Every now and then I’m going to disappear for a few days at a time. There will be one extra empty seat in a lecture theatre, I will stop tagging along with your social outings, I will stop sending messages first and I will probably stop replying to the ones you send. It means I’m nearly dying again. It means my body is breaking, failing, letting me down… And it means that as a side effect of that my mind is splintering, shattering, rupturing. It means I can’t lift my head off of the pillow, it means I’m laying in a bed with my life in the hands of people whose faces I will not remember because my eyes cannot focus and it means that I am terrified. It means I went through a mental battle just to seek the help I needed and that maybe that help was a little bit late, or maybe I was just a little bit beyond it. It means I am fighting for things that you take for granted and probably losing. It means I am being stripped bare, emotionally hollowed out as memories and flashbacks flood my brain and I freak out until there is nothing left to give. It means I am being poked with needles and people are worrying because my circulation is so poor that even with an ultrasound they cannot find a vein and their eighth attempt to put in that central line has failed. It means I’m having talks about the future that you couldn’t even imagine, that you won’t have until you are 90, that you probably couldn’t deal with even with a lifetime of experience behind you. It means I can’t walk any more, that I physically cannot escape to be with you. It means I didn’t know how to ask you to be there. It means I felt too bad to burden you and that I’m tearing myself apart going through this alone.
And I turn up again a few days later, a few pounds lighter, my smile more strained and my body one time closer to the time where it can’t be saved, and I sit next to you in that lecture theatre even though I’ve left my mind back in that bed, and it still claws at the fresh terror that I can’t quite yet sedate, and you wonder why I’m not taking notes and why I even bothered to show up. I will be wondering too, with the hot metaphorical breath of the university warm against my neck, always there, reminding me that they are doubting my ability to keep up with you all, pushing me to take a year out without even needing to say it any more because that was the slip up they were waiting for. And you will never know that losing what I have right in that moment terrifies me more than death ever has.
I tag along with your social gatherings even though all my body wants is sleep because I am desperate not to be left behind. And it is comforting to slip back in to this normality. But you didn’t even notice I was gone. You invited new people in to fill my place without even realising there was a space to fill. The bonds of putty that flexed to let me into your friendship group have had time to set and harden in my absence and I can’t quite fit like I used to. You tell me you’re dying of a cold and wonder why I cannot hide my smile. I humour you because I value you, I crave company and I have had enough of being alone.
Eventually, subtly, reluctantly, I tell you I’ve been in hospital again, and I’m kind of glad you don’t appreciate how ill I have to be to admit that I should probably go there, I’m glad you don’t understand just how close I came to not ever joining you in a lecture theatre ever again. I’m glad you were spared the fear that I accepted but never really switched off.
And I’m sorry if at any point I bothered you with my freak outs – with my 3am “I need to go for a run” conversations because I wanted to end it all with an endorphin high, because I wanted to be me again and I was so tired of this endless cycle of my body throwing me under the bus of its own health issues. I’m sorry I had my moments of being pathetic, and I’m sorry if at any point I worried you.
You tell me I’m strong. You say I’m amazing. They tell me my body is superhuman and that I shouldn’t really be here. You seem impressed with me, because you say you wouldn’t know how to deal with it. But I’m not strong, I’m brittle. I’m broken, already fragmented, and I push you away to stop you getting hurt by the shards of what is left of me. And I don’t know how to deal with this. I am human. I am skin and bone and perfectly flawed and I am just like you. However you would feel right now is exactly how I feel. I’m just too stubborn to let you see it.
I say nothing because I know you have no idea what any of it means.
And I write this in a blog post because I still haven’t figured out how to ask you to save me.