Posting hasn’t felt appropriate over the past week. Turn on the news anywhere in the world and you’ll know why. Terrorism is something that has left a raw and ugly mark on many families, including my own. It’s a paralysing wound that gushes with each new act of hatred, but in our family, it is a wound that has not given rise to the same hatred that caused it. Time and time again, this country refuses to breed the hatred that deranged people try to inject into it. It unites against the cruellest acts imaginable, it grieves, it remembers, it never forgets, but it carries on. There are no words for what happened in Manchester. Only tears. But I will say one thing: If you want to see what muslims did in Manchester that night, please turn on the news again and look behind the news reporters. They stand in police uniforms, in paramedic uniforms, they are behind the wheels of taxis offering free rides to anyone and everyone. They are caring for the injured, they are protecting the public, they are comforting parents and children alike. They are among the injured. They are among those healing and helping and protecting. They are us. Some people will generalise an entire culture or religion based upon the acts of a few people, and I have to ask, isn’t that what the terrorists have done to us? I wish people would think on that one, before they started spreading hate.
It feels wrong to talk about me. A couple of people have emailed me multiple times asking me to post an update here, and this is my best attempt. But I want to clarify that the above paragraph is the most important one of this post. I don’t matter. Please realise that. The incredible people of Manchester should have your hearts and thoughts right now.
No words other than “WHY” feel right to me right now, so I’m sorry if I pick the wrong words.
On the night of the Manchester attacks I had been at a concert myself. I queued for 3 and a half hours in 27 degree heat to get a seat 5 rows back from the front in a church. It was a charity gig, and I was there to see Bastille (y’know… the band that produced the sounds that saved the parts of me that medicine couldn’t). The what is the world coming to theme of some of the songs was scarily relevant, although we didn’t know it at the time. Music is this magical thing. Concerts are this magical, uniting experience. To target that… I just can’t. I felt guilty for leaving the gig safely.
I did leave the Bastille gig safely, but I also left it in an ambulance having spent 10 minutes unconscious while Bastille played and my heart (after an afternoon of protesting at the heat) finally decided it couldn’t maintain the way it was beating any more, become exhausted, and had the mother of all tantrums… The paramedics were rather alarmed by my heart tracing, refused to accept I was feeling fine and rushed me to hospital with blue lights, whilst repeatedly telling my friend to get everyone she knew to tweet Bastille and tell them what had happened (I think/hope she didn’t. Not appropriate, given what else happened that night). Stupidly, selfishly, when I got to the hospital, I cried. I was in pain, I’d spent the previous few days unable to even get out of bed, lungs full of froth, head spinning, and the only thing keeping me going had been the thought of that gig. My health had taken a magical experience away from me and even though my friend had gone back in to watch a few more songs I felt awful for wrecking her night (she admitted a couple of days later that she hated me a little bit for her missing it, which is kind of why I’d insisted she went back inside and just called my mum). Nobody told me I was pathetic, they told me to cry. I soon stopped myself. Had no right to.
A few hours later I burst into tears again, because news of Manchester popped up on my phone screen. I read out what had happened and everyone just stopped. We were all just stunned. Sickened. I felt stupid for people fussing over me when that had occurred. I wanted them to leave me alone and somehow help the people in Manchester. I myself wanted to go to Manchester and help (not that I could have, because at that stage I couldn’t stand). We felt so helpless. I felt so stupid. I told them to just leave me alone and let me go because Manchester. They told me it didn’t work that way, that my heart was having a pretty serious issue of its own and I needed to focus on that. But I couldn’t. How could I? How dare I? It brought a lot of memories back, I could relate to what some of the families were going through. My imagination filled in the rest. I wanted to take it away. We all did. Anyone who read that news story wanted to run back in time and take it all away. They were kids. Kids. People having the time of their lives at a gig.
I was, and still am, incredibly, incredibly grateful to be safe. I spent 16 hours in a resuscitation unit with concerned doctors trying and failing to gain control of my heart. A consultant cardiologist appeared several times, looked at the ECG tracing on the screen, told me he wasn’t happy, and eventually stood and gave me an IV drug. And then some more. And then more… Until he finally stopped after giving me 4 times the dosage the other doctor said he usually used for a grown man. My heart sort of partially complied, then decided it had only been joking, and then everything started to go black intermittently. By that stage, I didn’t care about my heart. I felt guilty for becoming unwell at a completely safe and normal gig, and for having the nerve to have felt down about it.
