How Did I Get Here? – Thoughts on Starting Another Degree

I’m not ok in any sense of the word; physically my heart is struggling, my body has decided to become spectacularly anaemic, and my health continues to hiccup. Mentally, I am in a complete crisis and have been for some time – I don’t know how I’m alive, simply because I’ve no idea how I persuaded myself not to ensure that outcome with my own hands.

But right now I am on a bus. A new version of the old London Routemaster that my granddad used to drive along this route for a living. I am on my way to a new university, to start a masters in cardiovascular science (a very competitive course at a world leading university, that somehow and for some reason picked me). This is a day that for the last three years was something I very hypothetically talked about from time to time. I still can’t believe I survived and acquired my undergraduate degree, let alone that I’m about to start a graduate degree that will hopefully give me the qualifications to make sure that someone else’s future differs from my past and my present.

I’m going to hold my hands up and say it has been a struggle. I denied myself any admission of this reality until I was completely broken. It’s hard. Everything right now is overwhelming and everything is a struggle I no longer have the mental energy to know how to face. But I’m here. I’m somewhere even I never thought I’d be. I’m terrified. I’ve spent days having anxiety (a very unpleasant new addition), nightmares, random crying moments and all sorts about this day, because I didn’t know how to do it. I have been dreading it. Now it’s here and I wonder how on Earth I made it. How am I alive? How did I manage to pass my third year without attending a single lecture, becoming bed-bound, losing most of my friends and replacing their messages with those of paramedics and doctors and other people who understood how it was simply incredible that my body (let alone my brain) could still function. The word inspirational has been thrown at me a lot and I still hate that. I am buckling and crumbling and have no choice but to keep living the life that has caused me to do that. It’s not optional. If it was, I’d be insane not inspirational.

Anyway. I am about to meet a group of new people at a university where nobody has ever seen me unconscious, where nobody has seen me vomit blood, where nobody has seen me in a wheelchair or being stretchered out of university accomodation. I can pass of as an “everybody else” and that’s refreshing. They have no idea how awful I feel both physically and mentally – how much both elements of me are straining to breaking point. They aren’t scared of my body or to be around me. They’ve never seen me in resus, they’ve never had to give me CPR or visit me in an ICU and sit for hours while I lay there totally or if it with no idea anyone is there at all. They’ve not been on the emotional rollercoaster that is my life. They’ve not received messages at 3am when I’m convinced this near death experience is the one where I finally run off with the grim reaper and there’s nobody else there to share the terror. They’ve not seen me have flashbacks in the back of an ambulance, not seen me vomit with fear at the sound of a siren, they’ve not seen me attached to 5 IV pumps whilst riding the drip stand as a scooter. They’ve no idea how much I carry and the effort I go to in order to hide it. They’ve no idea how much my health issues have knocked my confidence, how lonely I feel or how many years I spent in hospital missing all the milestones they hit. They’ve no idea what a miracle it is that I’m still alive, no idea that my former personal tutor gave me a superhero cape after my graduation because he had never believed someone like me could exist let alone get a degree and a decent enough one to get me into a masters programme.

As far as these people are concerned my biggest stress was deciding what to wear, moving into a new flat, the presentation I have to give tomorrow. They have no idea of the wounds haemorrhaging deep inside my soul. They’ve no clue of any scars or how deep they run. I’m just and everybody else today. And that’s why I’m nearly crying on a bus.

Those days you don’t know how to survive? Those days where you can’t go on any more? Today, like most of those before it, is one of those. And I swear to you my former self was very right.

There’s no way but through.

All you need is half a chance. You’re still here. You’ve survived 100% of the days you didn’t know how to, got through 100% of the things you didn’t know how to cope with. If you can do that, given your record, you can do today. You’re doing great and it doesn’t matter if you have no idea how you got where you are right now, what’s damn impressive is that you’re reading this right now. Thank you, I’m grateful but I’m also rooting for you.

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Alien

I have spent the past few months living privately, locked inside of myself in many ways, trying as best as I can to be nobody and nothing, to tuck everything in and scrunch my eyes shut so that I might pass a little easier through the nastiness. I have no idea why I have chosen now to stick my head above the parapet. Perhaps it’s because I no longer care if an incoming projectile rips it off. Perhaps it is because even though I want to melt away, the feeling inside of me is growing, and it wants to be heard… and I need a little help to shoot it down. Either way, here we are. Or rather, here I am. Exposed (and by that I simply mean… present).

Since my second year of university I’ve laid on a table under a bright light and the hands of a doctor six times. April. June. July. August. Twice in September. Each time I thought and hoped it was the last time, and so far it hasn’t been. My last procedure was on the 29th of September. I went to a clinic appointment unable to hold my own head up (three days after we’d tried to reprogram my pacemaker and see if that helped) and a few hours later I was at the start of a 5.5 hour unsuccessful attempt to make my rebellious heart behave. It left me… With a very sore chest. Unable to sit up. Unable to stand up. Unable to walk. My heart was really, really unimpressed. I’d gone back to university in a wheelchair, able to walk short distances and occasionally leave my flat under my own steam. I suddenly couldn’t even lift my head without the world spinning. Since then I’ve had to use a wheelchair to go everywhere. The physical symptoms don’t bother me. I sleep a lot, I am exhausted after an hour of being out (despite the wheelchair), I can’t walk far at all, I get frequent palpitations, my vision fades to black, oh, and Skippy hurts to an alarming degree at times (that’s settling down). That I can handle. My body has imposed clear limits, and it doesn’t give me the energy to fight them. It often doesn’t give me the energy to get out of the wheelchair to get to bed, or to eat, or to lift my head. I’d rather not waste what precious little energy I have on worrying about how I feel physically. I have thoughts about it, but they aren’t for here. My summer has involved an awful lot of unpleasantness, weeks in hospital, multiple admissions, mental health crises… Things I don’t want to remember, let alone share.

