The Lotus Flower

I have always liked the story about the lotus flower and how it blooms into existence. The lotus flower must trudge its way through the darkest mud and push through the heaviest of waters to see the light. The flower struggles to reach the surface. Once it feels the sun, the flower opens and transforms into something beautiful.

I was bright-eyed and eager to learn when I started college in 2009. My first year in college, I suffered debilitating health issues. Doctor and emergency room visits were plentiful with out-of-state trips made to see specialists. It was an exhausting process. During this time, I found college to be challenging both emotionally and physically. I found myself torn between continuing my studies and dropping out. It didn’t take long for me to realize giving up wasn’t an option. I realized that giving up would let the disease win. I pushed through school dedicating myself to my studies and fighting my illness.

Life took another strange turn for me when I finally enrolled in a required speech class. Time and again I would enroll in the course and then drop it. I didn’t feel I could juggle my health issues and a stressful class that consisted of speaking to a room full of strangers. I thought to myself, “What would I speak about? I have nothing to say! I can’t do this. I’m not strong enough!” As fate would have it, I met an awe-inspiring instructor who was a cancer survivor. He put me in the most uncomfortable situations in front of my fellow students. He knew I had a story to tell, and he wouldn’t let me sit down until I told it. I was frightened. But most of all, I was hesitant to tell everyone that I had lost faith in Western medicine. I felt the healthcare system had failed me. My instructor coaxed stories and emotions from me that I never knew existed. He taught me how to embrace my health issues and to own them. He persuaded me to share what I had been through and what I had learned. In many ways, the class was my therapy. I began speaking freely about my health. I acknowledged it with a strange sense of love and appreciation, instead of utter disgust and resentment.

It took longer than it should have, but in 2013 I graduated with honors. I accomplished far more than I ever imagined possible. Fast forward to 2015, I am now earning my bachelor’s degree in nutrition. Much has changed in these past few years, but I am still learning how to coexist with an autoimmune disease. Every day is a challenge. Some days, it’s hard to get out of bed due to the overwhelming fatigue and body aches. However, on my worst days, I am reminded of speech class. I found my voice in speech class realizing there was an important message inside of me. A message I wanted to share with others who struggle with the same tormenting disease.

I have learned volumes about myself and how my body functions. I have suffered, but this journey has taught me about my strengths. I have also learned where I am weak. I have learned that health is a delicate balance of both strength and weakness. I had to learn what weakness was in order to understand that I am capable of being strong and healthy again. On days when I experience unbearable flare-ups, I remind myself I must tip the scale toward strength. The warrior within me wouldn’t have it any other way.

You might ask, “What was the purpose of referencing the lotus flower earlier?” It’s simple. I am the lotus flower. I clumsily tread through the thickness of mud and forcefully push my way through the murky water, regardless of what this body of mine is battling. Each day I rise to the sun and bloom anew into someone who is not restricted by fears or defined by an illness. I just bloom. And my God, I so deserve to bloom.

Mandi Allen
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