“It’s Easier To Run”

I wake briefly at around 7am and freak out at the laggy image of a nurses uniform drifting by my bedroom door. Adrenaline surges through me as the uniform begins moving towards me, the lagging and after-images of my newly messed up vision making everything ten times more terrifying. Then my mother’s voice drifts out of the figure. She is a midwife. She is on her way to work and has spotted me awake. I am an idiot. Hospital admissions always majorly trigger my PTSD and mess me up for a little while afterwards. My brain peppers waking hours with flashbacks and sleeping hours with nightmares that drag me back to reality shaking and sweating and terrified and buzzing with adrenaline. This is neither, but my brain for those few first waking seconds has no idea what is going on. It induces a fight or flight response and I can feel in my legs and in the racing of my heart that I was ready to run this time.

All of me has wanted to run since the events of yesterday, run away from myself, away from this… And not forward to the future, because the imminent period of that is going to be rougher than I am prepared even to imagine, but back… Back to before it all went wrong. Back to the twelve year old whose health could kill her but was easily manageable, the twelve year old who ran three kilometres a day with a labrador by her side and did more sport than there should have been time in the world to participate in. I want to go backwards, I want to do it all again and appreciate it ten times more, love the three hours of butterfly that I used to moan and groan about when I saw the warm up sheet and realised it was the start of fly week (I hated. Swimming. Butterfly). I want to know which swim training session will be my last. But “I want never gets.”

I cannot think about the future. It is out of my control, in the hands of people who are not willing to cling to it with me. I cannot deal with that knowledge. I cannot bring myself to call them so I can sit in an outpatients department and look into the eyes of a man who I feel let me down over the past few days, who refused to make a plan and refused to get involved in any attempts to try and stabilise me, who decided they just needed to stabilise me enough to keep me off of IVs so he could see me urgently on my return home. I feel my death, should it occur, will be in those hands too. I feel that death, should it occur, will not be far off. I had just over a week between grim reaper visits this time. They didn’t expect me to pull through as well as I did. It was close to the wire and I cannot pretend it wasn’t because I know it was. I am scared. And I am resigned. I realise I am indeed currently alive, which surprises me given how awful my bloods were when I discharged myself from the A&E department last night. I know my bloods will have gotten worse than that. I know I am very much lost within the woods and won’t be out of them for a while.

I roll over and go back to sleep.

My dog became very overexcited when I got back last night. He is laying on my bedroom floor just watching me when I wake up again at 1pm. He isn’t allowed on my bed and he knows this, but he also knows I won’t push him off any more. He puts a paw up on the covers to test the water, and looks at me. I do nothing. He puts the other paw on the bed and half heaves himself up. I smile and pat the bed. He throws himself on top of me before snuggling into the curve of my body (I am laying on my side) and putting his head on the pillow beside mine. He pushes himself right back against me and nudges me until I wrap my arm around him and cuddle him, his tail thumping away.

He follows me around the house, constantly looking up at me to make sure I am there. He is super protective, more on edge than usual, pausing and looking around at the slightest noise before moving himself closer to me, fur on end, tail in the air, staring in whatever direction the noise came from and getting very stressed if I attempt to move any closer to it before he has rushed towards the noise growling and barking, discovered everything is ok and returned with a wagging tail to nudge me until I give him a cuddle. This is unusual for a labrador. This is unusual for him. He is usually clingy when I have been in hospital, but never as protective as this. Does he know how unwell I am right now?

He won’t even leave me to shower (and he is terrified of the noise that the shower makes – always has been, he can’t even bear to be in the same room as it when it is switched on, sometimes he even runs downstairs). He doesn’t seem to be able to stand separation. He seems to want to protect me. I like that.

I eat enough food to feed several people, and then the lovebirds show up. I was meant to just be meeting sixth form friend’s girlfriend, but sixth form friend crashes the meeting and insists on coming along. This means that I third wheel awkwardly in my own living room. I message my fellow third wheel, who just needs some time to himself. He says that in a week or so he expects access to my dog (basically he wants to come round my house) as I promised. I say I will provide food and beer and maybe we can attempt to cook like we also said we would at some point during one of our ICU conversations. We decide this is a good plan, and I decide I may even try to source some gluten free beer, with extra for him to take home as a feeble beginning of my making the last week up to him.

My oldest sister arrives with my 16 year old nephew. They live in Dubai with my brother (in-law)  but he is working and could not fly over. Anyway, my nephew decided a few months ago that he wants to go to my old sixth form (which for some reason weirds me out in a not good way, because that was always my space and my life and I was compared to no other family members there, which meant I never came second best to any family for the first time in… My little brother’s lifetime). They have turned up to move my nephew into the house that no longer feels like home but is more welcoming now than it has been at any other point this year.