Before I go any further, I want to explain something. I was bullied as a child. First because I was clever, and then because of my health issues. I am painfully shy, and I hate being treated differently because of my health. I hate standing out, I hate attention of any form. I learned at a young age that being different was very bad, and I try to hide away in plain sight to avoid my differences being sharpened and used as weapons against me. I have, for a little while, struggled with being in large groups of people. I am insecure, I am self conscious, my self esteem if quantified would be of a negative value. I hate myself, I feel like I bother everyone I interact with and so I try to do everything alone out of guilt and self loathing. I do not value myself enough to prioritise my own needs or feelings. I play down everything. I hide. I hide how I feel both physically and mentally, to blend in, to fit in, to wrap myself in that comfort. I am used to nobody having any clue how lousy I feel. I am used to being able to sit in a lecture hall with my peers oblivious to the catastrophe going on inside of me, or the fact that unless I attend a hospital within a few hours I’m not going to wake up the next day. I smother layers and layers and layers on top of any weakness, to compensate for the fact that people associate me with vulnerability because of my health issues.

Now, I am not the first person to ever be in a wheelchair. I am not the only person on my campus to be in a wheelchair. But I feel like an alien. People are not subtle when they stare. I wheeled myself across campus the other day past people wearing giant foam breasts to raise awareness of breast cancer, and I was the one people looked at (because y’know, society). People I have known for a long time suddenly treat me like a baby. Strangers treat me like I am incapable or even stop me in the street and demand to know why I am in a wheelchair. I can’t wheel myself places because my heart protests and I almost pass out, so suddenly I need people, I have to rely on people, I have to ask for help, and I have to let people help me or I can’t get anywhere. I have no independence at all. Since I was a child I’ve always been told by my doctors that I am just like everyone else and for the first time in my life I feel like… An alien. And I’m not. It’s just two wheels on a chair and if you think about it that’s kind of cool. But after the first few stares my brain suddenly ran away with its insecurity. Suddenly I cannot hide. I can’t hide my vulnerability. I have no choice but to face it. And I also have no choice but to wear it publicly. I cannot accept it, but now I also cannot escape it. And I cannot deal with that. It feels like the whole world is staring any time I go outside. People treat me so differently. And so… I became very, very reluctant to leave my flat or go anywhere on campus. London is not made for wheelchairs. It really is like being in space. And I feel like an alien every time I step outside.

Shame floods me. My skin does not crawl with discomfort, rather it writhes while I shift uncomfortably inside of it, trying to shake it off and cease to exist. When my friends are pushing me, I smile and lose myself in their conversation, with Bastille playing in one headphone to distract me from the situation I am in. But at university, that bubble falls apart.

With all of the above in mind, it is story time.

After three (I think three anyway) weeks of university, I still had yet to attend anything. I’d just had a procedure on my heart, which had ruined everything, and that should have been my biggest bother. But it was out of my control, and I realised and accepted that and let it go (I think. Maybe I’m just totally dissociated. Anyway). We had a tutorial at the medical school to discuss a case study we had been given to research and prepare information on. Attendance was compulsory, so not only could I not hide my vulnerability, but I could no longer hide that exposed vulnerability from my peers. I was going to have to face humans, and that was a big deal.

Firstly, while it is a 15 minute walk to the medical school, the pavements to get there are bumpy, the drop kerbs are at places more like cliffs, and even those pushing me commented that it was not appropriate for a wheelchair. There are buses, yes. But around here the buses are packed full of people. So many people that, because they refuse to move, there is no way you can get onto the bus with a wheelchair. And if you do, there is usually someone there with a pushchair who simply refuses to move, so everybody gets very grumpy at you until they collectively make you leave the bus so they can be on their way. None of the tube stops round here even have escalators, so a lift is far too much to ask. It meant I had to bother someone, knowing that pushing me all that way was not only an inconvenience because they’d have to get me, but also because it was going to be like a gym session (their description of the event, not mine).

I swallowed my self loathing and managed to find a very understanding human who was more than willing to help me to the medical school. Two, in fact. I thought getting there was the hard part. Uni is wheelchair accessible, it’s a medical school so y’know, they would obviously have thought about access for disabled individuals. Great! Until we got to the main entrance and for the first time in three years I noticed the flight of steps to get in the front door of the building. There was no sign for a disabled entrance. No other doors. No lift. Just steps. One of my friends went in, because she didn’t want to be late for her tutorial. I died a little bit inside, but was kind of relieved to not have to see humans. I told my other friend to leave me. She didn’t. We stood there staring at the mountain between us and the medical school, until someone on his way out happened to know that there was a ramp around the back of the building. So we set off. We found an open gate some way around the corner, and assumed, as it was the only gap in the wall, that it must lead us to the wheelchair ramp. I was so embarrassed about all the fuss, about standing out, and about the trouble to my friend. I was relieved to finally have a route inside.

We wandered around the back of the medical school, found the ramp, and proceeded to the door at the top of it which was… Locked. Never mind, we had access cards. My friend scanned the card reader. Nothing happened. She tried again. Then she began hammering on the door to the people we could see through the window. Our fellow students could also not unlock the door. Random people I had never met were staring out of the window at me and trying to unlock the door. I died a little more inside, and wanted to cry.

Eventually someone somehow made the door open. We went inside, only to realise that neither of us had any idea where the lift was. There is a very large and pretty grand staircase in the middle of the old building, but you have to go up 3-4 flights of stairs to go up one floor. There was no way on earth my heart could do that, and no way I could be carried. By chance, a passing member of staff happened to think she’d seen a lift once through some doors, and another friend said she knew where it was. We found it, and went up to the designated floor, where my other friend took over pushing me.

