Role Reversal

“That’s the point. This healthy-feeling time now just feels like a tease. Like I’m in this holding pattern, flying in smooth circles within sight of the airport, in super comfortable first class. But I can’t enjoy the in-flight movie or free chocolate chip cookies because I know that before the airport is able to make room for us, the plane is going to run out of fuel, and we’re going to crash-land into a fiery, agonizing death.” – Jessica Verdi, My Life After Now

When you find your feet and learn to run again on the uneven ground that once made you slow, you have to be prepared to stumble. There is a reason the sight of it stopped you in your tracks. And you may be able to dance across loose rock now, but you will be caught out. You know you will. So you run harder now, you smile wider, and you try not to scream when you fall. Things are always too good to last. Things that go right are usually too good to be true. We find ways to screw up, to ruin them for themselves, to ruin ourselves.

I’m not talking literally about the running – I will not run, if I do, for a long time. On top of all the old running, bully-inflicted, sailing and football injuries that still niggle away, my body has decided to make sure I definitely won’t make it run any time soon. Yesterday I somehow pulled my hamstring. I thought the pain was cramp for a while, until I realised that the pain was in too much of a specific area to be cramp and it mostly hurt if I tried to move my leg. Sitting on it hurt(s). Then while trying to massage my leg until it chilled the hell out, I found a rather large lump across the back of my thigh, which made me conclude that I’ve pulled something a little bit, and it’s all inflamed and angry that I won’t give it a rest. My knee decided this was a great time to dislocate (on the same leg, may I add), and on the opposite foot, thanks to my poor circulation (heart, if you could just supply everything adequately that would be great), feeble immune system, and type 1 diabetes (made extremely difficult to manage thanks to another hiccup)… I now have an infection of my big toe. I’m not too fussed by all of this, physical pain has to be pretty extreme before it bothers me. It was the other sort that yesterday brought me to my knees.

I am riding highs briefly and then falling into the lowest lows, health wise (my body keeps just losing the ability to human, making me dangerously ill, and making doctors want to admit me to hospital, which I usually refuse right before walking out because I can’t deal with that right now) and emotionally (I completely break, then throw a blanket over the shards and ride the good for a little while, and then something else happens or I face up to something else and I just can’t cope again) and I’ve no idea why things are so turbulent right now. It’s frustrating to be so out of control of every aspect of myself, but the bad seems to be inevitable. That isn’t me being pessimistic, it is me being realistic. It would be easy for me to say life is bad all the time given my current situation, but it isn’t. I am lucky. I just very much relate to the quote that started this post. 

Turns out that in the absence of my furry rock, I completely fall apart right now. He went to the vets in the morning.

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LEFT: on the way to the vets, he thought he was going for a walk 😥   TOP RIGHT: In the waiting room, sat with his butt under my chair, pressed right against my leg.    BOTTOM RIGHT: Stood in the exam room, pressing himself right against me again as the vet approaches with a stethoscope.

He tried to walk out after me as we left the room, he looked very confused and desperately pulled against the lead to follow us. We didn’t know whether or not he would have cancer, or what decisions we would have to make if he did.

I went back to the house and finally set up my online shop. I mean, I actually launched the thing and finally put up some products. And I was running. I was smiling. I felt like I’d achieved something so I posted links to it on this blog and I was happy and… Then my mum picked holes in it and pointed some stuff out and I took it down. I made the site inactive and then came the stumble. I have been fighting my own thoughts a lot lately. I am in a bad place and I’m trying to hide that and trying to act like I’m not, but my mind is carrying the weight of a lot of things right now. If these things were physical injuries and I were an animal that humans value less than ourselves, I would have been put down. I’m ashamed of it and I am trying to overcome it, and the way I do that is with labrador cuddles at the minute. Shame crept in and I felt like I’d failed again.

At the sound of my mother’s critique and the fact that I’d screwed up (but, by the way, totally not screwed up) something so simple, I became incredibly frustrated at myself for messing up what feels like everything I try at. For a while, but especially recently, I have felt that I can do right by nobody at the moment, nobody in my family – but I’d been successfully shutting it away until I messed up such a stupid little minor simple thing that it more than reinforced the idea that I would probably never be able to do something adequately. I was so annoyed at myself for getting so bothered by the whole thing. I genuinely just fell apart, I wondered if I would ever do anything right, if anything I planned would go right after the many failed attempts to get to Edinburgh and the holidays with friends that fell through and, about five minutes after this saga, my friend bailing on our plans to join a leisure centre because she has to go back to uni.

I felt hopelessly alone and misunderstood and I’m still not sure where to turn with that. I messaged my fellow third wheel because we seem to do that pretty constantly anyway, and he was just there. He talked me through the whole thing. He sent me a load of memes to try and make me laugh. And then I just told him that I wanted to hug my dog a lot, and he pointed out that part of the reason for me falling apart was probably because my dog holds me together. This was a fair point. I still fell apart. I lost myself in the feelings I had been running form. All the issues my dog had distracted me from were in the forefront of my mind and I reacted pathetically. He said I was acting like such a girl. I got pretty annoyed. I hide stuff that I think a lot of people wouldn’t be able to handle let alone suppress.

