The fog that descended on London in the early hours of yesterday had this morning been present for over 24 hours with no reprieve, which is… Odd, even for British weather.
I put on this pair of socks as I got dressed today and…
Immediately had a flashback. It messed me up, and I had no idea what the trigger had been. Why was I suddenly in an intensive care unit in my mind? (I was unwell enough to be in one, but I feel that is a different post, or at least a later part of this one). Why was there such fresh terror? I looked back down at my feet and remembered (believe me, remembering and re-living are two vastly different experiences). The last time I wore those socks I was in an intensive care unit. It was shortly before my birthday. The birthday I didn’t think my health was going to let me see. I almost died and went through so much unpleasantness, and I did it all in tartan socks (every time I think back to that time all I remember is that I did it all in tartan socks). Every time I was moved or changed or washed or whatever, those socks were pulled up or put back on over/under the non-slip hospital socks I wore. And it was kind of gross because I was in critical care for six days so those socks could probably walk by themselves, but it was nice to have a piece of me among all the hospital attire.
The thing is, I’m weird. Once I’ve almost died in an item of clothing, I usually never wear it again. I even change the bracelets I wear (apart from my freshers wristband and the piece of string I tied around my left wrist months ago – both have to be cut in order to be removed, and I was jokingly told that they were lucky and don’t want to get rid of them just in case). After I’ve met the grim reaper whilst wearing something, it is marked forever with a memory I don’t want to trigger, and so it is never put on me again unless I need something to wear when I’m in hospital. I don’t know how these socks made it back to my sock drawer. I think perhaps its because they are tied to several acts of triumph:
- I was held up by a nurse who took my bodyweight as my legs attempted to do so for the first time… In those socks.
- I figured out how to walk again in those socks.
- I was terrified, and I was so done, and I wanted to end it all in that intensive care unit because I couldn’t face it any more, but I got over myself… In those socks.
- I left critical care the night before my birthday and went straight to a concert in those socks.
- I turned 20 in those socks, and I hadn’t thought I’d ever see the day.
This is one of those weird examples of how health issues can effect everything. Simple things like a pair of socks become a huge deal (although I’m not sure many other people get as weird about this sort of stuff as I now do). I kept the socks on – liking the fact that they represented moments I never wanted to remember, and moments I never wanted to forget.
I was still in need of a fog light. Not for the actual fog, but for the great fog of my current emotional state that has descended upon my brain, and the fog of acidosis that was growing thicker and thicker (and had, like the actual fog, been ever present since yesterday. I nearly ended up unconscious in the library, where I found myself living from 2-11pm, and had no work to show for it at all. It was eventful. I broke down even more which I didn’t think was possible, due to the insensitivity and misunderstanding of some fellow human beings). I still needed a fog light. So I wandered off to the meeting I’d arranged the week before with my (ex-)uni parent (all is about to become clear).
I dragged myself out of bed an hour earlier than I needed to and went in search of a fog light. Except someone had taken out the bulb and it wouldn’t show me the way any more. It was like that moment when you flick a light switch, expecting the bulb to do what it always has done for you, and the filament is burned out, so you look up at it, and you try the switch again and again, and then you’re left in the dark. And the fog. And it sucks.
Less than five minutes after encountering my non-functional fog light, another person turned up. An appointment had been made to meet me at 9am, but finally this uni parent seems to have seen sense and backed the hell out of the mess of my life. Which is great. But I’d kind of really needed someone to just poke the hornets nest of my thoughts until I let them all out and they stopped stinging me to death. I don’t talk, and this person knows how to make me talk, and how to make me do the right thing. I needed a rational argument. All I got was a few awkward silences while emails were read through, a “how’s second year?” “yep that sounds about right” “Well done on first year by the way, what was your final percentage?” “I think you’ll get another 2:1 this year” (erm. I sat 4 exams in acidosis all having NO NOTES on 5 out of 8 modules and less than half the lecture notes for the other 3, and actually managed to pass. So if I can somehow fend off the health stuff, I’m getting a damn first this time. If I stay. Do I stay?). And then “yep well I only literally wanted to just catch up that’s all…” *Looks at the door* “Bye.”