We entered the corridor and it said that room number 1.21-1.27 was one way and 1.27+ was another way, or whatever. My room number was pretty high, so we went the way the sign told us. The doorway was so narrow that the wheelchair barely fit. The corridor was wide enough for it and nothing else either side. People piled in behind us, because there are a lot of students and not a lot of building, and we walked along the corridor towards the room. We were one room away and then… steps to get to the other rooms. A member of staff told us to turn around and go the other way, where there was a ramp. I was so embarrassed. There wasn’t really room to turn around. In turning, we ran over her foot and almost took out someone else. Everyone had to reverse out of the corridor so we could fit by. All eyes were on me.

We went the other way round and found the ramp. The corridor was stuffed full of people, who had nowhere to stand but on the wheelchair ramp, meaning I couldn’t get to my room even though my group was already inside. I wanted to melt away, but my friend also had a place to be so she shouted “Look out people, wheelchair!” I wanted to cry. She then threatened to run people over if they didn’t move, and because they had nowhere to go, she ended up following through with this idea, and running over several feet and hitting several legs. People looked down at me with shock and outrage as they were rolled at and over, and I just turned my music up even louder and tried not to cry.

Finally we got to the room, after struggling to get through a huge heavy fire door. We knocked on the door and the tutor opened it… And the room was tiny, there was barely any room for the desk and chairs, let alone me. She made people re-shuffle and I felt so so bad for making them move. I spent the next hour trying to get over my patheticness, but I was dreading leaving.

Afterwards, nobody I knew was going back to the main university campus, so I had no way to get back and was too exhausted to go to our workshop that afternoon. Eventually my friend went out of her way to go back to the main campus so that I could get home. She has her own health issues, and walking will have exhausted her I know, and so I felt so guilty. I got back to my flat, shut the door, and crumbled. I felt very, very different. Wheelchair accessible and actually practical are very very far apart.

I was too unwell to attend anything else, so I didn’t. I met with my personal tutor last week, who completely changed the way I see myself and my mental health, and understood my wheelchair issues via his own personal life. But then yesterday I had a meeting for a group assignment we are working on. The night before, I panicked at the thought of having to leave. I cried. That morning trying to get up, each time I thought about leaving my flat I curled up under the covers in a panic, trying to literally hide from everything. It took me an hour (and the music of Bastille) to leave my room. I made it to the door of my building, saw other humans, and froze. Like… Completely freaked. I couldn’t do it. I’d already mentioned my anxiety to my personal tutor, and he got it. He understood it. But suddenly it was controlling me. My group, who I had only met once before, came to rescue me. We went to the newest building on campus.

As it was new, it had two wheelchair entrances. Amazing! Both are behind huge support pillars, so you have to be good at steering. Neither of the doors currently work. So there’s that. On our way in, a member of staff managed to help figure out the door. I spoke to my group about my anxiety and things, because I was basically having a breakdown at this stage, and they told me to contact my personal tutor. So I sent an email about how our university seems to be as accessible to disabled students as the International Space Station is to the average human, and the effect this was having on me (I had stopped sleeping, was panicking and crying at the thought of attending the workshops I had to go to the next day – aka today, and I was terrified of people and public places). Satisfied that I’d taken a step in the right direction, we eventually finished our meeting and went to leave.

But there was no member of staff. Also, this time the “out of order” disabled doors would not open at all. Neither of them. We pressed the button, my friends tried to rip the things off their hinges, random other humans stopped to help. So much fuss, with me at the centre of it… I was mortified. The only way out was a revolving door. I’m not sure if you’ve ever tried to get a wheelchair out of a small revolving door, but we very swiftly learned why there is an alternative entrance. It was not easy. It was not dignified. It was not subtle. It was not great for a shy person.

On getting outside, my group all went one way to get the tube to wherever they had to be, leaving me to somehow make my way across campus, which I have noticed is on a very very slight hill. I figured I could wheel myself. I made it maybe 20 metres before I almost passed out. By that point, I was in front of the science building where some of my friends were in lectures, so I stopped because I had no choice, and decided I’d just have to wait. It was 3:05. Their lecture finished at 5. There were a lot of people walking past and I was stopped in the middle of nowhere so they at least glanced but mostly stared (or at least that’s what it felt like). I wanted the ground to open up and eat me. It started to rain. I started to cry. For the first time in a long time, I wanted to die. Really pathetic. Totally ungrateful. Totally uncalled for. But I was more serious than I ever had been. I made a plan of how I’d do it, even calculated how much of an overdose it would take to be untreatable. And I committed to it. I was genuinely going to do it. I sat there for an hour and a half, until my flatmate realised the situation, told me I was an idiot for not saying something, ignored my statement that I didn’t want to bother him, and made his way across campus to rescue me. He found me listening to Bastille, and I thought I’d be called pathetic and stupid but people just said that the entire thing was a horrible. I was planning to go back to my flat and take all the medication I have. Instead, I got into the room, thought about doing it, and that was enough of a comfort to stop my tears.

My friends pulled through. They were outraged at the university’s provisions, and aware of how shy I am and how much I hate bothering people, and therefore the effect everything would have on me. One friend came round. Another video called me. My flat mates took me to buy alcohol because all I wanted was alcohol or painkillers so strong they might numb emotional pain too. Instead, I bought comfort food. My other friend spoke with me on the phone until past midnight.

I made it to my workshop today after several freak outs and an hour of trying to persuade myself to leave my flat again. We went into the lecture hall and I looked up to see people looking at me. Of course they were, I was at the front of the room and they were probably curious. But shame flooded me and I just wanted so badly to blend in. There was nowhere for a wheelchair in the room. I could have got up and sat in a seat, but I was scared that people would think I was faking using the wheelchair, so I stayed put. The only desk I could have used was a stand alone desk in front of everyone facing all of my peers. Thankfully, the lecturer sat at it. I tucked myself on the end of the front row, which meant I had to sit across the front of the stairs and block that passageway. In my mind everybody’s eyes were on me and their collective gaze made me squirm and want to hide away. I came home and hid. I’m still hiding. I don’t ever want to leave again.

