Last February, I was visiting my best friend in DC when I ended up in the hospital. What started as a cramp became a stitch in my side, and then a pain in my chest that radiated through my arm. After the pain was so bad that I started hysterically crying (and ladies and gentleman, I am NOT a crier), I went to the hospital. I felt like I was having a heart attack, but I was only 22 and 22 year olds don’t have heart attacks and I was scared and nervous, so I didn’t tell the doctors what I was feeling. Instead, I took about 90 million tests to determine that I was having a pulmonary embolism, or a blood clot in the lung.

I still can’t believe it. Blood clot. A 22 year old with good cholesterol, good blood pressure, and no outward signs of problems was having a blood clot. Crazy. Turns out, it was caused by birth control, which is actually fairly common. I swear, anytime you have something weird happen to you like 90 people come out of the woodwork with the same deal. Through my embolism, I met a bunch of young women who’d had the same thing happen to them.

The thing about getting sick is it forces you to think about your priorities. For me, it caused me to move from San Francisco to New York City to be closer to my Long Island-based family. It forced me to realize that I am mortal and that I can die and that death is something that can happen to anyone. I learned to take care of myself – all alone in CA I was in charge of taking my daily medication and administering the twice daily shots I had to take. I learned to say “no” or “I’m too tired” or “I can’t do that” because there were things I physically couldn’t do. I bounced back pretty quickly – it was tough, but I’ve never been one for wallowing too long and quite frankly, staying at home in bed was lame. I was back at work in a week, which some may say was foolish, but was really what I needed.

One thing I discovered was community. I joined a group online for other folks with PEs and we talked about our struggles, the medication, how we felt, our fears. It was wonderful – I’ve never felt so supported by a group of people that I didn’t know. We shared our ups and downs, tips for how to deal with this thing that had happened to us. So many of us were young women who were never taught the side effects of the pill. It was a really nice sense of community.

I made a promise to myself after I had the PE. I swore I would be healthier, take better care of myself, do right by my body. And I have failed. I mean, there’s no two ways about it – I have failed my body. I’m lucky to be alive and sometimes I think about all of the horrible things I’ve done to my body in this past year and it makes me sad. I need to do better. I really want to do better and it’s time to start living the way I’m supposed to live. Focusing on keeping my body clean and living a lifestyle I can be proud of. I’m hoping this blog will do that for me and hopefully through reading about other people’s struggles I can find a community much like the one I had when I first had my PE. It may have taken me a little longer to come to terms with things and make the changes I need to make, but I’m convinced that it’s never too late to start.