We’re all shaped by experiences, and sometimes a single experience can be so significant it splits your life in two. There was who you were before it happened, and then for better or worse there’s who you are now.
Here, people share events that were just that; life defining. Enjoy! And make sure to check out the sources at the bottom for even more!
1. Finding home again.
For me, it was moving out of my parents’ house and eventually cutting off all contact. I went from a very controlled environment where I had to listen to screaming and fighting almost every night, plus I had to constantly ask for permission to do things like go out and God Help Me if I wanted to have someone over.
Bought a house, moved out, never looked back. Sometimes in the middle of the night and realize I wake up and hear a noise that I think is one of my parents walking around in the hall, and then I realize I’m alone and relief just washes over me. I eat when I want, shower when I want, adopted several dogs, and I never get the third degree about any of my choices, especially now that there’s no further contact with that side of the family at all. I feel like it’s a huge blessing.
2. The wake-up call.
Had less than a 10% chance of living after kidney failure, liver failure, septic shock, lactic acidosis, severe dehydration, and severe malnutrition, and severe alcohol withdrawal syndrome all hit me at once.
I was out for eight days from the DT’s (delirium tremens) given to me for alcohol withdrawal. When I woke up in the ICU the doctor told me I was a walking miracle. He had no medical explanation as to why I lived. My liver, and kidneys basically did a complete 180 one hour after he told my family I would be dead by morning. Which was 4 hours away.
They had a priest and everything read me my last rights.
I’m only 24, and was drinking almost 2 liters worth of 100 proof vodka every 12 hours, for 6 months straight. Morning, noon, night. I was never sober.
After I was released after 4 weeks in the hospital, I was left crippled by the lactic acidosis which made everything numb. The numbness, when receded, was replaced by a constant 10 out of 10 pain that lasted for literally 24/7, for 9 months. I lost my ability to walk. (Story continues…)
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Nowadays, because I asked whatever being to save me… I don’t drink, eat healthy, and run every night. My liver enzymes are perfectly healthy, and my congestive heart failure is no longer an issue. They’ve had to re-diagnose me as someone without heart failure.
All of my muscles, and vital organs are healthier than they have been since I was a child. I no longer have liver fibrosis, my legs work, and my heart is as healthy as any average young adults.
3. Better off without him.
I had a boyfriend who ghosted me.
We were in an extremely committed, long term relationship. Literally a week before it happened, he was talking about learning French before we have kids so that they could grow up bilingual. It was and still is a huge shock.
Before he left, I suffered from horrible depression and anxiety, and was having suicidal thoughts and tendencies. I was already in therapy.
After he left, I worked so hard in therapy so that when I went back to school the coming semester, I could do so on my own, and stay focused on that.
Seven months later and I’m almost done my second year of university with a decent average (75% as of right now, sorry I don’t know GPA and yes I know that I should). I am in a major life crisis, but I am getting through it, and I know that I will survive what comes my way. In hindsight, him leaving me may have been the best thing that happened to me.
4. Courage in trying times.
The day my two year old daughter woke up from a nap and couldn’t quite move her arms correctly. At first I thought she slept wrong. Pinched a nerve maybe? Then her legs started giving out and I got really scared. She was taken by squad to the ER and underwent X-rays, CT scans, blood tests, etc. but no one could tell me what was happening. She eventually went into respiratory failure and had to be intubated.
They took her for an MRI and 4 hours later still weren’t completely sure what happened. Sometime later that week they diagnosed her with longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis. She is now quadriplegic and 100% vent dependent. She spent 4 months in the hospital. I only left 3 times for about an hour each to see my own doctor. My husband and I have 4 other children so it was very difficult for all of us. (Story continues…)
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We are still questioning why this happened. We went from a pretty typical family to a completely dysfunctional mess seemingly overnight. While we have had some positive things truthfully it has been a very hard journey. Watching your child struggle to breathe let alone move is a heartbreak I can’t describe. Her brain and brain stem were unaffected and thankfully she is able to speak and move her head. She drives her power wheelchair herself with a head array controller.