I have a workshop tomorrow at the other medical school campus 3 miles away. Buses aren’t an option, and neither is walking. The taxi fare is £39.50. Each way. The university said they would try to fund that if I could provide a doctor’s letter, but my cardiologist has not responded. And I’ve developed crippling anxiety about going out in public places so… I’m not going. They may as well have set me lectures on the International Space Station, because it feels about as feasible for me to get there. I feel like I’m looking down on the life I used to have but I’m thousands of miles away from it. Hearts are not appreciated enough. If yours works normally, just… treasure it.

A lot of people would be ok with the situations above. A lot of people won’t see anything wrong with them. You probably think I’m spoiled or ungrateful or stupid or pathetic or all of the above. I think those things of myself for feeling this way too, so you aren’t alone. I went to Bangkok in the summer. That was not wheelchair friendly at all, so I couldn’t leave the hotel and the heat also meant I couldn’t actually leave the bed because of my heart. Plenty of people have it far, far worse. I am also not the only person on this campus in a wheelchair. But I’m not handling it right now, and I’m really ashamed of that. I just needed a place to… words.

Thoughts, anyone?

Blindsided By My Own Heart

There was a post I wanted to write in place of the words you are about to read, and I’m not sure how to introduce what goes in its place. I’m also not sure how to word what goes in its place either. But… Here’s an attempt to do exactly that.

I was up and out by 9:10 this morning, making my way to the tube station to travel to my hospital appointment. As I walked into the hospital there was a huge Christmas tree, and that took a little sting out of the tail of where I was. It was just a trip to the device clinic – no doctors, just to see what my heart had been up to and check to see if Reginald (the little device in my chest) is all ok. Usually takes just a few minutes, they download all the stuff from Reginald, we see that he’s had a rather unremarkable time and not been activated, and then I get to leave. Usually. So that’s what I expected.

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You can’t really see the sparkles in the trees all around the fountain but hey. 

But I was blindsided by my own heart. I sat down in the chair in the clinic room and we had a look at whether or not Reginald had been freaked out enough to be activated. And then he sort of sat back in his chair and looked at me, and asked me how I’d felt on a certain day at a certain time. I looked at the screen, and the ECG trace he was looking at had been flagged a different colour. I didn’t lie, I admitted weird stuff has been going on. I’ve been telling this blog that my heart feels weird and stuff for just over a month, but honestly I’ve been a bit distracted by other things trying to kill me.

He asked me about other dates within the last couple of weeks. He asked me whether I’d been doing anything special or out of the ordinary on some other recent date, and said that my heart rate had been 179bpm for two hours. I was hearing all this, and I’d been symptomatic and stuff, but honestly it was hard to comprehend that it was my heart.

My heart has been feeling weird, I’ve been getting a lot of palpitations and stuff, but I’ve also been getting a lot of general symptoms that I put down to other stuff because that’s what happens when health hiccups hiccup together. So I didn’t deal with it. I should have. Totally should have. Because then he looked up at me and looked a little in disbelief and said,

“Well there are eleven incidences of tachycardia” Ok, that’s feeble. I am clearly the most pathetic human ever because it’s a fast but regular rhythm and I’ve been feeling dizzy and getting chest pain and ascites and oedema and clearly I’m just imagining it all… But he wasn’t done.

“And 179 incidences of arrhythmia.” 179. Well that would do it. Erm… What? How? Excuse me, are you sure that’s my heart? Go home Reginald, you’re drunk. 

He brought up my heart tracings on a screen, printed a few off that showed squiggles and peaks and fluctuations between the peaks of my ECG where there shouldn’t be any, and stupidly fast heart rates, and some tracings where the bottom half of my heart and the top half of my heart decided to beat at totally different rates. Skippy (my heart) had gone rogue. He looked a little uneasy and told me he needed to go and get one of his colleagues. When he came back he was visibly concerned and when I said I’d just decided it was nothing, he told me it was definitely not normal, and that he needed to go and get a doctor. All I could think was ok, so let my cardiologist deal with it when I can next face going to an appointment. But he said it couldn’t wait until my next appointment. So he phoned the registrar who was in clinic, and then they went and had a conversation, and this doctor walked into the room a while later and shook my hand and before he even sat down he asked me how I’d felt yesterday.

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Yesterday night

The above picture is of my yesterday. Throughout the entire thing, even as we got on the underground, I said my heart felt weird. It hurt, right round into my shoulder and arm. It just felt weird, and I was dizzy and my abdomen was more swollen than it has probably ever been. And I couldn’t work out why. I coughed a lot and felt water at the back of my throat. It was hard to breathe, no matter how deeply I breathed in, my lungs felt like they couldn’t expand fully. And I ignored it all. But it all made sense when the doctor said the next thing.

Your heart was beating in an abnormal rhythm yesterday for about six hours. Probably longer, actually. I mean… I had suspected but then totally dismissed this (assuming instead that I was being melodramatic and needed to get a grip)… What. Seriously? Skippy dude… No. And then he glanced at the data from Reginald’s freak out and said, “Oh actually, it started right in the early hours and went on until very late at night.” He looked at the cardiac technician guy or whatever his job title is, and asked about another time, the response was that I’d just been flicking in and out of arrhythmia. And it all made sense then. The fact that yesterday during the day I was SO tired and was struggling to stay awake. The fluid retention because my kidneys were annoyed at my heart being in an arrhythmia so frequently I guess. All of it.

The doctor sat down and looked at me. And I couldn’t really feel anything, the reality didn’t hit, but I looked right back at him. He looked like he was about to say something super bad, but he wasn’t. He told me about what my heart had been doing, and his colleague explained the tracings to me. When held up against my baseline they were kind of chaotic and way more weirdly shaped in ways it never had been before. New heart junk. Merry Christmas body, love from reality. 

