“The greatest battle is not physical but psychological. The demons telling us to give up when we push ourselves to the limit can never be silenced for good. They must always be answered by the quiet, the steady dignity that simply refuses to give in. Courage. We all suffer. Keep going” – Graeme Fife
What a day. For sport (Murray. Hamilton. Portugal). For my family. For me…
They couldn’t stabilise me off of IVs, so tears stung my eyes as they re-connected me. My fellow third wheel placed a sympathetic hand on my leg and pulled some of my inner strength from somewhere. I got over myself. I remembered how lucky I am. I carried on playing cards (blackjack this time).
My vision is awful and it is completely disorientating. My brain can’t really process what it is seeing. There may, as it turns out, be an aftermath from this brush with the grim reaper. It is incredibly disorientating and makes me feel sick and dizzy.
Also, some genius stopped my water tablets, so I retained water like a camel going on a five year hike into the Sahara dessert. I got even puffier. I looked pregnant. My skin felt tight, it was so painful.
The same genius also stopped my heart tablets, so it sped back up. The said my blood pressure was too low, but these tablets affect heart rate without affecting contractility of the heart muscle as they work in a different way to other tablets (they target some funny kind of receptor). This is why it is safe to give me this tablet. Thankfully the consultant on tonight listened to my explanations and immediately restarted me on all my normal medications so I now get all my tablets. This was a relief.
I was so looking forward to awesome nurse being on shift tonight. My fellow third wheel said she looke tired when she arrived in shift. I gave her the thank you card I got her. She laughed at the front. And then she read it. And she came back.
“Stand up. Come on. I don’t usually do this .” And before I could stand she leant over and hugged me. “You have just made my year.” And I looked at her, this incredible woman who is as tough as anything, and there were tears in her eyes. I felt all the feels.
My nurse tonight brought me a bunch of biscuits that were for the staff. There were fancy amazing cookies and it was delicious (my appetite has finally returned. For dinner I had 7 spring rolls, 2 battered sausages, 1 large sausage, a fish cake, a chicken nugget, and then the hospital meal of curry and rice… All within half an hour. My fellow third wheel and I share food now because I mean he’s basically my rock at the minute).
My nurse and I put the football on TV (European finals) and I ended up with various nurses stood around my bed just watching it. Every time I made a sound people at the desk opposite me asked what had happened. There are a lot of Portugeause staff here on the ICU but a couple of people wanted France to win. It was a cool atmosphere. Half way though the second half my mum phoned. She doesn’t understand PTSD or anything and she really upset me saying I was too intelligent and stuff to be effected by my past in ways like that. I felt awful. I cried. Which made her angry.
Awesome nurse has PTSD and totally got it, and her and my nurse for tonight came and chatted to me. My nurse offered to take me outside for a walk. I leapt at the chance as I messaged my fellow third wheel and he calmed me right down as well. I have never felt so incredibly lucky to know people in my entire life.
My mum told me that my uncle (her brother) who lives in Hong Kong and Thailand had a motorbike accident earlier today, and that he’s also concerned about me. My uncle is a guy who doesn’t show emotion, apart from when he holds his two kids, in which case he can’t help but smile. He doesn’t say he cares, he doesn’t show his love. But there have been times when he has written things to me so full of emotion and so out of the blue that I’ve briefly clung to the words like he is my parent. By my bed at home I have a picture of him holding me as a baby, and he’s smiling slightly. I cried for half an hour when I found it. I love him more than he will ever know. I was so worried that I messaged him to wish him well (he’s broken his shoulder blade. Ouch.)
I’ve never really messaged my uncle before, I always felt there wasn’t too much of a connection, but he sent me hue paragraphs and so many photos of him and my little cousin on their motorbikes and it made me feel all the feels and I was so happy.
