If you knew me before 2020, no you didn’t.

By Chanda Alicea

Who else gets the feels from this quote? If I would have seen this quote before the end of March, I would have dismissed it and continued thinking that is not relative to me. But now that just isn’t true. Like everyone else, 2020 started out normal. School was back from Christmas break and we were moving along. I dove head-first into a new journey by taking the plunge and becoming a Disney Travel agent. Aside from that January and most of February were uneventful for us. Like everyone else, news about COVID-19 had started infiltrating our lives, but it had not yet impacted us yet, so I wasn’t worried. 

But then the end of February, came and my girl got sick. To be honest, I think she caught the ‘Rona, but I can’t prove it. What I can tell you is that she tested negative for both the flu and strep and her pediatrician said that it was a virus that we just had to let it take its course, which we did. She felt better just in time for our trip to Disneyland, but she still wasn’t herself and I was a worried mother left with tons of questions. Then the pandemic hit, and schools were shut down and she couldn’t go back to school, but I told myself that although this was tough, it wasn’t the worst thing and we would get through this.

But then came the wrecking ball that changed our lives forever. Type 1 Diabetes. I won’t get into the details that led to the ER visit, they aren’t relevant, but I can tell you that my nagging and overthinking/overreacting that something was wrong paid off. I was thankful to have an answer to what was wrong, however as any ONE parent who has had to be the sole caregiver and stoic, tough support system during a hospital visit in this unbelievable time, holding your shit together while facing the WORST news of your life in order to keep a brave and reassuring front for your kid is nothing I’d wish on anyone. 

Finding the time during the rush of how quickly everything moved to make phone calls to immediate family who are in just as much disbelief as you are SUCKS. Knowing that they feel all the pain, empathy and helplessness that you do as you go through this alone because they can’t be with you both hurts in ways I can’t even explain to you and you only know what I mean if you’ve been there this year (and if you’ve had to experience this, let me just say I’m sorry and I feel you). 

While our time in the hospital passed by in a blur, it also felt like time stood still and was the longest 4 or 5 days of my life. I had a migraine the entire time we were there. I battled through it with coffee and ibuprofen 600 that never helped and provided little relief. It was caused by stress, heartbreak and tears. I was in such shock and disbelief that first night we were in the hospital, I felt nothing. I was on mom autopilot, doing everything to make my girl as comfortable as possible. I held my emotions in not knowing when she might wake up and I wasn’t willing to risk the breakdown I deserved because she needed me at my best and I didn’t want her to know how seriously sick she was.

 I don’t how I was able to make the drive home from the hospital to grab stuff for us because I cried the entire way home. For the roughly 2 hours I was away from my girl, I fell apart. Everything that I had been holding in spilled out in grief and anger. I wouldn’t even let my mom hug and console me. I wanted to be seen and touched but at the same time I didn’t. Grief works in funny ways, and I don’t even know if I’ve passed through all the stages at this point. 

What I do know, is that this by far is the worst thing that has ever happened to me and that’s really saying something considering what personal events I have had to overcome in the past long before I was ever a parent. What I can tell you, is that this diagnosis and life altering event has changed me. I don’t talk about how life and death this disease can be, but that’s what we deal with every day. This disease can be “managed” but never really “controlled”, we do the best we can, but it’s all a numbers game and there are times when we think we have a handle on it and then it laughs in our faces. 

I’ve learned that I can handle far more than I ever thought possible. I have a different perspective about life in general, especially when it comes to what is important and who I can depend on for support. I’ve learned that people can’t handle our life when it comes to my kid having a debilitating and deadly autoimmune disease, that some people don’t know how to handle my life now, so they avoid it reacting to it. I’ve learned who is sticking around, who cares enough to check in, where loyalties lie, who will pick us up when we’re down and MOST IMPORTANTLY, who deserves our time, appreciation, love and energy. I’m thankful for the heartbreaking lessons I’ve learned. They’re helping me move, on, grow and slowly let go of a lot of baggage and hurt I’ve carried around for most of the year that I don’t have space for.

In closing, whoever has had to painfully grow and move on from their old life thanks to 2020, find a way to embrace it. Accept that it’s okay that people don’t know the 2020 you. I’m okay admitting that this quote encompasses everything I’ve felt about the last 6 months of my life. 

– Chanda

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