He told me it wasn’t normal and we couldn’t just leave it. And then he started dancing around the topic of a treatment, saying that he needed to urgently email my consultant and work out a treatment plan which will also be put into writing. And he danced around the subject until eventually I gave him a shove and he stopped avoiding and started talking… about surgery – the stuff I talked about with my cardiologist a few months ago, but that we decided to hang fire on after my heart improved a bit over the summer. With the medication I take, my heart apparently shouldn’t have done any of the things we sat looking at on the tracings. I mean… It shouldn’t have done them anyway, but apparently it can suggest other stuff is going on so who knows. He didn’t. I don’t.

I was kind of stunned but not really stunned, because there was no emotional reaction or real thought other than, was that really my heart? and clearly it must have been. There’s no way I can wriggle out of this one, Skippy has betrayed me and it’s printed in black and white now so I can’t try and y’know… Mask it. I was totally calm throughout the entire hour long commotion. I sat there on my phone reading blog posts and writing stuff and I talked to them about stuff that didn’t matter. I was completely unable to react to the situation. At all. But I kind of thought it might be important to think or feel about it, so I tried to.

And then I did the only thing there was to do – I stepped out into the world, I bought myself a footlong sub in Subway and a load of food in Pret (and my bank account probably cried about this as I got back on the tube) and headed to campus to attempt to complete the coursework I had that was due in by 5:30. Normal life carried on. I went to my lab at 2pm. I sat surrounded by people, one of whom was very happy which made me just shut down. I sat looking at information, and got complimented by one of the assessors on today’s Christmas jumper.

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I haven’t been able to wear this since I almost died while wearing it last December, but it was the only Christmas jumper I was wiling to let smell of hospitals. Yes I have a padlock on my belt loop – I finally acquired one in the lab because we need them for lockers.

But my brain was still in that clinic room. It was still there, refusing to leave until it figured out how to react, figured out how to even have a thought. And everything else was completely overwhelming. I wanted to cry, but not from sadness, not from weakness, I don’t even know why – just suddenly I realised that I was holding in tears. From nowhere. Another thing that just appeared with no warning. And I had to act normal, I had to be this version of myself that healthy people can handle. They moaned about trivial things and I sat there trying to even comprehend what even had gone on.

Two new things requiring surgery in as many weeks, both pretty big deals… And I knew the university didn’t care. The one thought that managed to temporarily surface was the realisation that university CANNOT find out about either thing, because if they know I have to have surgeries, I’ll have to drop out (or at least last year when they heard I had a surgery planned it was a bullet in the gun they kept firing at me in order to kill my attempt at uni that year and make me take a year out). I spoke to my mum right after my appointment, and we were both calm and I managed not to be a dick. She said it was scary, because I told her everything I’d been told (the stuff I’ve shared here is all I’m willing to share with anyone, so please don’t ask for more detail because I need to figure out where it all sits in my brain first).

After the lab I sat alone and finished my coursework (and somehow submitted it on time), and then Uni Pal decided I needed a distraction and that we should go in search of ALL the Christmas things… We ended up heading to Whitechapel and eating fish and chips (proper fish and chips) in a greasy fish and chip shop where we sat for over an hour on plastic chairs. I showed her a lot of the photos that I have of my dog and I, and she said she wished anyone or anything would love her as much as that dog loves me – apparently she hadn’t seen a dog behave like mine and it made her heart melt. I wanted my dog then. And then we talked more. And we walked to a supermarket and Uni Pal hugged a giant Christmas tree and I almost bought a miniature one… And each time my heart hiccuped I now knew it wasn’t me being an idiot, but Skippy having a tantrum.

Health hiccups don’t care about Christmas. They don’t give you a Christmas holiday. But apparently, mine are now offering new gifts in the spirit of the festive season.

I’d like the world to back off just so my brain can switch back on and deal with reality.

Apologies that this post was the word equivalent of a skid mark. I can’t even even right now.

Does Anything Else Matter?

When my alarm went off at 8am this morning I was faced with a dilemma: to 9am lecture, or not to 9am lecture? This question was answered for me when I was swiftly taken hostage by the comfort of my bed, and proceeded to hit the snooze button on the five separate alarms I’d set until I had 4 minutes until the lecture started… And happily settled back off to sleep instead. From those that went to the lecture, I’ve heard that this was a good call. I was not the only one that missed it.

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I did all this instead.

I was waiting to meet with SC Uni Friend, but she wasn’t replying to my messages and by the time late morning arrived I was going stir crazy stuck in my studio/room/whatever you call it. So I took myself to Stratford Westfield shopping centre, and treated myself to a sourdough pizza. It looked amazing, but it was a disappointment compared to last time.

I spent the rest of the day sort of re-living my childhood. I wanted the gingerbread that I used to get when I was a little kid, so I found it and ended up accidentally buying a load of shopping that weighed so much I had to just wait for SC Uni Friend to rescue me at the tube station nearest my accommodation and help me carry it home.

And then I continued to re-live my childhood. I’ve been doing that a lot lately, clinging to the past, to familiarity – because familiarity feels safe and comforting and everything in the past (although there are some truly horrific events) I managed to get through, and somehow coped with better than current reality. It started with the fact that when I went home I put on the beaten up old trainers (seriously these things should go in the bin) that I hadn’t put on my feet since I was in my last year of sixth form but until that point had worn every day for two years. Since then, they are all I’ve worn. They are familiar. They remind me of a time that sucked (honestly I’ve almost died in those shoes, been suicidal in them, been bullied and torn apart and overwhelmed and even ran away in those shoes…), but that I was able to live through and beyond. They remind me of an unmeasurable and unbearable unpleasantness that I learned to deal with – one that I know how to handle now. And today that desperation to cling to things like that spread to the places that I went.

When we were younger, my parents used to drive us to London for the day and we’d go round the museums. Honestly, it was my FAVOURITE thing to do. So my friend and I headed to the Natural History Museum together, and it hadn’t changed at all, other than the ice rink and Christmas decorations now outside. It was amazing to be in this little bubble of my 11-13 year old life. The exhibits were all the same. The same huge blue whale hung from the ceiling and we both hunted for it for ages until we found this room that we remembered from our childhoods and we sat and just stared at this whale, at all these things I remembered.

