Cry Uncle (phrase) informal.
“To surrender or admit defeat”
I thought that was it. I honestly did. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the sort of situation in which you have enough scientific knowledge (and experience) to know that you are in the process of dying (and fast). You may be the sort of person who says they feel like they’re dying with no real idea of what such an event would feel like. I am not using the phrase to exaggerate how awful I felt. I felt myself going. I couldn’t move my thumb to dial 999 on my phone. I couldn’t even hold the phone. And right after that moment it was as if time slowed, and I crumpled. I thought I was going to be found dead on the floor, and as I hit it I accepted that… that was it. That’s the thing. When you’re that ill, and you’re that close, you don’t have the energy or the capacity to panic. I was this useless, losing heap of person on the floor, and nobody even knew I was there.
And it was fear that put me there. Not entirely, but it helped. I knew I was in acidosis when I had to make a detour from Embankment station to a McDonalds on The Strand because I felt like I was going to pass out. I was barely conscious. I couldn’t hold my head up. I couldn’t stand or walk and my friend had to go, so I stayed slumped in a chair. Each time I blinked I’d open my eyes to find a new set of people sat all around me. I almost called an ambulance. I knew I should have. But I was too terrified of being in a hospital and of doctors… So I just hoped.
Eventually the interventions I’d taken did enough that I somehow made it back out into the world. I could barely lift my legs. I was so slow. It was so much effort that I couldn’t breathe. I was fighting the urge to both throw up and pass out as I made my way to the tube. Eventually I made it to the district line. I was drifting in and out of consciousness in my seat, yet I didn’t get off at the stop for the hospital. I knew I needed to go. But I was too scared. This crippling fear choked me and I freaked out at the thought of a hospital. So I didn’t go. I was so infuriated at myself, fighting with this monster of fear inside of my head, but it won. I don’t know how I got back to my flat. I remember not being able to see properly or having the energy to breathe. I remember opening the door. I remember ending up on the floor, no energy to move at all, barely any energy to breathe; I remember pumping more and more medication into my veins and hoping. And as I lost consciousness I remember the regret. The emotional response wasn’t what you’d expect. I’ve been in situations like that before. And it’s just this quiet acceptance.
I remember opening my eyes two hours later. Cold. On the floor. Hurting. Light-headed. My mouth dry. I couldn’t see properly at all and I felt like all of me was shaking (it wasn’t). I knew it was bad.
How low was my pH? What would my mum say about this? She’d be so annoyed… Wouldn’t she? And OH NO HOSPITALS. But I’d have called 999. I was desperate enough to. But I didn’t stay conscious long enough to call an ambulance.
After a few minutes I sat myself up. My vision went and I felt extremely light headed. I was drifting in and out of an unconsciousness I couldn’t fight. Until it took me again.
I’ve no idea what happened. It wasn’t like a sleep – it was like I blinked and suddenly time had advanced by an hour and a half and I was pressed up against the floor, freezing cold and so, so thirsty. I was just over a metre away from the sink. But I couldn’t move that far. I couldn’t move at all. I felt light headed laying down, face first, uncomfortably crumpled on top of myself. I should have been scared. But all I could think was How am I alive? I’m alive. I’m actually alive… And I breathed a sigh of relief. I smiled inside because I didn’t have the energy to actually smile, and I let relief flood through me. I have never been so thankful. I closed my eyes (I couldn’t actually keep them open) knowing I was unwell but pretty sure I would wake up. And I knew. I knew the fear had won. I carried on for too long that time. And I nearly paid the ultimate price.
An unspecified amount of time passed, and I decided to investigate my pulse rate. It was fast. Too fast.
All my friends were sat doing whatever normal people do on a Friday evening, and I was laying on my floor having almost died. The whole world was oblivious. And my mum was due to pick me up in a few hours.
Since I started uni it has been my entire life. My world. The only reason I didn’t end it all on some days. On Thursday night I was losing my mind over uni (that’s why I held on too long, because after the events of last year I am terrified to become unwell). Suddenly, in that moment, I couldn’t care less about uni. I felt like I was dying because I very nearly did. I was nowhere near out of the woods. I couldn’t stay awake. I was messaging people like nothing had happened and listening to their problems, and they had no idea how serious the situation was. I felt too guilty to tell them. I didn’t want to worry them and I didn’t want anyone to be angry at me, because I’d been asked if I needed to go to the hospital and my mind was all
YES. Weeks ago! I’m seriously unwell right now
I got to the: I’m in full blown acidosis.
