To Those Who Don’t Know, And Those Who Do

It’s not that I don’t want to tell you… I mean I don’t, but that isn’t what’s stopping me. What’s stopping me is that I simply don’t know how to find the words, don’t know how to stand there while the sharpened knives of whatever words I do find wound you as they have me. You are too young and free spirited to live through this with me, and yet I know I would let you. I know that I would brush aside your pain momentarily to bathe in my own relief at not having to face this alone. I know that I would fall apart and let you hold the fragments of me until I figure out how to piece them back together, the whole time hating myself for watching my life ruin yours too. I know you’d tell me it was no bother, but I also know how much you’d hurt, because I’m currently living with that hurt, and I will do all that I can to protect you from it.

Sharing a problem is supposed to minimise the impact, but I don’t want any more of us to face the sting of these wounds. What is lost is mine to lose, not yours. The helplessness is mine to hold, not yours to share in. You did not sign up for this. You would stand by me I know, but I also know this will eat you alive, because it is doing so to me.

I do not want to lose you, but I push you away, and you take with you a tiny piece of me as a memento of the times when the odds were significantly more in my favour. To my regret, I succeed where I now realise I hoped to fail, and I am left to face the monster on my own. I feel too guilty to call your name. I feel too bad to drag you into this now, with no idea what you are facing, and no idea how much you are needed. I feel guilty for needing anyone at all; I am my own problem, yet I cannot help but want to make this yours too.

I know sometimes I fail. Sometimes I do pick up the phone and send you a message that sounds nowhere near as desperate as I feel. I don’t want you to fix anything, I don’t want you to rush to my side, it just means that right then in that moment I don’t want to live through this alone. It means that for a few minutes or hours or even a day, I have forgotten how to human, and I’d just like the comfort of someone to depend on. I know even as I hit send that it isn’t fair of me to expect that of you, but I don’t know who to count on any more. I do not know who to burden. I guess it is an honour that I picked you, and at the same time a frustration for you.

I don’t expect you to know what to say. I don’t even know how to feel, and I know you’ve never been here before either. I like the way you acknowledge the rubbish nature of the situation while at the same time maintaining some sense of normality. I like how when you first found out we made pancakes. I like how you justify the tears that I am ashamed to let fall. I like that you haven’t given up on me yet, how you constantly pick me up and push me forward, how you tell me that doctors can be wrong and that one of them will think of something, because that makes me feel like life is worth living.

If you do know, it means you were in the right place at the wrong time. It means you asked me how I was when I had the strength to tell you, or when I was desperate enough to let myself fall in your presence. It means you were there for me when few others were. It means I believed that you cared. And thank you, thank you to everyone who knows, for standing beside me when even I didn’t know how to stand in the face of this. I am sorry for needing you, and I’m sorry for using your help when you offered it, but you are all truly amazing.

Today when I should have gone to a hospital because I was so unwell, or curled up in a ball and cried because of the emotional tidal wave I’m currently drowning under, a friend and I went to Brick Lane. I went to a bookshop. I bought two books written by people who overcame great monsters (even though one of them died from his, he conquered it in so many more ways). We ate Thai food in a restaurant, we wandered around taking photos of the street art, and we went to Shoreditch boxpark so I could experience the food heaven that is Dumdum doughnuts (something I’ve been meaning to do). And thank you to the friend that was there then, who a couple of weeks ago watched me nearly die and got to experience something a little more pleasant, as I promised. Thank you for helping me to forget for a little bit, but for still letting me talk when reality hit. Thank you to the university parent who was there (not literally, but via a message or two) when that reality became a little hard to handle.

Stand beside me through the bad times, when I am breaking, when I am losing the fight for my health… And you also get to stand beside me in the good. I promise you one day this will all be worth it, and until then I thank you for being there even when you weren’t sure how to be, for being beside me as the razor blades of reality rained down, for standing in the middle of the road of my life and freezing in the light of the headlights that are speeding towards me. I am beyond grateful that you put your heart on the line alongside mine. I’m sorry that I dragged you into this mess. Thank you for saving me until I can be saved. When I defeat these odds, as my current fear will not let me believe is possible, but as I have done so many times before, I owe you all a drink (thankfully there’s only a handful of you who know!)

And I wish I could find the words to tell the rest of you. I wish you understood. I wish you could comprehend. But I also wish for you to be free of this knowledge. I wish for your eyes to be free of pity and your judgement of me to remain as it is now. It’s hard for me to look you in the eye, it’s hard for me to see your oblivious smiles, difficult when you expect me to share in your stress about work or your cough or your hangover. But I’ll tell you when it’s over, when the outcome is known and is therefore very different to that which I expect, when there is no longer any need to cry. And you’ll never guess until I choose to tell you myself. Because I don’t even look that ill.

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