I could hear a huge crowd cheering and applauding. Though pumped up, I was still full of energy, by looking at the response from the audience after my Belly dance performance in Italy. It was the last night of the trip. I knew in 3 months I was going to be back here, in Europe again. Had just got a mail “Congratulations Frau Mayuri Rajput! You have been selected amongst the top 75 Indian students for the DAAD Scholarship in Germany!” Nothing could be more perfect, I felt. And why not? I knew I had struggled really hard for this for more than a year to the extent people calling me the “crazy” one who always talk about DAAD. Never mind, that moment I felt my life wouldn’t get any better! Little did I know, that would be my last stage performance. Something terrible was about to happen…
I reached Mumbai on 15 June. Celebrated my 23rd birthday on 16th, and the next day left for my college, IIT Roorkee. My friends gave me warm welcome and I had so many trip stories to share that night. That night was the last peaceful sleep I got in months, I suppose. The dark and intense period was about to begin.
The next morning something unusual happened. I wanted to get out of the bed, but I couldn’t. It felt like my body was frozen and I wasn’t able to move it. I didn’t pay much heed at first assuming this must be the after- holiday exertion talking. I somehow let myself out of the bed. Sometime later I realized this was not normal. Without any further delay, I called up ambulance and they took to the university hospital. I couldn’t exactly explain to the doctors that what exactly was happening to me. It just felt like someone was holding my back and legs real tight and not setting me free. Doctor gave me some pain killers and suggested me to rest.
And day by day, my situation just got aggravated. I always had a bad pain in my lower back. My left leg felt like it was on fire 24*7. My left knees used to hurt to the extent I couldn’t sit down to do my daily chores. Left abdomen felt like someone was crushing and twisting my liver and intestine. In short everything below my stomach was paralyzed. I started realizing that the things were just getting scary. I visited the IIT-R hospital again and explained everything. Visiting the hospital had become a daily routine thing, sometimes on my own and other times, ambulance.
Nothing made the situations worse than the “India’s Top Brand IIT” Roorkee doctors. The kind of reactions I got shook me from the deepest core and I was devastated.
“That’s fine, it’s just a normal body pain. Here, take these pain killers.”
“But it doesn’t look like one doctor. It’s been weeks I am suffering, and all I am getting are pain killers!!”
Next, I consulted the physiotherapy section of IIT-R. Thankfully, staff and the doctors were considerate and helpful here. My physiotherapy treatment was started right away. I used to go to the hospital daily for these sessions for traction, massages, electric current, exercises, heating pads and what not. But it just didn’t give ANY relief. I went to the doctors again and pleaded to do some tests to at least get to know what was exactly wrong with me. For the next 15 days, I just gave medical tests. I think I must have given every test possible: Malaria, Dengue, Vitamin, Haemoglobin, Calcium, Uric acid, Thyroid, CBC, urine test and the list continues. Reports- Everything normal. Then, WHAT THE HELL WAS WRONG!!? All these bad thoughts were driving me crazy that what exactly it would be? And more importantly fear of not living my dream of Germany because of my illness.
” Am I having a knee injury?” ” Is anything wrong with my liver that my entire left side paining so bad?” ” Am I suffering from a deadly disease?” Thoughts just went on going wild. I could see myself losing amidst all the sufferings. I had not laughed for weeks. Not slept for days. Pain, more Pain and JUST PAIN. I used to lock myself in my hostel. I had built a wall around me. Nothing felt good. Yes, I could see myself entering in the claws of depression.
My parents called me back to Mumbai. They tried so hard to keep me happy, motivate me, create a positive surroundings around me. Later, it continued. Doctors after doctors, hospitals after hospitals. Again each one said everything was normal. But I had lost trust in doctors because of the response I used to get. Here goes the most shocking one:
“This is the third time you are coming and third time I am saying, you have nothing!! All your reports and X- rays are normal. Stop pretending! Perhaps you have no physical problem. I guess you just need to consult a psychiatrist. You are mentally making up stuff! Show yourself a mental doctor! If you know anyone in personal contacts, show it to him. I am not writing down this in your medical history as it might cause a hindrance in your career.”
My parents were pissed and I, I was speechless. I cried. I cried in frustration, in pain that why are doctors not hearing out! How can I pretend this! This was the hardest time in my life, not just for me but for my parents even more. They saw me in this condition but couldn’t do anything but cheer me and take to different doctors. Support me financially and emotionally. They used to read to me motivational stories of great people. My physiotherapy sessions were started in Mumbai. It did give me some relief and a ray of hope. I started making efforts towards a normal life again. I tried hard to ignore my pain and do something productive. I kept my mind busy. I saw many motivational movies and lectures. People suffer so much, this is nothing. At least you have the most amazing family to support you. I used to calm myself. This was July mid.
I had to report back to IIT-R. I was so scared to get back here, without my family. Those dark nights, lonely room. My journey from Mumbai to Roorkee was the most terrifying one I could have ever imagined. I saw my dad waving at the airport, I tried so hard to smile back. I went to the toilet, cried in fear, “what awaits me after going back to Roorkee?” Little did I know it was not “after” I reached Roorkee, but also the journey, which was dreadful. It was that phase where I couldn’t sit for more than 5 minutes. Only laying down on my back gave me some rest. Entire flight and train journey I sat, walked, stretched and saw people judging me. I was advised by doctors not to sit. Not to walk, not to run, not to wear jeans but loose pants, not to wear heels and every kind of restriction was on my way. I can’t even pen it down about how horrible my journey was sitting and mostly standing all the way from Mumbai to Roorkee. And finally I arrived, for bad.