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Looking at the blue whale. 11 year old me has never been as stunned as I was when I saw the size of this whale hanging from the ceiling. 

I spent ages hunting for the real human brain and spinal cord that I used to just stare at. I mean… now I can say that I’ve touched them in an anatomy lab, but back then it was so fascinating to me, and I wanted to go back and see it, even though it was less awe inspiring to look at now. We passed the giant model of a cell that my mum made me take a photo of before my GCSEs started. As a family we’d go to a different section on each visit so I’d only seen bits from each section once but it was just like I remembered only… Underwhelming now. When I was 11-13, I knew none of it, so it was interesting and informative and it blew my tiny mind, quenching a thirst for knowledge. Now, I’ve done all the human biology to degree level – SC Uni Friend and I could have written the exhibit. It was so sweet to think about how amazed I used to be by it all – it was my old heaven on earth, and being back in the scene of such memories… it was like this big emotional comfort blanket.

You know you’re a biomedical science student when you look at the human skeleton they have on exhibit (very basically labelled like this is your thigh bone. It’s very long) and immediately notice that it is the skeleton of a female… Then begin to discuss this with your friend, who agrees. It was like being face to face with the evolution of myself in that moment right there, and also like standing next to my 11 year old self. I found the exhibit I used to LOVE really boring and basic because I knew it all in so much more detail, but it was good to know that that thirst for knowledge I had at that young age had led somewhere – I was doing a degree in a subject that even then I loved.

We hung around and said hi to the statue of Charles Darwin sat looking over the entrance hall, and took photos of the big dinosaur that is soon going to be moved but that has been there FOREVER. And it was so nice. It was nice. It was like travelling back in time to before the worst – before the PTSD and the starting to almost die every few weeks and the hospital admissions that lasted years. Plus, I found that now that I’m older, I’m so much more interested in the science and anatomy of the other animals in the other exhibits, and the evolution of modern species and just… yeah. It was cool.

We waited for it to get dark and then decided we should probably leave, mostly because Pizza Express does 40% off for students on Mondays and Tuesdays and we refused to miss out on that deal.

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Looking over the ice rink (which is a lot smaller than the advertising made it look)
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I could not get over THE TREES. Look how beautiful!!! They only showed up on my phone in the dark.

Like I said, we’d decided we wanted pizza, so we headed for London Bridge. And I was so mortified that I wanted the ground to swallow me whole.

I got on the tube, and I walked to hold onto the rail, and this young woman gave me her seat. Because she thought I was pregnant. Now this is funny. SC Uni Friend thought it was funny and laughed and kept referring to me as “you two” but it really, really wasn’t funny to me. I’m a 20 year old girl, full of insecurities by nature, particularly surrounding my health. I laughed but inside I crumpled and screamed and tore myself apart and took knives to the walls of my mind and let the blood pour. Inside I hurt.

But… I did look pregnant. I mentioned in another post that my legs were extremely swollen and I couldn’t really breathe… And that situation remained but had slightly improved this morning. As I went through the day, my heart rate got faster and faster, it began to ache, I got breathless, and my usually concave stomach (not flat, if stand side on then after my ribcage my stomach sort of  goes in by a good couple of centimetres, because I’m hideously, unhealthily thin at the moment) had become convex. Fluid is pooling EVERYWHERE and it seems to be getting worse. I looked like my aunt had until she gave birth. Seriously. My ribs are usually further forward than my stomach, and today my stomach ended up further forward than my boobs. Look.

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My stomach used to be completely flat, but as my health has deteriorated it has sunk back past my ribcage. Not today… This was taken an hour before I was given a seat on the underground, at which point it was even larger than this. Might not look very big, but compared to normal it is RIDICULOUS and my stomach is so stretched and tight that it’s super uncomfortable. It’s all fluid, not a mini-me, just to clarify. Fun times. 

Anyway the pizza was amazing, and I got a few awesome photos of Southwark Cathedral, and awesome panoramic shots of the Thames and Tower Bridge and the Shard from London Bridge. The Christmas trees at the top of the Walkie Talkie building were so huge we could see them from ground level. London is really getting into the Christmas spirit and… It’s a little bit magical.

What’s also magical is that my family friend from Reading messaged me earlier today for a chat and asking to meet over Christmas. This evening my old friend from sixth form who was like a brother to me (honestly, we saw so much of each other and I helped him through a lot and we’d be on the phone for HOURS all the time) but then got a girlfriend and forgot I existed, messaged me for the first time in a year asking to meet up over Christmas. And Uni Babe has invited me to her family Christmas party on the 23rd. So that’s nice. Especially the two friends I haven’t heard from or seen for ages – familiarity. Old times. What my brain wants right now, to hide, to crawl back in time to before this.

I saved the best part of today until last.

In the very early hours of this morning our family was given an early Christmas present that nothing could top – a new family member, new life. My uncle, who has lived in Hong Kong since he was just older than I am now, welcomed his new baby daughter into the world with my aunt via a pre-planned c-section. I slept from 4pm-9pm yesterday, and woke to see a post online stating that my uncle (who never feels anything really) was “feeling blessed” above a status which read T- 2 hours 9 minutes.

I fell asleep before those two hours passed, but woke to a picture of an ADORABLE baby girl with a lovely name, and instantly I wanted to hold her and tell her happy birthday and say hi to the youngest grandchild from the oldest grandchild. It was just a happy day for our family. My granddad, who has social media but never uses it, shared the photo of his newest granddaughter, and it melted my heart a little (also because the caption was “h” because he seriously has no idea what he’s doing). My mum messaged me and eventually called me because she was so happy. My uncle called everyone… We all talked over social media… It was just nice. So anyway, I got a new baby cousin, and sometime soon I’m going to be so happy about that.

Does anything else matter?