She will start kindergarten early in the fall and is the happiest sweetest little girl you’d ever meet. The incident happened the day after Easter 2014 so this week will be hard on us. But we’ll get through and keep plodding along because we really have no other choice. If there was ever a more defining life changing moment I have yet to experience it.
5. From the ashes.
Lost everything in a fire. Had no money and no insurance. It was definitely the worst time in my life.
But, I can definitely recognize the difference from before the fire and after. I’m much more mature and confident than I was two years ago. I’m in a better job, I have my own place… It was really a kick in the rear that made me a grown up.
6. You are who you choose to be.
A breakup which I took very badly, is without a doubt, the worst thing that ever happened to me (so far). In the long run though, it was literally the best thing ever.
At first it was ok, it was a mutual decision. But then someone else who was close to me got involved with the ex, like really quick after the breakup. And that really messed me up, got me into a deep depression which lasted almost 18 months, but the worst part was that I could no longer meet up with my friends. They were usually there on the get togethers, and I could not stand looking at them without breaking into tears or howling or something. I could only meet my friends one at a time.
It was a certain group of friends -always the same people, and I realised I had no one else. No real friends at work, no real friends at the university, of from anywhere else, basically just family. As a guy in early 20s, I felt worthless, broken and alone. I got some self-help books, went to therapy, but I still just wanted… well, not to die… just… to stop existing. I only looked forward to sleeping, because that’s when I didn’t feel the constant angst. Then, needing to somehow express my uncensored story, I started a journal. I was mostly writing about my depression and myself. I’m naturally introspective, and that was a good way to start looking on my situation in a different way. More importantly, I really started exploring who I was. I found a will to change, to fight. I realized that I’d been lacking certain skills to cope with the outside world. The wide variety of social skills I didn’t have, my self-esteem, my life being boring, bleak, without direction. All of that (and more) was a problem.
So after I identified some of the problems, I asked myself – how does one change that? Partly I already knew, partly I researched and learned, and partly it was hit and miss. But that was when I started actively sculpting myself into a person I wanted to be. (Story continues…)
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I can’t put to words how hard that is. The number of successes is laughable, compared to the number of failures, but the failures do not matter in the long run. They are the price of getting a bit farther in all this. I might as well not try at all and still be in the same place. It led me to a bunch of travelling, adventures, getting to know new people, trying a lot of new things, changing my view on people, myself and my relationships. It opened my eyes to so much – both the beautiful, and the dark, and all in between.
I think that horrible breakup and the darkness of the subsequent depression made me find my biggest asset. The unquenchable fire of the will to fight no matter what.
My depression had relapsed after that, but that speck of light was always there. You cannot win, ever, if you refuse to fight.
7. In the blink of an eye.
I see this woman pull out in front of me and make a blind left turn across a couple lanes of traffic…and as I’m emergency braking I somehow manage to look in her window and she’s looking at her phone—BAM! Leg mangled, concussion, road rash, all for her “be there in a few” text, probably. She didn’t even come over to see if I was alright after I stopped rolling. I still don’t even know what she looks like and this was 3 years ago. People suck.
Nowadays my eyes are darting every direction, but it took a long time for me to get back to being okay with intersections.
Stay off your phone while you’re driving.
8. Putting yourself out there.
When I went to a recruiting event for a business fraternity at my school.
Growing up I never really had any friends. My freshman year of college wasn’t much different, and I also wasn’t happy with my major. By my sophomore year, I switched into the business school and wanted it to be a fresh start. I heard about this fraternity and thought it sounded interesting, so I went to their mixer event.
I remember walking into the atrium and looking around at everyone mingling. I saw a group of guys talking who looked friendly, took a deep breath, and walked right up to them and introduced myself. Long story short, they’re now my best friends and I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t go to that event and say hi to them.
9. Calm in the storm.
I was on a plane that lost power in a storm and dropped in mid air before the pilots were able to correct the situation. Nothing news worthy, but enough to scare the anything out of you.