As I messaged him, my nurse went all the way to the main entrance of this (surprisingly tiny) hospital to get a wheelchair, and then returned to grab me and my wires. She wrapped me in a million blankets and got me some warm socks and helped me get into the chair. I was dizzy and I ignored the still present ache in my chest that I won’t tell them about because I want to go home… And for the first time I left this bed space. I hadn’t even seen the ICU. I had no idea where I was and now I know. She walked me all the way down to the main entrance, which was locked, so we went out through A&E and just sat out the front for almost an hour in the cool night air talking. She understood how I felt. She’s been there many times. We eventually came back to the ICU and my uncle and my fellow third wheel were messaging me and making me feel all the feels. Moving in the wheelchair made me want to throw up and incredibly dizzy as my eyes have really cannot see and even blinking disturbs my vision a lot. Everything looks like the smudges you get in a time lapse photo, especially the lights in the car park each time I moved my eyes. But fresh air was AMAZING.
Also today I finally graduated to my own pyjamas. I felt so much more human instantly.
My mum also started talking about how I should stay home when my family go on holiday next month, and about not being able to do my next year of university, and reminded me of traumatic experiences in hospital by saying something triggering on the phone with no idea what t would do to me and no idea why I burst into tears as the flashback she triggered reignited old emotions and reactions all over again. She didn’t get it. She got angry. She did the whole “you need to get over this if you want to get better” inference, as if it is voluntary, as if I have any control.
And his brings me back to the quote at the top. For a year I have woken every day with the hot breath of someone’s doubt breathing down my neck. People expected me to fail. At university, at existence, at being human… I was left alone to do so. I fought my own expectations and everyone else’s. I fought my health. I nearly died far, far too many times to count and I pushed myself to attend practicals and lectures when I should have been in an emergency department.
I found my limits and I woke far beyond them every day. It was stupid and it backfired and it was beyond ridiculous. It literally nearly killed me and it hurt and there were times when I thought I was going to die and times I even wanted to. I never knew how to get through. I never saw a way through, but a reassuring yet now absent voice occasionally reminded me that there was a way through. I am not brave. I have no courage. But somehow I made it through. And every single step, every word on a page, every second in a lecture, every look of surprise, was a triumph.
People told me no. They shook their heads, they judged, they told me I was an idiot. But sometimes there was admiration there, for this little thing that kept going when she should have ground to a halt, for the girl who nearly killed herself to walk to lectures and passed out on arrival just so nobody could question her attendance again. I ran away from the ward with IV lines hanging out of me to cross the road so I could go to the medical school and attend lectures. People thought I was mad. They expected me to drop out and I showed them.
Right now I am laying here with chest pain and awful awful flashy shifty laggy smudgy vision. I can’t look anywhere other than my phone screen because it is so shifty and laggy and disorientating (you know the clip at the start of films where it warns about piracy and the people are walking along the street and the images are unfocused and leave a ghostly residue/smudge behind them as they move? It’s like that but with flashes and a time delay). I am exhausted from sitting in a chair. I am at my limit. But as I said to my uncle, I am surrounded by people who cannot breathe for themselves and may never do again. I am incredibly lucky. This body is stronger than it ever should have been and in fact, I am beginning to ever so slightly think that the person it harbours may be ever so slightly the same. They said they were losing me on Wednesday. They panicked, they said I didn’t have time to wait for a central line and somehow my body held on long enough for three failed attempts until they got one in. They were wrong. I remained.
People doubt me now. They doubt my ability (apart from my uncle, who messaged me to say there will be an end one day and somehow I will get trough all of this and hopefully do all of the things I want). They doubt that I will function without a little help from some IV stuff and a central line. My own parent has given up on the future I fully intend to enjoy. Everyone doubts my ability to function. And yet they forget one thing…
I am still me. I am still that stubborn little thing that went to an anatomy practical and nearly died in it, that defied odds and went to uni when most would have collapsed due to how unwell they were. I am the determined idiot who refused to call ambulances and walked to hospital only to pass out on arrival when the adrenaline ran out. I am the teenager who was told before my 20th birthday by a consultant that I was basically toast, that it was all going to go belly up, and the 20 year old version of that teenager is still here writing this. I am the person who missed years of school and was expected to fail, who was told I wouldn’t make it through my first year of university. I am the one they told no, I am the one who nearly died too many times and should be dead and somehow isn’t. I am the one who defied their stupid odds and expectations, who silenced their doubt and who did the things people told me I couldn’t. I am still her. I am still me.
There always has been, and always will be
No way but through.
“Throw dirt on me and grow a wildflower” – Eminem