Collecting Moments

I planned to catch up on work today and… didn’t. I didn’t even end up back in my flat until the late evening. I had an awesome day of exploring more Christmassy sights around London, trying to shake everything that is intermittently on my mind and just enjoy a magical season in this equally magical (and at the same time in many ways completely not) city.

Processed with MOLDIVI slept fully clothed last night, even in my shoes. A bed was made up for me in the sofa, but rather than laying down I slept sleeping up. I woke next to a couple of glasses of drink beside me, and joined SC Uni Friend and her family for cold pizza for breakfast. The events of the night before that had made me feel so out of place I couldn’t settle were long forgotten, and I spent my morning once again sat with a family who weren’t mine.

I then wandered back to the tube station and went one stop back to where I live. I met Uni Pal inside that tube station, and we headed to Covent Garden. We’d been messaging and planning to meet up, and instead of a full English breakfast, I suggested we go there. So… That’s what we did. It was nice to catch up. She handles things much better than I expect and responded in  a way that neither overwhelmed nor underwhelmed my brain, which is hard to do at the moment. Turns out that when I was in hospital the guy she’s had a crush on FOR EVER asked her out on a date. She was considerate of my feelings enough to know that it wasn’t the right time to talk about normal world stuff, and waited until today. We wandered around Covent Garden together for ages, we saw the tree and the lego display and all the Christmas lights. We stopped off at a really fancy bakery nearby and she bought me an apple pastry that was AMAZING. I did Christmas shopping for my family and added to my collection of funny/inspirational postcards from my favourite stationary shop.

Because Uni Pal handled everything so well, I took a little leap of faith and told her about the nose thing. When she’s chilled out and out of a state of panicked breakdown about uni work (as pretty much everyone seems to be most of the time) she reacts to stuff in a way that is beyond helpful. In that… She doesn’t dismiss it or underplay it, she acknowledges it and the crappiness of it, and she talks about it until whatever I need to get out about it has been said. A lot of people shut down conversations like that or try to inject optimism, and at that point my mind just implodes.

Anyway, the guy she liked turned up early for their date, so I was ditched a little. I wandered back to The Strand and made my way to McDonalds, where I bought three apple pies, because after trying them yesterday I have developed a small obsession. I kind of started to get used to my own company and wandering alone again, which I felt was an important thing to do.

WR Uni Friend had been invited along by Uni Pal but didn’t turn up. She’s so lovely and I am moved beyond belief that she tries so much to be there for me. But… She’s too positive. She says stuff like “yeah but it could be worse” or “I mean if I was in hospital for this long I’d melt down too” or “yeah but that’s just how people are sometimes”  or “you just have to keep your chin up” or “you’re not going to die” like… No. I know that, but it doesn’t help me. It wasn’t being in hospital, it was knowing I had to do it over and over even though I was completely broken and had nothing left to give, it was a man dying beside me… And yeah, that may be how people can be, but people are arseholes, and I’m allowed to be hurt. And there’s often nothing in me to point upwards. I get uncomfortable when people patronise me in that tone and tell me I’m not going to die because they clearly have no idea how close I come and how often it happens. Because reality check: I almost die a lot. It’s scary how easily and quickly it could happen. No life is set in stone, but mine at the minute feels like it is set in putty. It isn’t personal at all. A lot of people behave in ways that my brain just can’t deal with right now, but that it still appreciates as huge acts of kindness and consideration from true friends. That isn’t their fault, but even when some people watched me almost die I don’t think they understood the severity.

When I say I can’t human she still tries normal, happy conversation with me because what else is there to do? (other people kind of pause and address the crap, and skipping over it like this just totally undermines the way I feel and makes me feel misunderstood and completely disconnected and also pathetic and stupid for being bothered at all). When I say something is bad, she tries to tell me to find all the positives and I love her for all of that I do, it just… At the minute… My brain just shuts down to feeling so misunderstood at the moment in ways I can’t explain. Which makes me feel like a dick, because she’s only being nice and it does mean a lot to me. But some people’s reactions and behaviours just aren’t helpful to me at the minute.

Anyway, she called me up and still wanted to meet. We wandered to Trafalgar Square and just stood for a while watching, then we wandered down towards Big Ben and the houses of parliament (past a bunch of war memorials), where there was another big Christmas tree. I took a few photos of the London Eye lit up all red as we wandered back along North Bank. I kept asking WR Uni Friend to slow down but I don’t think she really understood how slow my heart makes me when it has a moment and it was TIRED from so much walking in two days (not a lot to most people, but way too much for me).

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Me looking at the tree in Trafalgar Square (Nelson’s column is there but the words “trying to get a life” are in front of it)
I got on the tube and went home and fell straight into bed after an awesome day, leaving WR Uni Friend to continue her route march at a pace she was more accustomed to and that I definitely could not maintain. SC Uni Friend messaged me saying that she wanted to acknowledge what a big deal this weekend had been to me – mixing with people again after being so withdrawn and facing so many people when my brain is in a fragile and easily stunned and confused state. She said I had a lot to be proud of, and that I’d achieved a lot of big things and taken huge steps. I figured out how to ACT normal, but instead of maintaining that and hoping that it sticks, it is important for me never to lose sense of the reality of the situation – that’s the start of denial, and it won’t work. I need to acknowledge that although it is a temporary coping mechanism, it isn’t good, it means I’m not being true to anyone, especially myself, and it basically just lets me hide in plain sight. WR Uni Friend encouraged me to continue the act until it felt like a habit, but that’s the point – that act is just a mask, and I don’t want to reinforce the habit of burying my emotions (if that makes any sense at all?)

Anyway it was way, way too much for my heart. I said it a couple of times on both days to both friends, and neither of them really appreciated just how much of a strain simple walking and London Underground staircases were putting on my body. So today, I was alarmed but not entirely surprised to find that when I took off my skinny jeans, my shins burst out the top of my socks like muffin tops and deep indentations remained when I pushed down to try and feel the shin bone that is normally visible (hello pitting oedema).

