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Harshada Rajani Headshot

From Invisible to Invincible

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Have you ever felt invisible? As if your every action and every emotion remained unseen? Has it ever felt like the world was moving and shaking around you, but you were frozen in place, resigned to watching the world unfold without you? November 29, 2008 -- I woke up in a room I didn't recognize, with no recollection of how I got there. And the kicker: I was completely and painfully alone.

I tried to get up, but my body refused to budge. I tried to cry out, but all that came out of my mouth was silence. Fear coursed through me like a tidal wave, crashing down so forcefully, I swear my heart stopped. After what felt like an eternity, after the terror and curiosity-inspired torture had disseminated my heart into pieces, there was only one thing that could keep me from self-destructing. I saw them. At my bedside were the warm, smiling, familiar faces of my brother and my parents, showing a confidence and peace that felt mystical. For a second there, I felt comforted, like their smiles were shielding me from all those fears and questions that were consuming me. But I couldn't hug them, I couldn't tell them I loved them, I couldn't even smile at them, I could just cry. Cry and cry and cry, and hope that through my silent tears, they could feel my love.

But that fleeting sense of safety only lasted a moment, then it was back to reality, one that was clearly in no rush to go anywhere. Before, when I had a big test coming up in medical school, I would spend hours on Facebook instead of studying, and I would always say, "I'm like totally a waste of space!" Sick twist of fate: now I realized I actually was one. The next few months, and to a slightly lesser extent -- the next few years, I was motionless, speechless, lifeless. I was completely aware of the world around me, but completely unable to interact with it. Some people describe it as being buried alive but I think it feels like something between that and hell.

I couldn't control anything in my world, my life, my happiness, or my future, and for a former control-freak, this was a mental torture I couldn't bear. Everyone would try to be so gentle with me, but it was inevitable that I was beat up everyday. My arm would get stuck under me when they turned me or my foot would get hit during a transfer. But I couldn't do anything about it, except wait and hope someone noticed my pain-stricken, tear-soaked face. If I was so invisible to the world, what the hell was the point in keeping me in this world?! I had to face the fact that I lost a life so full of meaning, and traded it in for one that was painfully meaningless. Would I ever move anything again? Would I ever gain any semblance of my life back? Would my boyfriend still love me? Would anyone still love me... ? It didn't matter who I was, or what I believed; I couldn't compete with a world that was capable of doing this to me. These thoughts and questions built up inside me and erupted out as a constant stream of tears, all day and all night.

The only battle I could fight was therapy -- I could put my head down and my fears aside, and work harder than I had ever worked before. I couldn't fight with fate but I could certainly work to get the odds in my favor. But besides therapy, what else was I good for? World's oldest blubbering baby? It truly destroyed me was that I wasn't adding anything to the world around me; if anything, I was hurting it and the people around me. I was physically and definitely emotionally really hard to handle. But my family refused to back down, refused to give up on me, refused to let the world keep me invisible. No matter how much I cried or how bleak my future looked, the confidence and peace they showed on that first day, never wavered. They believed in me. Somewhere, very deep down in my heart, I also had a teeny, tiny belief that I was going to get better, but that belief was hidden beneath all my fears, smothered by all my concerns, and poisoned by the awful things I heard people say. I slowly realized, that alone, yes, I was useless, powerless, invisible, but with my family's belief in me, I could be powerful. Fate had silenced us once already with this horrible injury, but we weren't staying quiet anymore. With my ceaseless fighting through therapy, and their relentless push and support, together, we were, and are, a force to be reckoned with. And we won't let fate win.