But those seconds that lasted a lifetime are forever burned into my brain. I remember everything about what was going on, even the guy across the aisle who started to rock back and forth praying out loud. (Story continues…)
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I remember being thankful that the plane was over water and that if we went down we wouldn’t hurt anyone. I remember thinking about how I wouldn’t get to watch my god daughter grow up. It made me so sad that I felt like my life was so incomplete. I never finished all of the goals I had made for myself.
I felt terrible for not being true to who I wanted to be and I vowed the second that plane touched down and we were clear to exit, that my life was going to be different.
It was hard leaving the airport, I was having a huge anxiety and panic attack, my best friend had to coach me over the phone for 45 minutes before I could muster up the strength to leave and head home.
It was an extremely hard week. I played it over and over on a loop reliving it. I had nightmares about it and for almost two years didn’t step on board of a plane.
But In that two year span I accomplished a lot.
The first two weeks, I quit smoking, I quit drinking, I quit eating all the garbage food that was a norm to me. I managed to lose 20 pounds in three months.
I picked up my musical instrument I was so shy about and went and played an open mic for the first time and actually had some pretty solid compliments and applause.
I quit the job I had been at (which made me miserable despite the decent wages) and threw myself back into what made me the happiest I had ever been.
I ended up making better relationship choices. I ended up finding an amazing person (when I wasn’t looking for one) and have been with that person ever since.
I suppose sometimes life can scare you back into living.
10. Turning over a new leaf.
Getting kicked out of college.
I got booted out after 3 semesters of slacking off and oversleeping for classes that were as late as 6pm. I just didn’t care to be there. I was 18, working part time at a pizza place I had been at since I was 15, didn’t have a car or license, and had no motivation to do much of anything. I got the axe and started working full time, practiced for my driving test, passed it, then sold my WoW account for the down payment on a used car. I’ve basically been on an upward trend since then.
That was 8 years ago now, and a recent breakup has basically had a similar effect. I got dumped and after a few weeks of self loathing and blaming her, I decided to just become the best version of me I could. I started exercising at home, quit smoking, started eating healthier, and have since moved in to a place that I’m happy. I have continued to eat healthier and am working on cutting soda out of my diet. I go to the gym ~5 days a week, and have noticeably lost some weight and build a decent amount of muscle. I’m happy with my progress so far but I have plenty of work ahead of me.
11. The information age.
It is seriously difficult to explain to people who have always had the internet what it was like before there was an internet. It’s just mind blowing how different things were.
The simplest example I can give is this. (Story continues…)
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Let’s say you’re talking with some people and a guy says:
“Yea, it’s a fact, cancer is a direct result of too much zinc in your diet. It’s a new study of the Netherlands, it’s just not made it into American Medicine yet. You’ll see it in the news in the next year or two as we catch up.”
So prior to the internet you would hear that and… wonder. Maybe start trying to watch your Zinc intake? What’s Zinc in anyway? Fish? How do you find out? The library? What book do you look in? After consulting with a librarian and several hours of searching you find out it’s in dark chocolate. Great! But where do you get Dark Chocolate? The local grocery store doesn’t carry it. So you start calling around asking. No-one has it. If your local stores don’t carry something, you have no way to get it short of a mail order service. But you have no way of finding a mail-order service.
Meanwhile, post-internet, before the guy even finished his sentence, 3 people would have whipped out their phones, looked it up and told him he was full of shit.
What we gained with the internet is so incredibly mind blowing, it improved every aspect of your life in ways so complicated we’re still having a hard time pinning them all down.
12. Good advice.
What I have learned after losing my dad a little over a year ago is that, although it may not get better, it will get easier. Take things a day at a time. A friend of mine gave me some advice since he was in a similar situation when he was my age. He said something along the lines that “Your dad may be gone but he will never leave you.
One day when you are older you will look yourself in the mirror and see someone that looks vaguely like your father. Then you will realize he was with you helping shape you your entire life.” I miss my dad but in his passing I gained a clarity in life that i didn’t have before. I now really enjoy what i have because now I know how fast things can change. Have a good day today, everyone.