There is a part of this journey where I no longer feel like I am coming home – I am home. Just past the Greenwich turnoff, over the bridge, and London spreads itself out before me, Canary Wharf and the O2 arena (or in my brain still, “The Millennium Dome”) welcoming me back to the city that will always have my heart.
It feels like mine. It feels like freedom. It feels like a place I will always belong. London. So much love for this city. SO much love.
The Blackwall tunnel, feeding us under the river and further into the city. On the other side of it, my mind wraps itself in the comfort of the road sign that says “Stratford, Dalston”. Through Bow, the Olympic park tower thing (that was also visible from the room in halls that I spent the last year living in) visible in front of us. And then we pull off of the road, and the sign says Mile End and we turn onto Mile End Road and even though we are still driving I AM HOME. This is home. This is the road I wandered late at night, stumbled home from the pub along, laughed on, cried on, was pushed along in a wheelchair, ran away from hospital and caught the bus along… This road is familiarity. I’ve missed it.
Mile End Station. My mind takes off then, it soars in its elation at this place and all it represents. Acceptance. Freedom. Independence… Expensive. It feels like I never left at all. Just like that. We drive on, briefly sandwiched between my university and the building in which I will be living from September onwards. The pub. Stepney Green. The cinema. Whitechapel… Hospital. The hospital I ended up in far too many times, big and blue and looming over everything, visible for miles. And my comfort melts away, I tense up to try and stop myself shaking.
I hate the first appointment. It is with a new doctor who is meant to be operating on my jaw, except her junior doctor takes the consultation and I don’t like her attitude. She hurts me and then says,
“Oh please that didn’t hurt!” like I’m stupid. When she does it again and I flinch, she decides to order an x-ray. I leave before getting the results – a far more urgent appointment that I’ve been dreading for days is waiting. I tell the receptionist I can’t wait any more, and I walk out. This involves making the exact walk that I used to make every Tuesday and Thursday to the medical school for my lectures. My entire self longs for some form of mental stimulation, for brain food, for university, for intelligent conversation and knowledge in quantities sufficient to quench my thirst for biomedical science. When doctors find out that I’m studying biomedical science, and at which uni, their attitude to me significantly changes. The max. fax. doctor is no different. But it wasn’t enough to make me wait.
It is so good to be out in the fresh air that it is only then that I relax and realise my hands are shaking. Get a grip self, I think in annoyance, but I know it is about to get a lot worse. I travel to the next hospital, right by my uni, to see a gathering of medical people about my complex type one diabetes, which is made extremely dangerous by the fact that other stuff interferes with the effectiveness of my injections, and my blood sugars run continuously dangerously high as a result (but sometimes drop so low I should be in a coma, and I get no symptoms either way). It isn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, although I’m so worked up that before I walk into the room I’m almost in tears, fear burning me alive. I’m shaking all over, my heart is like a freight train, I feel bile rising in my throat and my stomach lurches every now and again to try and force it out of me. I am sweating. I can’t sit in the waiting room, I stand and fidget and try to calm down but can’t.
My mum made me feel ridiculous just after we left the house, when she asked me why I was so scared and what I was even scared of. I didn’t even try to explain. I can’t. She thinks I have some sort of control over my PTSD, thinks it is nonsense and just an overreaction. She has no idea of the raw terror. I didn’t sleep at all last night. I got a little drunk but I was so wired and tense that it didn’t help me sleep at all. All it did was make my vision issues even worse, because when your sober brain is still struggling to process visual information, making it drunk really, really doesn’t help. I stayed up all night, bursting through the other side of flashbacks drenched in sweat and shaking and crying and sometimes clinging to the sofa cushions as though my life depended on it. She seems to think I chose to be that way, that I can just not feel it if I don’t want to.
When hospitals have put you through the things that I have been through in my lifetime – when as a child you were bullied by nursing staff and witnessed their bitching about patients, were assaulted by a doctor and locked in a room and felt every snip of a surgery for a minute when it went on longer than planned and they carried on cutting away… When you ended up intubated and ventilated after six hours of testing because the doctors were more interested in trying to blame you, and then woke up to need emergency surgery because they messed up again… When you’ve been let down and lied to and watched your mum spiral into depression and then later were left to die multiple times by people who said they were there to help you (there’s more, but I’m nowhere near ready to talk about that) it is natural to have a fear. It is human to want to run from places that hold the people that are capable of doing those things because they all swore they were different and they were safe and they would help, and their physical and mental scars still run too deep to ever fade. She made me feel ridiculous and pathetic and she just didn’t get it. She doesn’t even try. She tells me it is illogical and gets frustrated and I can’t handle that.
Anyway, I told them that I had been unofficially been using Bob Jr. (insulin pump). They said he was outdated and they have enow applied for a newer fancier pump made by a different company. They gave me these little port things which have only just been released by some random company. It sits in your skin and so I can do my other injections into this little port and hopefully save my injection sites. We are trying this just to get things moving and to try and make life easier for me. For the first time in about two years, my mum came into the appointment. I hated her intruding. Most of the time she stays out but she insisted on attending today all of a sudden. I hated it. I nearly cried. I was so tense. She dominated the conversation until eventually she left, leaving me with three medical professionals. I’d bumped into my usual consultant who said a friendly hello, but now I was sat with a specialist nurse, another doctor, and some other woman who seemed to know a lot but who I’d never met before. I could see my old kitchen in university halls from the window, along with other uni buildings, and it made me long to go home to uni so badly.
