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'Imagine a world where you are better'

By Schuyler Ebersol, Special to CNN
updated 10:13 AM EDT, Thu April 3, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Schuyler Ebersol had to leave school after becoming ill in 2009
  • For two years, he was stuck at home
  • He credits his writing and his family's support for helping him to recover

(CNN) -- I would not change the last five years for anything. That being said, under no circumstances would I elect to revisit them.

If it were not for those difficult years, I would not appreciate my health as much as I do now, I would not have written five books, "The Hidden World" would not be published, and I would not have the perspective on life that I do now.

Autonomic neuropathy struck me in February 2009. It caused random fainting spells multiple times a day, extreme fatigue, severe confusion and dizziness, blurred vision and a drop in my energy that prevented me from walking unsupported for many months at a time.

Those symptoms lasted uninterrupted -- sometimes worse, sometimes better -- for three years. I went undiagnosed for a year and a half, and in that time I visited more than 30 doctors and had countless treatments, setbacks, tests taken and vials of blood drawn.

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In June 2010, my illness resulted in my permanent removal from Hotchkiss (the boarding school I attended), and I spent two subsequent years at home. During those years I found an agent, edited my novel, wrote three additional novels and secured a publishing contract with Koehler Books.

In May 2012, my health finally started to improve. There had been brief spells before where my health would improve for a few weeks only to deteriorate even further, so I found it difficult to believe that my hardship was over.

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I sat helpless for three years, watching my friends and family suffer because of my illness, all the while unable to do anything to ease their suffering and my own.

But 2012 was an amazing year for me. It was the year I finally recovered, the year I returned to school and a normal life, and the year I got a publishing offer for my first novel, "The Hidden World."

My writing was instrumental to my recovery. The mental stimulation I received from my writing saved me from a deep depression and might have played a part in my physical recovery as well.

I was stuck at home for two years -- two years where I had nothing to do but write and gain appreciation for the smallest things, such as the ability to walk to the bathroom instead of crawl.

Members of my family played a vital role in my recovery. They were struck by my illness as hard or harder than I was for they had to watch my health deteriorate and my spirits drain, and there was nothing they could do about it.

Knowing how my family suffered made the illness even worse for me. Severe depression plagued me for those years, and I was only lifted out of it through my writing and support from my family.

I am now fully recovered and attending the University of Virginia. I am working on my sixth novel, working to get my third and fifth published, and I have finally returned to living a normal life -- something I longed for for three years.

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I still have to take extra precautions with my health, for no one fully understands autonomic neuropathy. There are still things that I cannot do, which frustrates me to no end, but I remind myself that I can do far more than I could years ago.

Having overcome what I have, I firmly believe that life's trials are there for a reason and the only way to overcome them is to dedicate yourself to something about which you truly care. Sometimes the only thing that you can do is imagine a world where you are better.

When I wrote, I escaped to a world that was entirely my own, and I could forget for a few minutes the stark realities of the one I was currently living in.

I would not wish those three years on anyone, but I would not change them because they made me who I am today, and for that I am eternally grateful. "The Hidden World" is the culmination of the last five years, both my illness and recovery, and I am happy to present it to the world as the silver lining to my years of sickness.

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