Until I Have To Be

After my friends left (after calling me out on the fact that I looked like death and was out of breath from sitting up) I fell down onto the sofa and let an involuntary sleep drag me away.

I need to go to the hospital… Definitely. Great. My family are going to shout at me again and/or break down. I thought, as I closed my eyes and drifted off. I was nervous about my parents’ reaction, especially after my mother broke into a million pieces of the woman I cared about, decided she couldn’t cope with it, and so just spent an hour telling me how difficult I made her life last time I needed urgent medical care (which is a totally justified and understandable reaction).

Anyway, I was woken by the sound of my mother walking into the house. She walked upstairs, calling out that she didn’t feel well. A couple of minutes later my (no longer so little) brother walked into the room, declaring that mum had been sick. At this stage, I couldn’t actually move off of the sofa, and despite knowing how unwell I had been, everyone expected me to deal with it. I couldn’t move. I literally couldn’t lift my head. I was going to ask you to take me to the hospital. I thought, overlooking the brief flash of concern for myself to focus on my mother. My brother came downstairs again, his broken voice surprisingly high and panicked. He didn’t know what to do. I heaved my body off of the sofa. I looked at the dog. Eventually, I grabbed some migraine tablets and some antiemetics we’d been given at the hospital one time (the first things I thought of that might help), and slowly dragged myself up the stairs, the world spinning, my tired intercostal muscles heaving air thick as soup into my lungs. I made it to the top of the stairs. Everything went black. Not now you stupid thing. I thought to my body. I grabbed the bannister to steady myself, waited for the world to return, and walked into the bedroom to find my mum curled up on the bed in her midwife’s uniform, retching continuously into a bowl, unable to speak.

I asked if she had a migraine. She said something that sounded like no. And then I put two and two together. For weeks my mum has had progressively worse earache, which I’ve told her many times to get checked out, but which she said she didn’t have time to do. Recently, she’s been getting a little dizzy with it, and the pain has been deeper within her ear – an inner ear infection. As you inner ear controls balance, inner ear infections make you horrendously dizzy, like the entire world is spinning at a million miles an hour. You get kind of motion sick, with no motion. I’d seen this one coming, which was ironic, when directed at the woman who is frequently furious with me for not helping myself (seriously, there isn’t any way I can stop the whole nearly dying thing without the help of a consultant).

I asked if she was dizzy. I got a yes, as I’d by this point expected. I relaxed a little. But I looked at my little brother and my vomiting mother and realised that I couldn’t afford to be in the middle of a medical emergency right now. I was by far the most unwell person in the house, but now wasn’t the time to bring it up or even to show it. I called Dad, I asked him to come home. A few minutes later I called him again and said “NOW.” I thought I was going to collapse in a heap, he needed to come home and care for his wife, even though he is pretty useless in a crisis. He said he was leaving work.

I somehow managed to go into carer mode. I waited for my dad to get in, and tried to tell him what was wrong with mum before he stormed into the house. He shouted at me to butt out of it and leave it alone. I wanted to hit him.

My dad has zero medical knowledge. He is an easily stressed person who has seismic personality shifts as a result. He stood there helplessly, insisting that he could manage it and that every suggestion I made was wrong (because clearly his clueless self knew better). My mum wanted the things I suggested. She wanted to get undressed but was so dizzy she couldn’t move at all. I asked if she wanted me to try and get her uniform off, was of course told off by a certain individual for doing so, but she sort of pleaded with me to try. I did. She couldn’t even stand that. I got her a cold flannel, was told to take it away, but she wanted its cooling effects, and it seemed to make her feel a little better. I held the bowl and wiped her mouth. I went downstairs and found a cup with a lid and a straw so she could drink without moving her head. I offered to cook my little brother dinner, even though I knew there was no way I would be able to stand for that long (and he’s 13 and old enough to cook it himself). I was eventually shouted at one time too many when trying to talk to my dad and help him out, so I phoned my grandparents because I didn’t know what to do. I felt incredibly unwell, in the middle of a medical emergency, and quite rightly nobody gave a crap. My grandma on the other hand, was pretty awesome.

Anyway, the thing is, this was one of those situations where the extent to which I will tear myself apart to make things even a fraction easier for someone else becomes evident. I was not ok, but somehow this overwhelming need to care for my mother made me get over that. I reassured my brother, I tried to talk some reason into the man I call dad… And then I collapsed on the sofa unable to breathe.

