I'm sick. Not in the way that people who put ketchup in their macaroni are - I don't know what's wrong with those people. I'm sick in the way of endless doctor visits and hospital stays. Sick in the way that CT scans and MRIs are my weekly outings. Sick in the way that I've received more "Get Well" cards in my life than "Congrats" ones. I was a sickly child. I didn't gain weight. It was hard for me to swallow food. I often felt short of breath. My limbs would randomly fall asleep when I was sitting normally or even walking. Throwing up daily was not an unusual thing for me. My parents took me to doctor after doctor and were consistently told nothing was wrong."The test results are normal.""Maybe school is stressing you out.""Anxiety. Hormones. Hypochondria."Finally, at sixteen years old, a brain MRI revealed I had Chiari Malformation. Not to sound like a medical hipster here, but you've probably never heard of it. So for a better understanding, I'll give a brief and boring anatomical explanation: Chiari is a malformation of the back of the skull that is present at birth. The back of the skull is too small, forcing a portion of the brain, the cerebellum, to grow down into the spinal column rather than staying contained within the skull. The herniated portion of the cerebellum compresses the brain stem, a sort of "stalk" of tissue and nerves that connects the brain to the spinal cord. This stalk plays a very important role, though. Every piece of information to and from the body travels through this stalk to the brain. It controls respiratory function, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, motor functions, and well, just about everything essential to living. The crowding in this area can also block the flow of cerebral spinal fluid, the fluid that flows up and down alongside the spinal cord and around the brain. People with Chiari experience a hellish myriad of symptoms including headaches, dizziness, blurry vision, trouble swallowing, trouble walking, heart palpitations, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, and an entire laundry list after that. Chiari can lead to paralysis or even death. For lack of a better phrase, this shit ain't no joke.There is no cure. The only treatment is brain surgery which looks to alleviate the progression and symptoms of the compression and nerve damage. The procedure removes a small portion of the bottom of the skull, the back of the top vertebrae, and opens the dural sac of the brain, expanding it with a patch. The herniated brain matter, if it has become dead tissue from being squashed, can also be removed. All of this makes more room for the brain and relieves compression of the brainstem. Unfortunately, these surgeries don't always work. Many people with Chiari end up having two, three, four surgeries. In 2007, immediately after my diagnosis, I had my first surgery. Many surgeons approach Chiari conservatively at first, only removing a small portion of the skull and seeing how the patient responds to that. In my case, my life made a complete turn around. I felt amazing. For eight years I was able to live free of sickness and symptoms. I was able to make memories I will never forget. I spent New Years Eve in Las Vegas. I explored the cemeteries of New Orleans on several occasions. I visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. After a concert in Louisville, Jared Leto tickled the back of my neck to get me to laugh. (Try telling me that is not an important memory.) I graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in sociology, something I am deeply proud of. I learned so many important things and met beautiful and unique people. I got a job as a veterinary assistant, and started taking courses to become a veterinary technician. Every morning I woke up and practiced yoga before work. By 2015, I was living with my then boyfriend, two dogs and a cat, with a white picket fence (it was actually tan, but you get what I'm going for here). I was happy with my life.And then Chiari came crashing down on me like Dorothy's house did on the third witch of Oz. Seemingly overnight, every symptom was back worse than ever before, and an entire array of new symptoms had introduced themselves.I had to leave my job because I was on the constant verge of passing out. I quit driving because my vision had gotten so bad I could only see two feet in front of myself. So I had a second brain surgery in January of this year. The surgery was to expand my dura and to reduce the herniated portion of my brain, hopefully giving room for everything to coexist more comfortably in there. Tragically, this surgery didn't work out as well as the first had. Rather than eight years of reprieve, I got four weeks of reprieve. Everything has gotten worse as the months have gone on. I have pressure in my head that I can only describe as having air pumps fixed to my ears, filling my skull until it's going to pop. Car rides make my head hurt for days. The smallest activity launches my heart into racing and palpitations. Taking a shower leaves me breathless for hours. My vision is failing and my walk is crooked. I haven't drank in over a year, but I couldn't pass a sobriety test if my life depended on it. So I have become confined to my home. I'm on a medical house arrest. I've spent several months now watching life pass me by. I've forgotten what it's like to drive a car, go to work all day, or get up early and practice yoga. I see things that I want to attend, comedy shows or concerts, but know that I would never be up for going to them. My relationship of three years deteriorated until it all-together ended. The life that I knew vanished in such a seemingly short time.To say it has been a trying time would be an understatement. I have felt fear, sadness, and resentment unlike I ever thought possible. I've spent many days crying on end, and not in the dainty Disney princess way, but in the full-on, ugly, "Kim Kardashian regrets her marriage to Kris Humphries" way. I've found myself, a life-long atheist, dropped to my knees, hands clasped in front of myself asking, "...God? Please give me relief. I will stop being rude to my parents. I will stop holding my cat against his will," and then stopping in the middle to ask, "Am I doing this right?" We so often hear of people battling chronic illnesses or even terminal illnesses and how brave they are, how optimistic, how resilient. They look on the brightside and don't let their condition get them down. That's a beautiful, admirable thing. But I want to say to anyone reading this who is sick, who is struggling, it is okay to not be that way. It is okay to be scared or angry, to cry, to scream. There is nothing wrong with hating the card you've been dealt. It is okay to mourn the life you once led. It is perfectly okay to not be okay. The only thing to realize is this: don't let the despair and hopelessness stop you from continuing. Keep going. Always keep going. Wake up every day and just live that day - no matter what it may hold. If it's lying in bed watching Seinfeld, do that. If it's a day of tedious doctor visits and tests, do that. It may sound cliche, but you take one day at a time. There are going to be terrible days, but also beautiful days. Live them all. Keep going.As for me, I've found a neurosurgeon in Manhattan who may be able to help me. It turns out my Chiari has some extenuating circumstances. (Chiari often comes with "friends" that complicate it, but I won't get into anymore anatomy talk.) I'm nervous to have brain surgery for a third time. What if there are complications? What if this one, also, doesn't work? The only procedures left for me are serious and extensive, but I'm willing to try anything. With much hope, my parents and I are going to move to New York to continue this journey and see if I can finally get some of that reprieve I've so badly wished for...so that I can keep going.