I left and I just wanted to cry. I’d been so tense and had so little sleep that I instantly just wanted to cry a river and sleep for a million years, not because I was upset, but because I had held so much back for so long. I was so relieved and could finally relax and I needed to let it all go. Once I leave a hospital appointment the only people I can talk to about it are my uni parents or a couple of my friends (although my friends can’t really handle it). My mum kept bringing it up. Then she was just generally unusually chatty. I walked past uni buildings holding in tears. I couldn’t talk. I felt like a raincloud. I felt dark and empty and hollow and heavy and I just needed to be left alone. I tried to explain this but she got so annoyed when I didn’t talk that I just asked her to change the subject. She didn’t like that either.
Anyway, we went to see the accommodation I will be living in from September. It’s so expensive and way over budget, but it is amazing. The staff were all so lovely. We went on a tour and the woman showed us around the room two doors along from mine, which is at the end of the corridor on the sixth floor. When you come out of the lift at one end yo are looking at the gherkin building and the shard, if you walk down to my end of the corridor you can see the olympic park, and out of my window, you get this view…
I will be waking up to the above image every single morning for as long as I am staying in that room and I am so excited about that because that image just reminds me of home. I love London. I love it. More than love it.
I sample some of the food from the chinese/ thai/ japanese/ general asian restaurant (one of two) in the building. I had egg fried rice with thai chilli spiced salmon. It is HEAVEN and is served in a cute little takeaway thing.
Then I am meant to go along the road to the giant blue hospital looming over Whitechapel, where I have nearly died way too many times over the last year. But my mum refuses to drive there. So we end up in the rheumatology clinic of the hospital which my uni wraps itself around. There was a huge shenanigan (I say that word an AWFUL lot) with my blood form and stuff, and we had to wait for ages and then go back and get a form for all the bloods they wanted… But it finally worked out and I was so warm and my blood pressure was so high from my stress, that the phlebotomist found a usable vein for once!
The phlebotomist was so shocked when the system told her I was 20 years old. She had thought I was a young teenager, just about 16 at a push. She was all,
“You really don’t look 20 though i’n’it? I was so shocked. You look about 16 at the very most.” Apparently I will be glad of that one day.
As soon as we get in the car and are out of Mile End, I fall asleep. We stop at a shopping centre on the way back to Kent and I just sit in the car and wake up a little. I’d been messaging my fellow third wheel all through the ordeal of my appointments and he’d been calming me down and talking me through it, and he is messaging me asking how things have been going, but just as I go to reply my phone dies.
My family go out for dinner because nobody wants to cook. Dad is in a foul mood and drags all of our moods down with him. He upsets my little brother and still insists that I am responsible for one of my health hiccups, shouting at me in front of the other people in the pub eating their food. My mum backs me up and tells him that he doesn’t understand the medical fact behind it all. More than that, neither of them know everything. And neither of them understand what they do know. They don’t have a lot of scientific knowledge and they don’t try to understand the PTSD and depression. There is a rift between us that I no longer want to overcome.
We go back to the house and I hug my dog, and then shower for ages and ages with Red Hot Chilli Peppers playing extremely loudly in the bathroom. I can’t help but nod my head along with the music, and in the shower I let the water shoot off of my fingers like I have a super power and just let myself go, sort of almost dancing and singing along loudly all at the same time. That makes me feel awesome. I run the water as hot as I can stand and then gradually take all the warm water out completely (I’ve been having ice cold showers lately thanks to the heat). Everything is better then, so I came downstairs able to function again, and set about making a mess of the kitchen side as I change my infusion site and my continuous glucose monitor and put the cannula of the port into my stomach in a very painful process, so that there is now a little UFO on my stomach with a cannula running into me,
Anyway, this morning was unbelievably traumatic, and waiting to have my bloods taken this afternoon I so nearly ran off (not that I can run), especially when my mum started getting all outraged at the hospital staff. In my eyes getting angry in situations like that gets you nowhere, and also it is better to keep the people with my life in their hands onside. I was happy to leave. I’m happy it was over. I feel so stupid for being such a mess about it.
But there was no way but through.
And I got to see uni and walk the routes I used to walk to get to and from certain places. I miss it so much. Bring on September!
I am currently drained of all colour, there are huge grey shadows around my sunken eyes, my lips are almost white but a dark purple around the edge so it looks like I’m wearing freaky lipstick and lipliner (neither of which I own in any form) when actually I think they just aren’t getting enough blood. My leg muscles screamed after I had walked about 20 metres and I now have barely the energy to stand. But it was so worth it. I was home. I was me. I was back in London. Part of me never left, and I was re-uinited with the half of myself that I left behind there.
Today has been a day of trauma and euphoria. Averaged out, it was really quite ok. But I never want to feel that fear again.