67.9 (I’m just going to park that number there for a moment).
I woke up yesterday and immediately knew my body had gone very wrong. I’ve really been knocked back by a simple stomach bug, and my body was still reeling (although I was better than the day before, where I spent the entire day in the bathroom either semi-conscious and emptying my digestive tract, or unconscious). I was struggling to stay with it, and struggling to stay awake. I felt weak and sick and I was in a lot of pain. I sprayed myself with disinfectant, vowed not to touch anything, and walked onto campus, too afraid to miss the meetings I had arranged for that day in fear that the uni would… Y’know… Half way there I knew. I knew my pH was low because I know what it feels like.
I sat down in my personal tutor’s office, and I don’t really remember what was said. I just remember that one of the first things we talked about was my grade at the end of first year. She told me I’d got a solid 2:1. She asked me how I felt about it. I said that it was alright, given the circumstances. I then that it had taken me a long time to be able to say that, because I’d really beaten myself up about it. And then she said a number that I hadn’t been expecting. 67.9%. I looked at her computer screen. I was one more A grade away from getting a first overall. One decent exam (I seriously screwed up a couple but didn’t fail any). It was much higher than I thought my average was (I thought it was around 62% for some reason) so I was suddenly so relieved – so much easier to claw my way to a first overall now!
She told me it was a good grade, but that she didn’t feel it was what I was capable of and it didn’t reflect me. I was kinda reassured, and then my self-critiscisms were kind of reinforced. I said that I agreed with her, that I knew I could do more, and that if I had put in the work then I would have possibly done so (I was TEACHING myself 22 hours worth of taught material for the first time the night before the exams because I’d missed all the lectures due to being so unwell). She said that it was a shame I hadn’t been able to get what I was capable of, and we discussed that this was why I’d been encouraged to drop out for the year and come back.
And then she stopped. And she just sort of looked at me and told me it was really, really impressive. Amazing that after all the crap I had to deal with last year I was even still here. She knew what I’d been dealing with in personal and health areas, and she wanted us both to stop and acknowledge how “amazing” it was that I’d got a grade like the one I got after a year like that. Those words from her mouth meant something more. Her approval meant more than I thought it did. And it shut them all up. I missed over half of taught programmes and most of the assessed work. I was in hospital at least once a month having almost died, and I would leave hospital to go to lectures. I’d pass out in lectures, I’d go straight home and sleep until the next day’s lectures. I fell apart mentally. I sat my exams with a low blood pH… And even though I went through all of that I threw a solid 2:1 at them. They can’t argue with that. And I can’t argue with that. Because when she said it, I thought back over just how awful that year was, just how near to death I came physically, and mentally how close I came to taking my own life… And then I was finally a little bit impressed too. Just a little bit, just for a little while. For the first time, I managed to briefly shake the negativity I attached to that grade.
I tried to seek some reassurance about whether or not uni could kick me out because of my health. I just needed somebody to call my brain out about how ridiculous it was being and just state university policy at me or something, but that wasn’t a conversation topic that could be dealt with, and I was told to go to advice and counselling with it.
Anyway, that meeting went a lot better than I expected. In the lift there were a bunch of first year biomed. students, but I didn’t know whether I was going to pass out or vomit, so I didn’t stop to talk to them. I somehow made it home, the world out of focus and moving in ways it shouldn’t, my head feeling so, so weird. I saw myself in the mirror. My lips were white and cracked all around the edges. My face was pale and greyish. There were huge shadows around sunken, half opened eyes. Hello acidotic me. I tried to do my coursework, but I don’t know what happened. I think I must have lost the ability to human for a bit. I came round in time for my next meeting.
I headed back to campus to see my disability advisor. The urge to pass out wouldn’t leave me, and as I stood in the corridor outside his office it intensified until everything faded to black. I hit the wall, falling backwards, and somehow dragged myself back to the land of the living before my legs fully gave out. He opened the door and let me in. I sat down, and THE FIRST thing he said was well done about my grades. I was puzzled. He said that after the year I’d had the grades were fantastic, and that I should be proud of them anyway because they were good even for someone who hand’t been through all I’d been through. I tried to push the conversation off but he made us stick on the subject. I said I’d been kind of disappointed with the grade, and that my personal tutor even agreed that I could have done better.
“No, honestly. You went through so much last year. I can’t begin to imagine how tough it was, but I know it must have been very, very tough. For you to do so well is… Fantastic! It really is incredible. You should be very proud.” Two people saying it in one day? He said that I’d shown my school I could go through more than most and still produce a grade to compete with most. He said that was probably why they seem so much more helpful now, because last year I was probably dismissed as the sick kid who couldn’t possibly pass having missed so much.
