Unaccustomed

I haven’t posted for a few days because lectures are surprisingly exhausting, and I have returned to my first year panicked state of feeling guilty if my attention is given to anything other than uni work (I don’t mind, because finally I have something to fill my time, and I have been reminded of how in love I am with this degree).

I’m not really sure what’s going on with this blog. The format of my posts seems to be changing (by accident) and I have kind of gone back to rambling on about nothing in particular. One more post of awfulness and then I promise to try and shape this all into something I’m half pleased with.

25/09

I spent all day in bed so my body could recover from its brief encounter with (almost) acidosis. It responded by… going back into acidosis at 4pm. I’d been sleeping on and off all day and I felt so unwell that a small panic eventually began to bubble up at the thought of missing any university at all. I concluded that I probably hadn’t entirely got myself out of this situation the night before, dealt with it as best I could all over again, and started reading over physiology lecture slides in preparation for a return to what I can only describe as heaven on earth (known to the rest of my course mates as our university).

Hong Kong Uni Friend invited me to the cinema at 8. I could only stay awake for 5-10 minutes when she messaged me, and even then my eyes were heavy and hardly open. But I’m not being the unwell person this year, so I said yes. She paid for my ticket, and for a large popcorn and drink (it took me two hands to hold the drink alone, the portion sizes were so big!). When I met HK Uni Friend my abdomen was slightly distended. We watched it grow until I looked pregnant.

On the way home we encountered a drunk guy wandering up the steps to the Central Line. He was asking a couple where he should go and they clearly didn’t want anything to do with him. He stank of booze, and when I spoke to him he said he was having a bad day. He’s lost his friends, his phone, his Oyster card, and his jacket, and any memory of how on earth to get home. Eventually we worked out that if he got to Upminster, he could get a taxi home with his casino winnings (he’d just been kicked out for being too drunk). He was middle aged, very apologetic and embarrassed, and extremely wobbly on his feet. I said I’d show him where to go, he was going our way. HK Uni Friend didn’t say much, which seemed to be a wise decision, as I received many kisses on our one stop Central Line ride, and she escaped with none. I didn’t like some random guy kissing me on the cheek multiple times, and preferred when he just stood there saying we were very nice and that this demonstrated the circle of life (he said thank you more times than I do, which I thought was impossible!). As the tube pulled away I was so focussed on the drunk guy that I forgot to get my balance and stumbled over onto my foot. It rolled underneath me, twisting my ankle, and making my most lateral metatarsal scream (the foot bone behind your little toe).

I ignored the foot thing and we walked the guy to the next platform he needed and stood with him until the train arrived. He got onto the train still shouting thank you, and we left satisfied that he would at least get somewhere significantly nearer to his home.

I was introduced to the night guard of our accommodation, who had a long conversation in French with HK Uni Friend (whose family is actually french). HK Uni Friend had already warned him about me, and he said he’d almost come to my room the night before to check on me. We asked him to alter my key-card so that I had access to the gym. He gave me a form to fill out and went to do whatever needed to be done to make that a thing.

I experienced that awkward moment where the only “no” you can circle on a list of 14-15 health conditions/ issues that mean you’re unsafe to use a gym is Are you pregnant? (because my love life is as non-existent as the functioning of my beta cells, and my body is a poop).

It asked stuff along the lines of

  • Are you unaccustomed to strenuous exercise?
  • Do you or have you ever had chest pain or heart palpitations?
  • Do you have a heart condition?
  • Do you have a respiratory condition such as asthma?
  • Do you have a chronic illness such as diabetes, epilepsy… ?

And the list went on. He told me to be honest when I filled out the form and questioned whether I could or should actually use the gym. I told him it was fine and that I’d try to build up to stuff slowly. And then somehow at some point he learned that I’d spent an hour laying helplessly because I was too unwell to move, and decided that knocking on my door every night shift to make sure I was alright wasn’t enough of a precaution, and so made me put my mobile number into the mobile phone that the night porters carry with them, which will always be with a member of staff 24/7. I also took the number for reception. He said he had a duty of care for me and he wanted to make sure I was ok while i was living here. I kind of felt like I’d be safe here then.

HK Uni Friend showed me where to take my rubbish, and on the way we encountered a drunk guy stumbling over to the lift in her wing of the building covered from head to foot in the contents of his own stomach. We were pretty grossed out by this, as were the people hanging around reception, who were really friendly and chatted with us. Once again I was bought food, for which I felt completely awful, but HK Uni Friend said it wasn’t charity, she wanted to do it (which made me feel a tiny bit less awful and pathetic).

26/09

I woke up with a throbbing pain still in my foot. Upon removing my foot from the warmth of the covers, I discovered that most of it was purple, with a huge almost black “epicentre” over the metatarsal which I then realised (as the swelling had settled down a lot) stuck out in a way that it probably shouldn’t. I was pretty amused, so sent a picture to a couple of my course mates (I have discovered that biomedics seem to be intrigued by this sort of picture) who took one look and immediately decided that I had broken my foot. This resulted in them for the rest of the day pleading with me to go to the hospital as I limped around totally not bothered by the sharp pain. No thanks. Just no.