I went to get my furry rock from the vets at 5pm. He was wearing the cone of shame to stop him scratching or chewing the stitches in his eyelid and leg. He was so high he couldn’t walk straight, so I had to hold him up with his harness using one hand, and steer him by holding the cone of shame with the other (as the vet showed me). He was still so high that he crashed into everything, at one point couldn’t work out how to co-ordinate his legs in a way that would move forwards, wiped out so epically in the carpark as we approached the car that he split the cone of shame… Then couldn’t co-ordinate himself enough to lay down, so I had to hold him up as he passed out with his face on the centre console of the car. He didn’t want people around him. He was grumpy. But I had my furry rock back, and in even better news, the lump on his eye was just an infected cyst, and they think that the most worrying of his many other tumour things may not be cancer after all, so I was incredibly relieved.

When we got back to the house, my dog didn’t know what to do with himself. He was confused and swaying but didn’t want to sit down, so I kept having to catch him as he just collapsed or tripped over himself (by this stage we had ditched the cone of shame, because he was too high to even realise he had fresh wounds and I know what it’s like to wear a cone of shame – albeit metaphorical – because of an illness). Then suddenly, he decided he needed a human, and that nobody other than me would do. He was drunk on whatever on earth they had given him, so he’d stumble over to me and then just sort of collapse at my feet when he stopped. We fed him and his back legs just slowly collapsed from underneath him as he ate, lowering his butt to the floor until his tail touched and he suddenly realised what had happened, straightened his back legs, and stood back up. Over and over and over. His back half and his front half were seemingly independent of each other for several hours, and his paws moved sideways crossing over each other as he tried to walk forward, which meant he tripped up a lot. He walked into almost every wall. I had to follow him everywhere, and periodically he would just stop, look at me, and throw himself against my legs clumsily. He freaked whenever I moved the slightest distance away from him, so I just had to sit and stroke him while he probably wondered what on earth was going on.

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The cone of shame (and a very dopey, drugged dog). This was the widest he managed to open his eyes for several hours afterwards. Just below his left ear you can see the split in the cone of shame from where he lost all control of himself, face planted the floor, panicked, and whacked his head on the side of the car trying to get into the footwell (I tried my best to prevent this, but he was like a rag doll, it was pretty impossible). After getting a new cone of shame, we set off. 

I slept in the kitchen with him last night, like I did when he had a general anaesthetic before (he’d had major surgery that time and could hardly move, but still did’t make a sound). I slept on an inflatable beach lounger thing and left off the cone of shame, and my high as a kite dog got as close to me as he possibly could, put his head on the lounger and wouldn’t settle until I was half on the floor, had curled myself around him, and given him a corner of the blanket. All night we stayed like this. Each time I got up to make a drink he tried to walk after me and fell over himself (I honestly have no idea what sedatives or painkillers they gave him but they took a long time to leave his system considering he was all stitched up by the start of the afternoon). When I went to the bathroom he eventually managed to make it almost all the way after me, and I had to help him back to the kitchen when I discovered him leaning against a doorframe in a very confused state (again, when he saw me, he leant all his weight against me in a sort of panicked state which made my heart break for him a little bit). He’s usually clingy and protective, but he was defenceless and confused and almost terrified to be apart from me. He needed constant comforting and I was happy to oblige because damn I’d missed him. He eventually came down from his drug-induced high at about 5 in the morning, at which point he just sort of collapsed on the floor while trying to bring me his toy and slept right round until my mum woke us up at 7.

All he wanted was somebody to be there, and I kind of felt really special that he would accept the company of nobody else. We have a special bond, me and my dog. He lays by me when I’m ill, and I do the same when he is (in a weird role reversal, such as the one this entire post is about). When either of us is ill, we take away the other’s cone of shame. Today as I started revising for the exam I have on Thursday morning, he refused to leave my side, and kept jumping up at me (which he never usually does). While I realised I had no student ID (which I need to sit my exam!) and frantically searched for hours until I found it (under a diabetic teddy bear who shall at some point get his own blog post) he did his best to follow me around.

After he had his painkillers he got a bit dopey again and stuck to my side like glue. Whatever the reason for his sudden super-clinginess, I didn’t feel like such a screw up any more. I feel like I’m better at whatever role I fill in that dog’s life than everyone else in this house, I feel like he sees something in me that nobody else here sees because he wants to be around me so badly all the time, and that’s enough for me, because I finally found a pair of eyes belonging to someone I care about who doesn’t think I’m a complete screw up.

I took off his cone of shame…

And he freed me from mine too.


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