When I was in high school my life changed, as did the lives of many others around me. The experience of my teenage years was very different to most I know. I am told, I am a rare case in all meanings of the phrase. Today a page was turned. The closure was granted. That particular page of the massive leather-bound book which was boldly marked ‘LHN’ along the spine was finally given a new chapter.
Today I looked in a mirror. It was, in a sense, like every other mirror. It showed my reflection, and it served its purpose. However, at the base, this mirror said: “wave a wand to awaken the magic.”
The first time I sat in front of this mirror I was 14. I was not so fresh-faced, although arguably I never am, and felt considerably older than a young teenage girl should. I was four days post surgery, I could not walk, move or eat. I lost a stone in a week, my self-confidence had plummeted below zero and for the first time in my life, I was not able to smile sweeter to try to sway my way out of a difficult situation. I had almost died and had technically been so.
I was the first child in Great Ormond Street Hospital to sit in front of this mirror. Disney donated it to the hospital to glimmer light into the darkness that consumed so much of the hospital. I was the first child to wave the wand at the base and see myself, the poor sallow-faced grey girl, transform into what was considered a princess. The mirror itself was upside down, which ironically personified the dramatic direction my life had taken – my previous worries were of PE kits and what bra I would wear with which pants. My current worries, in that dark period, were now of death and disfigurement.
Despite what was shown within the mirror, even in it’s reversed state, I was displayed with a stained hospital gown instead of a glittering dress, cannulas and arterial lines decorated my wrists where jewellery should have been. After two weeks, I left the ladybugs on the floor guiding my way, I left the loving nurses who became part of our family, I left my pyjamas covered in roses which had nursed my torn muscles and broken bones.
Today, as I sat in front of this mirror, I wondered about all the little girls and boys who have sat in front of this mirror, just like I had. How many, in the five years I had been absent from the corridors of Great Ormond Street Hospital, we’re in a similar position to me? Had they made it home? If they had been lucky enough to do so, where were they now? Did they join Mr Pan? Or did they escape Neverland, and join Wendy in adulthood?
I left that hospital with emotional burdens that still emerge once in a blue moon. I left with, what I thought was nothing. No goodbyes. No last words. Today, as I walked through those doors and past Peter himself, the chapter was closed.
I am not my open heart surgery. I am not my diagnosis. I am not the girl with the grey face and the gown with balloons. I am the young woman who conquered post-traumatic stress and still made it through education. I am happy despite my flaws and whatever blunders I seem to make.
People make mistakes and that’s part of growing up, but also bear in mind that you never really stop growing and that in itself, is a very beautiful thing.