I cooked dinner for my brother and I somehow, but couldn’t eat it. The man I call dad walked into the kitchen, swore, and went off on one at me for not unloading the dishwasher, not even pausing to look at how unwell I am, not even pausing to think I may have been trying not to bother anyone with my slowly brewing medical emergency all day. I left the house, paced around the driveway until I fell onto my knees out of exhaustion, spoke to my grandmother again, and then messaged sixth form friend and asked him to take me to the hospital.

When I walked into the house, there was stomping around again. Another dig at me in a tone that was rude, abrasive, and unnecessary. I’d already had enough of being in this house before all the worry and frustration in it was taken out on me. I was also concerned about my mum. Nobody gave me a second thought or look, and that again temporarily induced a small amount of worry that I was going to die within these walls without anyone realising. I snapped. For the first time, I shouted back. Actually shouted. And instantly hated myself for it.

“Maybe I haven’t unloaded the dishwasher because I’ve been extremely unwell all day, didn’t want to bother you with it, was waiting for one of you to get home and take me to the hospital, and think I may be at the start of (named medical emergency), but didn’t feel this was the right time to bring it up!” He’d walked off, but stuck his head back around the door,

“Well you never said, did you?!” No. I didn’t dare, and she matters more to me than I ever will to myself.

“You haven’t exactly been the most approachable person for the last hour! You don’t have to care, (sixth form friend) will drive me to the hospital.” And that was it. He left the room again, it was over. I had my own back, and that was enough, but I feel AWFUL for bothering sixth form friend, especially as he will have to pay for petrol and parking and I only have £2. Maybe I can afford to wait. I can’t. Maybe this is an unnecessary fuss. Not really.

It’s only me, I’m not worth the bother.

“I’m sorry for all the fuss. It really isn’t worth it, don’t worry.” Sixth form friend wouldn’t take that, he still insisted on being there if I needed it. He refused to drive me to somewhere that an ambulance could get to me easily, leaving me by the side of the road and driving off (as was my suggested plan to save fuel, parking money, time, and effort). I push people away to save them from me out of guilt, even when without their help I will die.

“You sure? It’s only me” I messaged him back.

The reply?

“Don’t be silly.” I am so grateful for the people who just won’t budge.

For the next half hour over and over again I tried to back out and tell him not to bother. He stood his ground, patiently but persistently telling me it was no bother, not trouble, he didn’t mind, he’d go with me and he’s stay until he knew I was alright. Over and over and over, as I felt trapped between guilt over my selfish and panicked decision to ask him, and the knowledge that I need him. Even as I just accepted his offer, I added the word sorry three times – a genuine, heartfelt apology that those words did not do justice to. I am incredibly grateful, and scared he’ll be scared of me if he watches me go through this fight.

I don’t want to come back to this house. I do not know how to deal with things slipping back into the pattern of how they used to be (which I will not comment on here). The things people feel are not my fault, and I know as humans we all do it, all take it out on the people we love, but I cannot afford to feel any less ok right now. There’s no excuse I’m willing to accept any more. Guess I realised this again.

Fighting is harder with no support.

One thing I learned tonight though: I can’t be bothered not to be ok, and I don’t know how to be ok… Until I have to be for someone else. I’d die to spare these people any pain. Sometimes I wonder… things that I can’t say here.

I don’t know how I found the strength or the health to be able to do the things I did tonight, even to climb the stairs. I didn’t have to, but I did have to (if that even makes sense). I wanted to. I put my family first – they tell me I never do, and they have no idea how hard it was even to do those small things, but I didn’t do it for the recognition or the thanks and I don’t expect it. I did it because despite what they think of me and the things their words and attitudes occasionally do to me, I will always, always be willing to walk through hell to spare them from its heat for a single second. I have ruined their lives. They will never see how much I care. And I don’t mind, as long as can overlook my emotion enough to never forget how much I do.

I wish she knew how much I care about her.

Anyway, the point was, sometimes we really aren’t ok, until we have to be for someone else (I am aware I have taken this to the extreme. Don’t follow my example, you might not actually survive).

“You never know how strong you are, until being strong is your only choice” – Bob Marley

So, time to go fight the grim reaper a little bit, and hopefully persuade him to back off. Wish me luck! And don’t worry – if they can fix this (which so far they have managed to every time, even if there are way too many close calls) then great, if for some reason things don’t work out this time, my absence is no great loss to the world. I’m really rather unremarkable, and I have caused a lot of pain to those I care about entirely involuntarily and unintentionally. I am privileged to know the most amazing people, and unfortunate enough to have been let down by a lot of them (which says more about me than them). I am confident this will all work out, but for some reason this time I feel there needs to be a ‘just in case’.


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