I left home 20 minutes before the lecture (which was literally on the other side of the road) started, with Bastille playing in my ears and a view of central London stretched out before me as I walked down the corridor. HK Uni Friend and Portsmouth Uni friend were both a little late to meet me, but we went into lectures anyway. My really good friend from last year who I always used to meet before lectures sat next to me. We hadn’t messaged for months because she was super stressed out by exams and I felt like nobody would really want to talk to me, but it was as if we’d never been apart. Being in lectures felt so, so good. I can’t even explain it. After two hours of human molecular biology (with a northern lecturer who gave off a Noel Gallagher sort of vibe and became significantly more upbeat when he’d had more coffee and got past all the boring “this person lectures you these weeks” stuff), we had a one hour break and then went into our physiology lecture.

After that, Uni Babe and I bumped into Uni Pal and Women’s Rugby Uni Friend (who we’d just been sitting with) in the shop opposite campus. They invited us to go to Stratford with them to get piercings, so we got on the bus and went with them. I had no money for a piercing and wouldn’t have gotten one even if I did (I am genuinely considering a tattoo though, and have been for the last year. I really, really want one to cover a surgery scar from radial artery surgery which people always mistake for a self harm scar). We were told to go back at four, so we sat and chatted about what lecturers they fancied and our personal tutors and other random junk. My lunch was paid for which made me almost want to cry with shame, although I was so hungry I felt sick so I eventually gave into their persistent offers and said yes-please-thank-you-sorry.

I spent my afternoon sat in a tattoo parlour drinking tea made by the tattoo apprentice, and in complete heaven due to the amount of art and awesome body art I was surrounded by. I watched people getting tattoos and I got talking to the lovely (and very talented) tattoo apprentice. I showed her some of my drawings, and then asked if I could look through her sketch book.  I went through it cover to cover and it was so awesome to talk to an artist and just get lost in a discussion about art. She was so talented and my favourite was a (not anatomically accurate at all but amazing looking) heart with blue major vessels, and the actual muscle itself made up of pink/ purple crystals. I discussed all her drawings with her but kept going back to that one. I took a picture of it (with her permission) as I decided that instead of an ECG trace over the line of my scar or an anatomically accurate heart in black and white, I wanted that one. So I finally figured out what tattoo I wanted while my friends got another cartilage piercing and (another) nipple piercing respectively (Uni Babe immediately bailed when we got to the place, and I’m not meant to have tattoos or whatever so…). They’re such an awesome group of people, they also have tattoos which makes them even more awesome in my eyes (I never used to see the appeal of tattoos, but now I’m not sure whether it is the fact that my health means I shouldn’t really get one, or the feeling of rebellion, or the genuine appreciation of the beauty of some of them, or the act of covering the scars that I’m not comfortable with… But I’m just drawn to the idea of them).

I felt like I was going to pass out multiple times, and couldn’t work out why. There was an undercurrent of awfulness, but I was more focussed on my foot and arguing about why I refused to go to hospital for such a teeny tiny thing as an annoyed metatarsal. As we wandered back through Mile End, it was pointed out the “You look like you’re actually pregnant!” I’m pretty conscious of my swelling when it happens, and I felt super embarrassed. Uni Pal told them that when we’d gone out the other week I’d looked pregnant with triplets. I feel like I should probably get that issue sorted…

I finished my lecture notes from that day of lectures (I made notes before the lectures from the slides, then during the lectures from what the lecturer added, and then combined them all afterwards into detailed notes from which I then made a revision sheet). I do not want to fall behind this year. It took me until midnight but I loved every second and I was driven by this unshakable desire to just… Fill every empty corner of my brain with knowledge, I guess.

And then I realised I was back in the early stages of acidosis. I’d been fighting it all afternoon and still hadn’t shaken it off again (because I needed IVs to do that properly and I’ve no intention of going to seek the help of people who could sort that out under any circumstances right now). I know I can’t hold it off, but there’s this huge mental block between me and hospitals. I can’t even pick up the phone or reply to an email if I know there’s a doctor or nurse at the other end at the moment. I shake. And I’m too afraid of the university’s reaction to miss even one lecture (which some already had just one day in!). I patiently waited, and moderately panicked, until I had the energy to lift my head off of the pillow, made it to the sink, and just drank and drank and drank. I don’t usually panic about my health, and I wasn’t panicking about what was going on inside of me, I was panicking about the effect it would have, the reaction of my university, the things it would take from me… How messed up is that?

I ended up getting into the shower at 1am, after my 12th nosebleed of the day. I put on a Jenna+Julien podcast (the background sound to my day) and ate some food. I fell asleep to a recording of that day’s lectures, listening to my friend’s personal tutor talking about the C-value paradox and tandemly repeated DNA segments. Because that was all that mattered to me. I have uni back, I’m back living my dream, and my life has something in it again. Uni is my life and my life is uni. It’s like a comfort blanket. I love it here .

The panic, the pressure, the throwing away all other interests and putting away the non-fiction book I’ve been reading so I can re-read the paperback I have about epigenetics… It has begun again. The pressure is unreal, and I’m just constantly terrified, almost phobic… about becoming unwell, or ending up in hospital, or missing even a single thing. Yes it is stress and pressure, and being back at uni is unreal in terms of exhaustion. But… I love it (even though I’ve become a little unaccustomed to it). I feel alive. It makes me feel like I have a life.

And that’s all I wanted, for so long. To go to uni. To feel alive.

Never underestimate the power of an education.

For me, there’s no way but uni. Without this place I could never have kept going.

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