He will not be leaving. This is now his home and he will be more welcomed than I ever was. He, like my little brother, is the apple of my dad’s eye. I am the blackness of that man’s pupil, the disappointment, the void. No matter how hard I try. (It was even admitted to a family therapist once that he treated my little brother very preferentially, and that arguments between my parents were usually about me, which made me hate myself from a very young age). I feel pushed out by him moving in, especially as my room was intended to be used as the spare room now that he is taking over the actual spare room. I will be one rung lower on the ladder. I am so happy to have him around, he’s an incredible young man and he hugs me a lot (which I appreciate because who doesn’t love a good hug?) which doesn’t really happen with many other people, and we talk even when he is Dubai and I am excited to have him moving in. But it just hurts that I will be even more overlooked here now, especially by my other sister, and the nieces I adore… I am already invisible here. Already unwanted from time to time. At this stage, sixth form friend has left me and his girlfriend to hang out for an hour (we genuinely feel like we’ve been great friends for years it’s quite awesome). I am very aware that she is now fifth wheeling my family (my little brother is also home). My sister is shocked to see me,

“What are you doing here? I thought you were in hospital?” She exclaims. I explain. She says she is never told when I’m in hospital, because my parents don’t tell anyone, and that she is months and months behind and never has any idea I’ve been so unwell or what is going on. I say that I know, and that it makes it difficult for me too because I just want my family to be there and to be around or to have people to talk to that aren’t so stressed out by the whole thing that they end up shouting down the phone or getting immensely frustrated. I also point out that I can’t go behind my parents’ backs and start telling people where I am. Although, as she points out – it’s my life, and I kind of… Can.

Sixth form friend returns (covered in mud from a bike ride by the huge river about a 10 minute drive from my house) and rescues me from the awkwardness by taking his girlfriend and I to get drive-through takeaway. After a small crisis which involves scraping around to find £1.31 to pay for petrol while sixth form friend’s mum makes me feel all the feels with some adorable messages, we go to (sixth form friend’s girlfriend)’s house. Her mum rushes at me with open arms like she has known me for ages, shouting “Oh I’m so happy to see you! Oh darling! Oh you poor poor thing I have felt so sorry for everything you’ve been through this week! Aren’t you pretty?” (The last part is clearly flattery, because I look like death by this stage, and I am by no means pretty. But it proves that people say the most adorable things). She hugs me and squeezes me and smiles and is so excited that I am out of hospital that I immediately love her. We go upstairs and sit for a bit, and sixth form friend says he is third wheeling even though he seems to be dominating the conversation at times. I feel sorry for him. He’s insecure and is facing two girls alone.

My mum is annoyed at me for inviting my sister for dinner, but I return home anxiously anyway to find she’s fine with the whole thing. Dad has been sent to get fish and chips, and I find my sister sat in the kitchen alone. She says I look really unwell. She seems quite alarmed at the sight of me, actually. I tell her I look amazing compared to how I have looked, point out that this is the first time I have been able to walk unassisted, and that I have not been awake for so long without a nap for over a week. She says I should go to bed. I look at myself in the mirror, knowing I should never have left the bed.

My colour has drained and I look kind of greyish. There are huge black shadows around sunken, half opened eyes. I look ill. I look really, really ill. I look worse than I did when I left the hospital. But I look so, so much better than I did a couple of days ago. It is alarming and concerning but I have the energy to do neither and fear and futility stop me seeking help.

Over the next couple of hours my sister keeps going on, saying I look rough, peaky, not good, awful. I listen to music so I can’t hear my nephew and brother playing basketball out the front (a sound that makes me want to join them more than anything like I used to, back in the days when I could run rings around them both in sporting stuff). I message my fellow third wheel, and we end up discussing music because we have very similar tastes in music. He tells me the name of the guy who made the music he played me in the hospital that I really liked.

They leave. I give in to my body. I curl up on my bed with my dog asleep beside me. I wonder about the future. I wonder about the exam results that were confirmed on the 13th of July but that I can’t bring myself to look at. I stress about my first-sits of the exams I missed which will occur in the first two weeks of August, and the fact that the dates have just been released. I focus on university, I work about that over everything else because when all of this rubbish is over I don’t want normal things to have paid the price. It is all that matters to me. It is all I can control right now and all I have. And yet at this rate let’s be realistic I… Can’t say that yet. I can’t entertain the idea of not going back.

My health is currently a huge, huge issue. I feel left alone and let down by doctors and I know that is partly due to my PTSD and the after-effect of previous awful experiences making my fear warp reality… But this current team took me away from a very helpful team at another London hospital who knew how to work with me on my physical health in a way that didn’t have a detrimental impact on my mental health (current idiot, please LISTEN UP).

And I know there is no way but through (until there isn’t, and honestly this time was so nearly ‘it’ that I fear that next time will be the full stop instead of the brief pause that is a comma).

But sometimes it’s just easier to run.

“It’s easier to run
Replacing this pain with something more
It’s so much easier to go
Than face all this pain here all alone

Something has been taken from deep inside of me
The secret I’ve kept locked away, no one can ever see
Wounds so deep they never show, they never go away
Like moving pictures in my head for years and years, they’ve played

If I could change I would take back the pain I would
Retrace every wrong move that I made I would
If I could stand up and take the blame I would
If I could take all the shame to the grave I would

It’s easier to run
Replacing this pain with something numb
It’s so much easier to go
Than face all this pain here all alone

Sometimes I remember the darkness of my past
Bringing back these memories, I wish I didn’t have
Sometimes I think of letting go and never looking back
And never moving forward so there’d never be a past

If I could change I would, take back the pain I would
Retrace every wrong move that I made I would
If I could stand up and take the blame I would
I would take all my shame to the grave

Just washing it aside
All of the helplessness inside
Pretending, I dont feel misplaced
Its so much simpler to change

…” – Linkin Park, Easier To Run (lyric source)

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