My journey of self-discovery has taught me how to thrive with SMA

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by Alyssa Silva |

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Late last year, I embarked on an unexpected journey to self-discovery. The past several years had been an uphill battle with my health, each day bringing its own relentless fight. The good news was that I was surviving whatever conditions came my way. The bad news was that I no longer felt like I was truly living.

Becoming so focused on fighting for my health left me feeling disconnected from my body. I was struggling to define myself outside of my diagnosis. From my perspective, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) was permanently labeling me a patient, and I was losing sight of the person beyond the condition. I’d forgotten my hobbies, values, joys, and so many other things that once molded me into who I was.

This realization came without warning, but it catapulted me into a new phase of life — one where I was determined to put my health first and rediscover who Alyssa Silva was at the same time.

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Reclaiming my identity

I turned inward. I started taking inventory of my life. When I did, I realized I’d made incredible strides in my health over the past two years. I’d even regained some strength. With SMA being a progressive disease, my muscles were meant to weaken and, ultimately, atrophy over time, so the fact that I gained strength during my health battles wasn’t lost on me. Even so, I was still comparing myself with an older, stronger version of me, hindering my ability to move forward.

By living in the past, I was keeping myself from discovering who I was in the present. The moment I realized that was the exact moment I was ready to reclaim my identity. My health hadn’t changed. I hadn’t gotten better. It was simply a moment of clarity that showed me I’m capable and deserving of living as both a patient and a person. For so long, SMA had robbed me of that truth.

With this new epiphany, I knew my road to self-discovery needed to start with accepting my reality. In doing so, these past few months have been incredibly eye-opening and transformative. SMA may have overshadowed my sense of self, but today, I’m learning to adapt to my circumstances in new ways.

In finding acceptance, I’m learning what brings me joy again. I’m nurturing my passions and interests while still tending to my health. Some days are more patient-focused, and others are all about my self-discovery. Regardless of what kind of day it is, though, I now understand I can balance both.

Though my journey to self-discovery isn’t over, I know I’m on the right path for now. I know I’m more than the symptoms I experience. There will be good days and bad, but in the midst of my weakest moments, I know I’m learning to thrive again.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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