I loved people. They were my energy, my strength, and my drugs. I was hopelessly and happily addicted, and couldn't quit them, even if I tried. I thrived on interacting with people. I spent my entire heart and soul on them, and in return, I received laughs, love, and one hell of a high. It was totally worth it.
Then, it happened, and I lost them, seemingly forever. My drugs weren't taken away from me; in fact, they were all around me, unknowingly mocking me with their presence. I was ripped away from them, locked away, and forced to give them all up, cold turkey. You know the saying, "Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink." That is exactly how it felt. Everyone was still all around me, but impossibly unreachable. All of my muscles involved in breathing, including my diaphragm, were completely paralyzed, as well as my face, lips, tongue, and vocal chords. I had irreversibly lost my voice, and along with it, my personality, my charm, my drugs, and myself. I had so many crucial concerns, unbearable fears, and heartbreaking thoughts I wanted and NEEDED to tell my family, my friends, my doctors and my therapists, but I had no way of expressing anything. With no vocal language or body language, I was resigned to feeling hopelessly terrified and endlessly alone, at a time when I needed everyone so much.
In a book I read recently, The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, it states, "In bantering lies the key to human warmth." Buttering or conversing is the way we interact and connect with each other. Our ability to talk to each other makes us so human, so I felt less than human, much less. I was so starved and craving that human warmth, but my every relationship to the outside world felt unbearably hollow, and the withdrawal effects were suffocating. For example, for Valentine's Day, I had to settle for getting my serious boyfriend a card, with a short message from me that I frantically tried to spell out with my dysfunctional eyes and an alphabet board. After about three hours, plenty of exhaustion, and endless frustration, I finally spelled out ten measly, cliché words, but I was desperate. Where's the warmth, connection, or dignity in that? Needless to say, that relationship, sadly, did not last. I couldn't help but constantly feel empty, unnecessary, obsolete, and ineffectual. Sadly, those are emotions I struggle with even to this day.
One day, a therapist decided to show me some new, insane, dare I say miraculous technology. With slight movements of my head, I could control the mouse and an on-screen keyboard. Suddenly, I had relatively easy access to the entire Internet -- my email, Facebook, Twitter, everything. Just minutes before, I only had access to, well, myself. This may not sound like a big deal, but it truly changed my life, for the better. It ultimately and eternally freed me, when nothing and no one else could. I started a blog, called My Stroke of... Luck?, to keep everyone updated about my progress, but it turned into oh so much more.
Now I've proudly walked around a state math competition sporting a "Mathlete" nametag and brought my swagger and skills to Science Olympiad contests all of my young life. But now, metaphors and similes were suddenly bursting out of me like I was Emily Dickinson. I opened the gates of my mind, and words, fears, emotions, and stories started gushing out like a waterfall, and to this day, they've shown no sign of relenting. So, there it was, out of nowhere. Covered by layers of fear, behind a barrier of insecurity, in the deep, dark corner of presumed emptiness, there it was. My voice. Loud and clear, and 100 percent pure me. My horrible experience, my months of forced introspection, and my unquenchable desire to be heard, gave me a powerful yet vulnerable voice. Over time and with practice, I can now type completely by myself with my right hand on my iPad. There is absolutely nothing artificial about this voice now.
In the cyber world, I am a complete person: fun, smart, witty, and charming. But in the physical world, I am, well, a work in progress. But my voice is slowly catching up to my mind. In fact, just this morning, I had a normal conversation with my housekeeper in Spanish about women's rights in her home country of Honduras, versus those in my parent's home country of India. Whoa. That took a lot of awesome articulation and breath support if I don't say so myself. There is nothing like the high you get from connecting with someone in person, but it doesn't happen for me enough anymore (yet). In the meantime, I've found an even more powerful voice, one that can be heard, and felt, by thousands. You could say that writing is my new drug of choice, and again, I wouldn't even try to kick this habit. My therapists are so excited because my neck muscles appear to have gotten stronger recently because I'm finally able to hold my head up. But, what they don't realize is that my neck muscles were the first of my muscles to return and rejuvenate. I can hold my head up now because I actually have a reason to hold my head high. For the first time in four years, I finally have something to be proud of - I am a writer.