Lack of attention and care here, made my situation worst. I was mentally unhappy and lonely. Days passed. Each day seemed like a year. My few friends here did cheer me up and for some time I used to forget everything. But then, the dark and long nights came, crushing me down in pain. I was just slowly getting used to the left body pain, then ALAS! Next morning it was my right leg as well! A weird tingling sensation and numbness affected my right leg. So great! Left leg in fire and right? Well it felt like it didn’t exist! I knew I was facing depression and anxiety. I just wanted everything to be normal again. My biggest dream was in front of me and I know I had achieved it. But even this joy wouldn’t make me happy! I just wanted the old Mayuri back! The old me, who was always cheerful, motivated, and so positive. I would be the first girl in the history who would look forward to those 5 days in a month. Because I would try to convince myself, it’s just the menstrual cramps that are annoying you and causing you the pain in back and shooting down to legs, just like other girls! This pain was a million times much tolerable than it used to be for the rest of the month.!
My mom spoke to her brother, who is a psychiatrist about my condition. Mama (that is what I call him), was the only doctor I had faith on. He spoke to Roorkee doctors about my condition and suggested me to do a MRI test. 2 months had gone, unanswered what exactly was wrong with me? I visited the orthopaedic doctor in IIT-R hospital. He was the worst person I would have ever consulted!
“Aapka kuch nahi ho sakta! MRI yaha hota hi nahi hai. Itna hi MRI karwana hai to ask your ‘mama’ to do it, why are you coming here and bothering me!”
That night I couldn’t sleep and early morning I got a sudden anxiety and panic attack. My throat all chocked up and I was feeling hard to breathe. I realized it’s not the physical stress which is harming me more, but the mental torture, pressure and the fear of not achieving my dream. I called my sister and she suggested to take the next day flight straightaway. Next early morning, I had packed all bags and vacated Roorkee. It was august. I saw things repeating again.
This time, we got an appointment with the most reputed orthopaedic and neuro-surgeon doctor, my mama had suggested. He recommended to go for MRI. It was 12 August; my MRI was done. I had to leave Germany on
31st. Few days later, the reports were out. There it was! FINALLY DETECTED!
An abnormality in my L4-L5 disk was observed. It had suffered from multiple conditions like puncture, hyper intensity and desiccation. There was tear with focal extrusion of the disk because of which the gel like cushion had disrupted out of the spine affecting all the nerve roots it touched. Hence my back and all the nerves near it and my leg muscles were affected. Finally, the reason was clear. It was less than a week before my departure date and the same doctor suggested me to get hospitalized for 4 days! My heart skipped a beat. How can I get hospitalized? I have worked so hard for the scholarship. I am not leaving this opportunity. I knew I am not anyway going to be back to normal right away in 4 days! I convinced all including my parents and shook for all the alternatives I would take but go Germany! I was spell bounded by the support and trust, my parents showed in me. Keeping a rock on their hearts they agreed.
And there it was 31st August! I could see my family crying when I was leaving. Deep within I was scared as hell with so many uncertainties, how would I be able to manage, will my condition further aggravate and scary questions. But I knew I had to be strong. I couldn’t show my vulnerable side at this point to my family, while leaving.
Situation didn’t get absolutely normal in Germany too, as expected. Relispray was my new perfume and pain killers my dessert. I hadn’t danced for months! Dance is my passion, this killed me. How will I ever study so hard in future and make my career blossom if I am not able to sit for few minutes at a stretch. Until one day I realized, is this how you live your dream!? Few years from now, do you want to live with any regrets? Stop crying about the pain and see what you have been gifted! Get up and enjoy! You will never get to live this life again. Yes, I felt somewhere my old spirit was relived. I booked a trip to Austria with my friends. Yes, the trip wasn’t all painless. But by this time, I had learned to smile on my pain. There was a time in Germany, I had to call ambulance too. I was treated by doctors there. For 3 months, I was on a treatment there.
It had been a roller coaster ride. But now, I had become a more positive and confident person. I tried to travel as much as possible. Experience things I had never tried before in my life. It was like a therapy. I took pain as a challenge and as an answer to it, I travelled. Only a very few people knew about my condition. I began to get notifications on my Instagram, ” Ah! You have a perfect life. Look at us.” Of course, I had it all but I had chose it to be rather than cribbing about my condition. I just showed the world, the fun and exciting side of my life. ” Such pain and sufferings, & a still wide smile and posing on Instagram?” “Always :)” I said.
And to say, it was beginning of the most amazing days ever! I had become a traveller and explorer!
16 European countries tick! And successfully presented my Master Thesis at the Technical University of Dresden, Germany. Well, that’s my achievement and a big punch to the pain 😉 I had a great company who assured I was fine there. I give credits to the friends I made in Dresden for being there alongside in the darkest days. My condition is so much better now. I can sit, walk for hours. I do swimming now. My home exercises still continue. For the very few days now, when it pains again, I remind myself of the period I was so strong. This too shall soon pass. I have started dancing as well. I hope and I know soon out of there, I am going to kill a stage by my dance performance. Period. And I can never thank enough, to my family. I wish each one gets a family like me 😀
Certainly the best beginnings often come after the most terrible endings. And Chill, don’t worry. Your pain, struggles and failures are going to make your TED Talks longer 😉
“आख में मज़िल थी
ज़िर और सम्भल्त भी रह
आज़िय में क्या दम था
ज़िराि हवा में भी जलत रह “
– Mayuri Rajput