Inclusion, Not Seclusion

 

When you stare and silently judge, it makes my process of healing and self-acceptance more difficult. Nodes on my body, wires, and a heart monitor – it’s not what you see every day. I try to hide, be discreet, and not cause unnecessary distraction. I don’t want the attention; I want to hide. But that doesn’t matter, does it? You still see it. You bring up concerns behind my back – “Molly might be a liability”. You question my abilities, without giving me a chance to explain my disease.

I am stronger than you expect. I’m not strong for a heart disease patient. I’m just strong.

Preach what you practice – inclusion, not seclusion. I am an athlete, and there is no footnote necessary to that statement. I climb mountains personally, professionally, literally, and figuratively.

“Don’t create waves”, or “Watch what you say”, I have been told. If you didn’t judge me before knowing me, there would be no waves to create.

You don’t go home at the end of the day, and remove the nodes on your body, watching it pull at your skin, causing it to crack and bleed.

You don’t get anxious when hearing your phone ring with an unknown number. I do. I wonder if it is my cardiologist, telling me they found something new. A new battle that I have to fight.

You don’t go home each night and pray that the scariest cardiac event, the thing you hate the most, will happen, so doctors can finally catch it on a monitor. Catching this event will save my life someday. This event, which brings me crying to my knees on the ground needs to happen while I am wearing this monitor. This event, which always leaves me wondering in the moment, “Is this my last heart beat”, is something I pray to happen while wearing this device over the next 30 days. Is that weakness?

You still see weakness, not strength.

You still don’t understand what it means to be a heart patient, who has gone through what I have, and so many others. Do you know how difficult it is to actually succeed in life? To truly LIVE! I refuse to merely SURVIVE.

I’m not a Heart Disease Survivor – I’m a Warrior.

If this was your life, you might be in the deepest depression. If this was your life, would you have battled against PTSD and won? Or would you let PTSD sandbag you, dead in your tracks, unable to move. Unable to live. Surviving, just to make it to another day.

Another day, watching life happen without you.

I won! I battled debilitating PTSD, caused by my heart trying to kill me, 6 years ago. I won that battle, and my prize was this amazing opportunity to truly live. Eyes wide open, and seeking adventure, all while still remembering the little guy; that person who struggles with their disease. That person who can’t find joy and doesn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I’m being strong for you – the voiceless. The ones who can’t leave their homes. The ones who are too scared to be alone. The ones who try going back to work before they are ready, in fear of losing their job; their livelihood. The ones who think they will never get their life back again.

Don’t be afraid – that was me. If I can overcome the darkness, so can you. Until then, I will be your voice. I will create a path that allows you to struggle less and enter a world that truly believes in inclusion. A world that sees your strengths can be used to move mountains and forward corporations.

If you are curious, ask me. I will talk, educate and inform you about heart disease. I will break your stereotype and help you realize that I put all of myself into my family, work, and passions. Don’t assume that additional hardware on my body means I no longer have the ability to perform at a high level. If anything, it just means I’m going to work harder to change your mind.

My goal is to build stoke, start conversations that create waves, and make a difference in the lives of those affected by pre-existing conditions. You can either be the change, or practice complacency and add to the problem.

Continue to stare. Continue to make judgements without knowing me.

Watch me become stronger, and see the fight build in my soul. I will make positive changes in this world and show that a congenital heart disease patient is capable of even more than the average person.

I will always unapologetically stand-up for the secluded.

“A strong woman is feared because she is who she is. Unapologetically” – Amna Al Haddad

 

Best,

Molly Hemphill

 

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