I even ended up asking if we could abort our stationary shopping under the admission that I felt like I was going to collapse imminently. But I followed it up with an, it’ll be fine though. No need for that. Don’t worry… at the sight of the concern that made me squirm.
I hadn’t done anything I was meant to do. Usually that would have sent me into a panic, but I laid on the floor knowing I was going again – my head feeling weird and my vision going, and my words severely slurred (I tried to tell myself I’d be ok). And as I laid there I kind of stopped and took everything in.
And I realised that I’m killing myself for this degree. Before I even went back to my parents’ house and saw my dog, I was considering giving up on uni. And I stayed longer than I planned to because I couldn’t bring myself to leave my dog, and I couldn’t face uni stress on top of the stress of playing Russian Roulette with my existence every day. But I’m back here. I don’t want to be. I’m terrified. I’m done. University has always been my saving grace. It has always been this huge source of motivation for me and now all of that is gone. There’s no thirst for knowledge. Because emotionally (and actually) I’m dying for this degree.
And for the first time that doesn’t feel worth it. For the first time my life feels like more than university, because being here has made me enough of a person to feel that I could survive away from uni. Second year is so much stress. I feel so stupid and inadequate and I’m far too unwell to keep up with the work. And I finally, finally asked myself… what’s it for?
And I don’t know any more. I got so wrapped up in the stress of trying to stay alive and the immense pressure I put on myself with uni work, that I’ve forgotten where I want to go. I just want to live in a place big enough for me to have a dog, and I want to enjoy every second of this Russian Roulette.
The reactions to this have been mixed. My parents don’t support the idea, and my friends seem to think it’s a simple matter of university stress. But I’ve nearly died way too many times because of the pressure I put on myself to attend and perform (not even well) at university. And I’m scared now. It scared me. Sometimes in life there is fear. And sometimes that fear wins. The most helpful response I got was from WR Uni Friend (who I’d been with on Friday when it all started to hiccup). She said that she thought about dropping out due to the stress and her dad had told her something about planes.
She said (that he said) that there’s a point at which a plane is so far down a runway and has built up so much speed that it HAS to take off. We’re almost halfway through our degree, and soon we’ll have endured more than we have left to face, so we’re basically at that point.
So why do I want to cut the engines and crash land?
My first year of university broke me. I nearly died a lot. I’m still killing myself (quite literally) for university. And that was ok when university was all I had. But now I think there may be more to the world.
I still love university. I just feel inadequate here. I feel I don’t belong among such smart people (and have no idea why everyone seems to think I’m so smart because I’m really not). And I’m just worried that I’m going to miss too much of it to carry on, or end up dying for this degree.
I’ve been told that I’ve overcome so much that I have to finish this degree because I can’t turn away now. I’ve also been told to put my health first. My friends seem to think I’ll come back. I won’t. Because I won’t get better. This situation won’t change or improve so I can “take a year to rest up” or “wait to improve” and be equally as unfit to study when I attempt to again. It’s this shot or no attempt at all.
And I’m sick of aiming for a target that’s so close to vital organs. I want to just point this gun at the sky and fire. Because I feel like I’m done. I don’t know how to do this any more, how to carry on… And yet I’m sat here. In London. And I’ve been to uni today. Because I can’t let go. I’m strangely determined and a shred of my denial still holds on.
“I won’t cry uncle having come this far” – Frightened Rabbit, Blood Under The Bridge
I don’t know what I’m doing or where I’m going or what I’ll do. I always get a little shaken up and just react impulsively after I’ve come so close to death (like when I properly, properly shouldn’t have made it through kind of situations). I’m not making any notes or anything at the moment. I need a break. I need to take off the pressure. I’m doing the bare minimum until reading week – I’ll go to lectures but I won’t make notes before or write them up afterwards; I won’t spend my days reviewing last week’s lectures and listening to recordings of them and making revision sheets of their contents; I won’t beat myself up for not doing those things. I’ll do my coursework and that’s it. And then during reading week I’ll have a think. And if I decide to continue, I have a week to turn it around and catch up. (I missed over half the taught programmes last year, sat my exams while in acidosis and while rather seriously unwell, and finished 2.1% away from a first. So really I kind of know that I can afford to let things slip a bit… I just need to learn to accept that). My brain just can’t even university right now. It has finally confronted the whole issue of its own mortality and the stress of trying to maintain the life of a body that keeps trying to kill itself, and it doesn’t know how to handle normal life stress on top of that. It still can’t even comprehend how it’s alive (which usually happens after the grim reaper has had such a close encounter, and leaves me stunned and unable to care about trivial things for a week or two).
Who knows what I’ll do.
But I do know there’s no way but through.