I have a lot of it–more than some, less than others. By definition, I am middle-aged. I am no longer young, but not old yet. I am in that weird, no man’s land of age where I can’t stay out all night anymore because why, but I’m decades away from a retirement home.

I shouldn’t have had a first birthday. A few months after I was born, I contracted pneumococcal meningitis. I was in the neonatal intensive care unit for thirteen days, fighting for my life. I was not alone. I had a persistent pediatrician who was determined that I should live. She hardly left my side. For those thirteen days, I saw more of her than I did my own parents. The treatment for meningitis was penicillin; I am allergic to penicillin. I should not have survived, but I did, thanks to her. She died before I was old enough to thank her properly. She never saw what became of me, which considering all of the bullshit I’ve been through, is probably for the best.

I’ve been abused, sexually, emotionally and physically. I’ve been beaten, gagged, tortured, tied up, blindfolded, violated and left bleeding. I’ve been nearly killed and nearly died. I’ve overdosed and gone back for more. I’ve been homeless and lost. I’ve been starving in the middle of plenty. I’ve been cold and on my own with nowhere to go and no one to trust. I’ve been lied to, betrayed, used and abandoned. I have been completely and utterly alone in this world. Yet, I’m still here. I still breathe and write and rage.

I shouldn’t have had a first birthday. Sometimes, I wonder if that pediatrician had the wrong idea to work so hard to give me this life. Sometimes, I think that maybe we both would have been better off had she not tried so hard to save me. Yet, I’m still here. I still breathe and holler and wail.

I never thought I would live this long. That’s not hyperbole. No one thought I would live this long: not my parents, not my pediatrician, not me. The world has dealt me a shitty hand and I’ve overcome it all. I have struggled and scraped and clawed my way through. I have thought about giving up so many times, but I never would because this life is all I know.

Sometimes, I get so tired. Sometimes, I don’t think that I can keep going. Sometimes, I look at those around me who have plenty–those who have never had to struggle, not even for one day–and I whine about the unfairness of it all. I cry the tears of bitter jealousy that I have never lived even one month of this life without worry. I have never known what it’s like to be safe, to be secure, to not wake up in a panic, to not wake up in the morning and cringe thinking of another day’s fight.

Sometimes, I wonder how much fight I have left in me. How much longer can I keep this up? The strain is beginning to show. My shoulders are tight from a constant defensive position. My heart gets jolted with adrenaline several times a day. My brow wears a constant furrow. My eyes are tired from being ever vigilant. I cannot sleep. I cannot rest. Not yet.

Sometimes, I wonder why I continue to fight. Why do I get out of bed knowing that it will be another day of hardship? Knowing that the adrenaline will once again surge through my system, causing me to panic, if even for a moment. Knowing that my eyes won’t want to stay open and my shoulders will still be tight. Knowing at the end of the day, I will be no better off.

I do it for two reasons. I get out of bed because I don’t have an alternative. I can get out of bed and face the world or I can stay in bed and face my demons. I’m tired of my demons. I’ve been carrying them around too long. They suck. They hate and they fume and they spit bile, and I’m goddamn sick of them. I don’t want to spend time with them. I don’t want them to drag me down with them, so I get out of bed.

I get out of bed, because somewhere in the back of my mind, I still have hope. I hope that today will be better than yesterday. I hope that maybe today, I will have smiles and laughter and feel a light breeze on my face. Maybe today, my shoulders will relax. Maybe today, I’ll learn how to let go of the hate that lives inside of me, maybe I’ll learn to forgive.

Every single day that I am alive is a bloody victory. I wear each of my 15,000 days with pride. I’ve chosen to get out of bed over 15,000 times. I don’t dare hope that, one day, I am wrinkled with gray hair. I don’t have the courage to plan for that future, but for now, I’m still here. I still breathe, I still write, and somehow, through all of this, I still hope for a better tomorrow.