This defective fog light wasn’t just not showing the way, it was sparking, burning me. I feel like the purpose of the meeting was just to show me where I stand, to show that things are different now and I am uni-parent-less. I was grateful for that. I like to know where I stand.
“I’m dying to tell you that I’m dying here.” – Frightened Rabbit, Nitrous Gas
I wanted to turn around and say I wasn’t ok, ask for some advice. I wanted to cry out for help. But we didn’t go anywhere near the real conversation topics this time. And I won;t go there again.
“You don’t forget the face of the person who was your last hope” – Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
That’s what people do: they drop me, or they change. Right when I really, really need them not to.
I walked back out into campus (after getting locked out of a building and then inside it due to some malfunctioning doors). I sat in silence, alone with my thoughts in the cold and the fog. I sat acidotic with my heart beginning to become outraged. The fog of my health situation settled around me. There were no thoughts, just a heaviness, a feeling that I was lost. And when I looked up I had no idea what way I was facing because a particularly thick patch of actual fog had settled around me. There were probably people there, but I couldn’t see them. I heard a phone ring. But I felt alone in the middle of the world. Health issues make me feel exactly the same.
I sat through my first two lectures writing a new novel. I put on this act, this false illusion that I can face smalltalk and people, when inside I’ve no idea what I’m really saying. I make the right sounds and I laugh when everyone else does, and I smile, and that is enough to shield my true state from those around me.
Between lectures I sat with my friends in a restaurant/canteen/cafe on campus, and forced myself to try and engage in normal conversation. When we stepped back out into the world, the fog had almost completely cleared. Normality was visible again, the buildings that had always been there now actually appeared to be present and real again. I almost laughed at the pathetic fallacy.
Health issues don’t do that though. The fog arrives quickly and it doesn’t leave by itself. The rapid, heavy breathing, headache, nausea, lack of energy, and irritated heart told me that acidosis had a hold on me towards the end of our third lecture of the day. I fell asleep during it, which also rang alarm bells for me. I don’t need a fog light to find the way out of it – I need a hospital. And yet… I just can’t overcome the mental block stopping me going. So I’ve been sticking IVs in myself. And all I’ve wanted for the past few hours is to go for a run. I know I will end up unconscious at least once during the event (I do every time, and all I do is jog for a minute or under and then walk for ages before repeating). But I don’t care. I want to run until the world fades to black and then get up off the floor with my lungs crackling with the fluid that fills them, and my chest hurting and my body screaming, and run on until it happens again. It will hurt because there’s a raging infection in one foot, and a healing fracture and muscle tear in the other foot and calf muscle respectively… But pain makes every act in the face of it an act of defiance. I want to feel defiant. I want to get back at my body and ruin it like it is ruining my life. I want to show it that I won’t be stopped by it, I won’t roll over in defeat. I want to feel that defiance. I want to feel in control of my body just for half an hour. I want to feel anything. I want to feel alive. Because right now I feel pretty useless and lost out of control and dead inside. I probably won’t get very far because I can hardly walk, but I cannot face the fog I’m lost in. I feel the only way out of it is to run wildly in any direction. Until I can’t take a single step.
I miss living in denial.
I miss living in the clouds.
I miss being in control of my body.
I am incredibly grateful and I know I’m so lucky. I miss being in a situation where I could take it for granted. I miss not having to think about how close I am to losing things I don’t know how to maintain. I miss having room in my brain to think about normal things like university, and not having to worry about the fact that there is a medical emergency of some type or another going on inside of my body, that could kill me within hours, and having this intense fear in my mind that chokes all rationality out of me.
No way but through though. No way but through.