The Puppy Is Alive!


With another semester of college done, I can truly say I thrived under exceedingly difficult circumstances. Several months ago, I vowed to stop trying to live up to the expectations people had for me as a top student in my program, but instead, I ended up exceeding them with yet more awards and accolades—I got all A’s, again. Frankly, I’m not sure how I do it…

But unfortunately, instead of coming home and taking a victory lap, I staggered across the finish line of the semester and face-planted with a flare. The drive home was interrupted by my first panic attack in a year, and the moment my mom pulled into a gas station, I got out of the car and started yelling, bawling, threatening to run off, and ticking violently, surely appearing psychotic to everyone around us. Somehow, my mom eventually coaxed me back into the car, but I spent the rest of the trip completely tormented by thoughts that tried to tell me I wanted to die.

In typical PANS fashion, I’ve been falling hard and fast into a very dark place. The day I got home, I could do nothing but lie on the couch doing mindless activities on the computer to distract myself from the tormenting, looping thoughts. But at some point one evening, my concentration on an iPad game lapses, and the thoughts come rushing back.

My mom looks over and notices the tear trickling down my face. She knows what’s coming…

Indeed, I can’t hold it in any longer. I burst out into a rant about how fat I am, my latest 20-cookie binge, the shin splints keeping me from running, the torment in my brain, the dreams I’ll never achieve thanks to PANS, and the hopelessness of what seems like an endless cycle of relapse and recovery.

“I shouldn’t have come home. All I do is make you all unhappy!” I finally blurt out, upon seeing my mom join me in crying.

She tries to remind me of the joy I also bring and says her tears are because she can’t help but hurt for me. She tells me to imagine I had to watch a puppy being tortured, and that I’m that puppy to her. I mutter yet another suicidal remark before my dad interjects:

“It’s not any better if the puppy is dead.”

I know he’s right—I really do.  But sometimes, this makes me feel even more hopeless because I know I’m stuck living in a miserable condition for the time being.  However, some part of me deep down knows that permanent PANS is not my destiny, so that’s why I choose to keep enduring flares like this one and not give up.

“We’re going to see the Lyme doctor this week,” my mom reminds me, trying to give me a ray of hope that we’ll find something to get me better. But you know what? I’m sick of being a human guinea pig while doctors figure out how to treat a disease that, despite increasing research, is still poorly understood. I’m tired of enduring what sometimes feels like two years of medical experiments with no conclusive results.

But alas, this puppy is not dead. It may be tortured, but the torment will not kill it—not physically, not mentally. And historically speaking, whenever the pain comes, it soon ends with the right intervention.

Sometimes, when I’m in a place like this, I try to not think about my “real” self—the person I am when the tendrils of torment and despair are not constricting me. I don’t like to realize how many things I’m missing out on or to understand how much I’m no longer able to do. But truth be told, I somehow accomplished everything I wanted this semester, and I even ended up with more friends than ever before.  Life isn’t always as hard and painful as it is at the moment.

So it’s true: this puppy is still very much alive and fighting. And my successful semester proves that I’m determined to someday win the war with PANS.

8 thoughts on “The Puppy Is Alive!

  1. You got this. You are expressing exactly what you need to express. Then put one foot in front of the other and celebrate each step as a success. I’m cheering for you.

  2. I’m so proud of you. I know it sucks. But, Wow! You are doing so well and the fact that you can hold it in until you are heading home is a huge accomplishment. I can’t wait until my son is old enough to read your post. He will be inspired by you!

    1. Thank you! It means a lot that you say your son will be inspired by me. 🙂 I find that it always helps me if I can focus on everything I have been able to do instead of all my present challenges.

  3. You just keep on fighting & surpassing everyone’s expectations! I am too familiar with watching the torment, as are your parents,but we all know living with the torment is a heavier task. Wish I could rid you & others of the torment. It’s so unfair but somehow it hs to amount to some greater good in God’s plan. My faith has truly been tested. Writing about is cathartic, get it out. You do it beautifully.

    1. Thanks, Melanie. Writing always seems to help. And yes, this is all definitely a big test of faith for all of us, I think. I’m just trusting that somehow, God is going to make all of this turn out for the better. Sometimes I can’t imagine how that could be, but I do my best to believe it!

  4. This puppy is more than alive. She is fighting with all she has and will win. You write with ease and such feeling – honestly my heart aches for your parents as I know how they feel…..keeping you all in my thoughts and looking forward to hearing you are feeling better.

    1. Thank you! Yes, in some ways I think it’s just as hard for the parents, but in a different way. I’m looking forward to being able to write about feeling better soon, too, I hope.

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