probably didn’t quite understand what was happening. And the second was my bath time with one of the aids. She was just wonderful. Her and my mom wore raincoats one day, and kept adding bubble bath to the tub so I could splash and play like a normal kid.
My worst memory? My IV got infected one night. They had to rush me to an OR to replace it. Thankfully, I don’t remember too much about it. But I remember how painful it was and how scared I was.
But after 7 days, things started to get better.
I was sharing my room with a baby. I’ve always thought her name was Renee, but I could be wrong. She had spina bifida. I remember my parents being there and we had some other guests in the room, including our priest that we were very close to when I was growing up, Father Jamie. I heard her crying. I kept saying ‘Mommy, the baby is crying’ but no one heard me. So I did the only thing I could think of. I climbed out of bed, holding on to whatever I could find, and walked over to her crib.
Yes. I walked. After nearly 7 days of being essentially paralyzed, I got up from my bed and walked. It was second nature. It made sense to me. But when I turned around to say she was crying again, everyone was staring at me with their jaws on the floor.
The treatment was working. At least that’s how I remember it.
I was released from the hospital in mid-April. I can remember vividly driving into my driveway to our forsythia bushes in full bloom. And laughing because I reminded myself that my Papa could never say ‘forsythia’ so he just called them yellow bushes. At 4, I probably couldn’t say it either. I was probably trying in the car, which is what got me laughing.
Even though I was home, walker in tow, I wasn’t home free yet.
I endured weeks of intense physical therapy. Painful physical therapy. Guillian Barre is the only disease that paralyzes you from the legs up. I was lucky. Well, lucky in the sense that my legs were paralyzed and my arms had some paralysis, but nothing more than that. It can be much worse. The disease has the potential to paralyze your respiratory system and so much more.
I endured both occupational therapy and physical therapy. My therapists were sweet, caring and pushed me hard. It took some grueling swimming, stretching and every other kind of exercise to get my legs and arms working again. It was horrible. Remember I was only 4. I hadn’t built up any kind of pain tolerance yet. And being in that much pain at 4, and still being able to remember it at 28, I know it was painful.
Even when I was in pain, crying and wanting to quit because I just wanted to go home and watch TV, they pushed me to take that extra step, and to go just a little harder. They refused to let 4 year old me quit. And I’m glad they didn’t let me.
Because it worked. All of their hard work paid off.
I went for follow-ups through the years, until I was probably 6ish (again, fuzzy on the details). At the time, my doctors had told my parents they weren’t sure if I would be able to participate in sports, or normal activities. I had (and still do not have) any reflexes in my knees, elbows or ankles.
Boy did I prove them wrong. I played the gamut of sports (softball, soccer, swimming, ice skating, skiing, and so on), but didn’t find my one true love of horseback riding until I was 9. And even that was painful. I worked so hard at it because I loved it. But would come home crying and in pain. But I worked through it.
I also suffered from a pretty depleted immune system from the treatment. As I got older, it got better, but for a long time, I was always that kid sick with something. Just another side effect.
But here I am, 25 years later. Still without my reflexes, and possibly a bit more injury prone (but that’s probably just because I’m klutzy), but I’m here. Thanks to some wonderful doctors who decided that they were going to cure a little girl who contracted a rare disease that they had never seen in a child before.
Not only was I walking, and running, just a couple of short years after, but I was an athlete. A strong athlete. Proving that, you can do anything you put your mind too.
I am a Guillain-Barre survivor.
I can’t write this post and not thank my parents. I was four. I was their baby. Their only child. They were my rock through this. Alternating nights on the pull out sofa, driving me to PT, and everything else. Seriously. You are the best. I love you both. (And my family, and friends, and everyone else that was around during that trying time. I wish I remember more of the ordeal, specifically the love and prayers that surrounded me and my family.)