Eventually at some point late on Tuesday I made it to a ward, where I remained attached to an ECG monitor and an IV and several other wires. We tried other heart drugs with very little success. I couldn’t walk more than a few metres before I started passing out. I could barely stay awake. I wanted to leave, I had an exam on the Wednesday morning, but the doctors were too concerned to let me out. So naturally on the morning of my exam, barely able to remain awake for more than a few minutes (and also having gone into – and then being rescued from – acidosis in the early hours of the morning), I disconnected myself from everything, met my mum outside the hospital, and she drove me to the other side of London to sit my exam. Hadn’t revised at all. Couldn’t actually focus well enough to read because I was so spaced out. Hadn’t worked out how I was going to walk to the exam room. Stumbled along leaning against walls, with everything fading to black and my heart desperately trying to keep up with the whole affair.
I was still wearing the clothes I had gone to the gig in, ironically, a t-shirt with a Bastille lyric on it which read This is your heart, can you feel it? I completed 45% of the exam, with black gaps in time making the whole thing very confusing to attempt, and then the blackness overwhelmed me and, realising I was beaten and couldn’t even press the right buttons on the keyboard because I was so out of it, I gave up. I met with my friends, my chest hurting because I’d walked a short way, and as they all went to the pub I got in a cab to the hospital. The doctor had phoned me shortly after I left. I told her I was going back to get my stuff and have the line taken out. I went back to do the whole paperwork thing as well, and then sat outside by the underground station. Two of my friends sat with me and we ate McDonalds. I listened to this man pick up a newspaper and make a racist comment about a particular religion as he read about Manchester, and my heart just broke for the world. What is the point of hate? What did it ever achieve? Why? Just… WHY?
I got distracted a little from my despair at the state of the world (can I just also comment upon the kindness and resilience of the majority of people who reside within it, which has become evident this week).
I had forgotten what it’s like to be unwell with a heart. Properly, properly unwell with a heart. And I haven’t ever been like this. I woke up the next morning and I just couldn’t move. The world was spinning, my pulse was very fast and very weak, I was coughing up froth and I felt like I was breathing in soup – I could hardly breathe. I was laying still in my bed and my body was behaving like I was running a marathon. It was so exhausting I didn’t know how I could keep it up for long at all, and that was a slightly alarming thought. I couldn’t lift my head. I couldn’t lift my arms. I was stuck. My head was pounding, I didn’t have enough breath to talk at first. I felt dizzy and spaced out. Things kept going black and then suddenly someone would press play again.
And that’s when the existential crisis begun. It’s a frightening, exhausting feeling and I just wanted it to end, but I couldn’t find a way to make it go. I didn’t know how to endure it, I just wanted a break. Physically I have been like that most of the time since I came home. Waiting to see my cardiologist. Waiting to hear about what comes next, because apparently his experimental new procedure is responsible for all the new cardiac upset. Mentally, I’ve ended up in a very, very low place. My counsellor video-called me because I was too unwell to get out of bed, and even she was concerned. I just seem to have deflated. I don’t have any energy, and everything takes about five times more energy than normal, and mentally I can’t really find anything to hold on to. I know it is pathetic, but the doctors said it was a normal reaction, and apparently an overdue one. Doesn’t make it right to me. Especially in light of what has happened in society lately.
There are better moments. I can sometimes walk when my heart is having a better moment, but I get very, very breathless and then everything sets off again and I lay propped up and unable to function. I’m unable to go on our family holiday this summer or to the Imagine Dragons concert I was hoping to take my little brother to next week, because my heart cannot deal with heat or standing. It has felt like my heart has taken everything away from me except my pulse. I am utterly empty and yet at the same time unimaginably heavy. I, like so many of us, am in despair for the world. But I am safe. I left the concert in one piece. I came home.
I am broken, but I have no right to be broken. I have no right to pathetically indulge my own weakness. I have no right to long for anything. I am so ashamed for being so awful as to feel those things. I am grateful to be safe.
Whichever faith or god/gods you believe in, please put in a good word for the people of Manchester tonight and for the families whose worlds will never be the same again.
And if you want to get rid of hatred, don’t be like that man walking out of the tube station and spread hatred. It’s already done enough damage, yet it still hasn’t won – proof that it’s a wildly ineffective strategy. You know what will end the hate? The opposite of it. Don’t throw fuel onto this fire.
Sorry if that just really angered anyone. I was being really pressured to post and I can’t really think straight and I really, really didn’t mean or want to be insensitive. Forgive me.
(The quote that is the title of this post is a Bastille lyric taken from the song “Warmth” released in September 2016… Don’t want to plagiarise if that’s even a possible thing here, so just to clarify… My brain did not generate those words. They’re relevant right now though, and I can’t think of any others).