I told him that I’d been so stressed about the reaction of university that I hadn’t wanted to go to hospital. He stopped then, and told me that my health has to come first, and that he and the disability services will clear up any backlash that should occur. He said the only reason I could be made to consider leaving the course was if I was in hospital every few weeks and had missed most practicals and lectures (as happened last year). He listened to my concerns, and he found solutions. Most of the time all I needed was for him to tell me that the university would be absolutely ridiculous to do such a thing, and that they couldn’t do something without running it through him (at which point he said the worst thing that would happen would be a heated debate between him, me, and a couple of people from my school of the university). I’d been told that ICU/emergency admissions due to reasons I’ve been admitted before would not immediately be considered an extenuating circumstance as I’d been in the situation before. This apparently is ridiculous, because they are each assessed independently. I was terrified about attendance, as I’d almost faced consequences of poor attendance last year, and he ended up printing a document that all my academics have copies of, which says that they can’t take action against me because of my attendance without consulting disability services. So much stuff I was told last year couldn’t actually have happened. And he’d told me that before, but he spent an hour just talking to me, calming me down, giving me advice, and putting all my anxiety away again. It was such a helpful meeting. I thanked him any times, and he was pleased he’d actually been able to help. Disability services are basically the superheroes of this university and I wish I’d accessed their services sooner! They even have details of this website that tells you about the disabled access and facilities for every building on campus, and they can get me access to extra lifts and stuff put on my keycard.
I meant to do my coursework when I got home (I’d written a couple of sentences of the whole thing and done none of the calculations or graphs) as it was due in today. I passed out. I couldn’t stay with it. I’ve no idea why I’ve been spending so much time uncontrollably unconscious on my floor, but I’ve spent my time mopping up an awful lot of blood over the last couple of days (the floor is hard, and my face/head likes to bleed when it hits it).
I’ve been so on top of things. I’ve been up to date on notes, I’ve been fighting off acidosis over and over, but one tiny stomach bug has ruined me. It was too much for my already battling body to handle.
I feel like life just said this to me…
No matter how on the ball you are with things, there will be a moment where you find yourself on the verge of passing out, wearing the pyjama top you’ve had on for two days underneath your back-to-front wooly jumper… as you walk though campus fighting to remain conscious in order to hand in the coursework assignment that you finished half an hour before it is due in. That same coursework assignment that even the internet couldn’t help you with, that you were too ill to even write more than half a page of until this morning, and that was so thick that the staple wouldn’t go through it so you improvised and it now looks like the stapler tried to eat it… And you’ll do that having left your bedroom looking like a natural disaster tore through it, because half of your coursework fell down the side of your bed and you had to remove the mattress and launch a rescue mission in order to recover it, and you’d been too unwell to leave the bed so had accumulated most of the contents of your room there (which you then just moved to the floor to remove the mattress). You won’t even care that room is currently a wardrobe/ laundry basket/ rubbish bin/ bookshelf/ food cupboard/ washing up bowl/ desk tidy/ all round general health hazard; all you’ll care about is that it has your bed in it, and you want your bed.
I almost permanently feel like I’m going to pass out, unless I’m curled up in bed. When I stand for too long, the world starts to fade to black and my muscles give out on me as I start to pass out (which will make the three hour lab session I have tomorrow working with blood and cyanide something-or-other (sounds sort of risky) rather interesting). I know that the practical is long and tedious because I bumped into a friend on the way to hand in my coursework. She said she knew I was unwell because I hadn’t been in lectures, but I don’t think anybody has any idea how unwell I am. She didn’t see me picking myself up off the floor with the room spinning, and having to hold the walls just to stand, minutes before I bumped into her. I don’t have time to be unwell.
I don’t miss lectures for anything. I passed out in a lot of them last year without making a fuss – just put my head on the desk and let myself go. But my disability advisor made me see enough reason to go to hospital yesterday, I said I’d go when I left his office… And I couldn’t. I can’t do it. So I’m trying to cut my body some slack so that I might not have to go there, which may mean missing more lectures tomorrow morning in order to actually make it through the practical (honestly though it’s been three days since I stayed conscious for three hours straight. I’m having a problem. I’m very unwell).
If I give into it a little, it might not almost kill me. I’m already in far too deep to break the surface, so I’m hoping that giving in to the current might stop me drowning and let me conserve some energy to swim free sometime soon.
“Over the edge I can’t stop myself
Off the ledge throwing punches
Over the edge I can’t steer myself
All over again, I don’t want this
If I bend then I might not break
I should think about giving in
If I bend then it might be okay
If we’re thinking about how it ends
If I bend then I might not break
I should think about giving in
If I bend then it might be okay” – Frightened Rabbit, Break
I can’t deal with near-death again right now. Not emotionally, and not physically. I’ve cheated it so many times that people lose any sense of how serious the situation is, but each time could be the last. This body is broken and beaten and it won’t do this much longer. Months ago I was told the next time probably would be the last and I’m waiting. Waiting for that time. And I don’t want the next time to come because I don’t want… I can’t… I’m not ready yet. I can’t do it yet. I can’t deal with the emotional consequences again, and I cannot face the doctors whose emails and calls and appointments I have been ignoring. I am scared on so many levels of so many things and at the same time I’m far too relaxed because I’m stuck in denial.
“And I’m too tired to fight
And you’re sick of feeling sick
And so am I, It’s alright
It’s just blood under the bridge
Ah that’s alright, it’s alright
It’s just blood under the bridge” – Frightened Rabbit, Blood Under The Bridge
I feel so unwell that I’m scared. This body is bailing on me. So I’m bending. I’m binding in the hope that I might not break. Even now, I’m out of it, and I feel like I’m about to pass out… Only, this feeling now doesn’t leave between my losses of consciousness so… I don’t even know any more.
I’m so scared about how this will end.
How will it end?
Here’s to hoping, I guess.
No way but through.
I guess now I understand why my personal tutor said it’s so much of an achievement that I’m even here.