I don’t have time for my heart to remind me that it isn’t entirely happy. My health hiccups take it in turns to put me in hospital and I have no intention of going back. Honestly, right now, I just want to go out and do things, and fight for this place at my university because even though I’m not sure I want it, I don’t want it to be taken from me. If I make a decision to leave then I want that decision to be mine. I want to enjoy Christmas time because who knows how many any of us have left?

I have so much uni work to do, and I still have to try and find evidence as to why I missed assessments and stuff before… But none of it means anything to me right now. I’m trying to feel again. I’m trying to find the joy that I know is all around me and the Christmassy feeling that all of London seems to be lost in. I want that magic to replace all the hurting and deadness inside of my mind. And at points this weekend, briefly, it has.

I’m collecting moments. Not things, not grades, not lecture notes, not money. Things that matter. Things that will still matter even in my last moments  Things money can’t buy. Memories. Moments. Time well spent. 

And Uni Pal clearly got that too, because later this evening, she sent me a few photos of us together on our day and of me that she’d taken.

Tomorrow I’m going to attempt to go to lectures for the first time in over a month, and hope that I’m emotionally ready. If not, no sweat. It’s a lecture. It’s a university that doesn’t care about me any more than I care about the individual components of the computer I am typing this on (only the machine as a whole seems to matter). I’m starting to consider alternatives. I’ve been able to think forwards and I genuinely think I want to live in Canada or Australia or Cornwall after I graduate. I want to make lists of things to do and actually do them. Just… Go for it. Go out and do the things you always wanted to do but never have – go out and capture your own moments, do the equivalent of exploring your London at Christmas.

You have a finite number of moments. Use them. At this time of year especially, they can be kinda magic.

Christmas Exploring

Last night was so amazing. I did so many things I had been wanting to try and saw so many places, with the loveliest company. This post may be boring, but it’s a nice one, all the stuff in it to me is beyond amazing.

I made my way to Embankment yesterday evening and walked along the a strand to Trafalgar Square alone to see the giant Christmas tree given to London by Norway. Then I wandered to Leicester Square and through the little Christmas market there, and on to Picadilly circus, where I was going to meet Same Cardiologist Uni Friend. I ended up standing in Picadilly Circus tube station for an hour thawing out while I waited for them (because it was so cold that even in a million layers I was shivering and couldn’t fee my legs or fingers). The announcer was Irish and had so much sass, it was hilarious.

Then SC Uni Friend and her partner and both their families showed up. I was so scared to be around so many people but they were so chilled out and friendly and accepting. We wandered through Chinatown and then along Regents Street and Oxford Street. As we walked down Oxford Street, it snowed. It actually snowed. The first snow of winter among all the Christmas lights and it was MAGICAL. So we decided to go to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. 

On the way we stopped at McDonalds and I tried my first McDonald’s apple pie, which I LOVED. Talking and laughing and stopping to take photos everywhere we made our way to Marble Arch and on to Winter Wonderland which is basically a giant winter fairground/ theme park. They bought churros and I had my first ever churro and it was so nice to be around a family doing lovely family things. That in itself was magic. It was freezing cold and I suddenly remembered that if my insulin gets below 2 degrees Celsius it doesn’t work any more and I would therefore endanger my life. Up ing hearing this everyone decided to help find a solution, and SC Uni Friend’s 18 year old brother gave me both his gloves to put my insulin pump in so that it wouldn’t freeze in my pocket. They were so nice to me. It was so weird.

I went back to their house with them and we stayed up until 3am playing games all day around their dining table talking. The bought three huge 18 inch pizzas between  the 9 of us and their dog was instantly obsessed with me…

And then at the end it all went wrong and I wanted to leave and also stop existing, but when I woke up this morning that settled and went and I’ve spent the last three hours sat around a table talking to this family that isn’t my own. It’s so weird to see a family do so much together and be so close but it’s so nice just to see.

And now look at the post I wrote tomorrow morning. Life goes on. No matter how difficult it gets and how badly you don’t know how to fave it, it goes on. And magic like this happens.

No way but through.

Escaping Reality (London At Night)

Those of you who followed this blog throughout my first year of university will be aware of my love of wandering around London at night, and of being by the Thames.

There is a feeling of defiance in walking when you feel you could collapse at any second. When your legs are almost too heavy to move and your steps are slow and painful as your muscles (and your busted foot) scream and your energy levels reach negative values, there is a sense of strength and achievement each time your foot pushes off from the ground. Combine that with views of the city that stole your heart and refuses to return it, streets and sights that you are familiar with (and the overwhelming sense of home that results) and there is nothing, NOTHING that could ruin that moment (and nothing that could make me feel more… completely relaxed and content and ok). It kind of feels like defying reality, or at least escaping it for a while.

HK Uni Friend and I hopped on the central line at around 9:45 last night, and ended up at monument station. We took a slow walk through Southwark – across London Bridge and through Borough Market. The market was closed, but all the pubs and bars and restaurants around it were open and SWARMING with loud, overindulged (and far too drunk) city workers letting loose. We encountered a very well dressed businessman laying on the floor trying to punch a homeless man, while his extremely well dressed colleague tried to pull him off. Eventually, the violent drunk guy slumped backwards and sprawled out on the pavement motionless, his fancy suit now in all the dust and cigarette ends that were on the concrete beneath him. His friend apologised profusely to the homeless man before taking a picture of his unconscious colleague and attempting to pick him up and take him home.

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Top left: Me stood on London Bridge looking towards Tower Bridge and Canary Wharf (just to the left of Tower Bridge).         Top right: Looking from London Bridge over towards Southwark Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral behind and to the right of it.         [Underneath top right]: Tower Bridge again (this photo is also the bottom middle)         Bottom left: “The Monument” I think it commemorates the great fire of London which started there or something I think?         Bottom Left: The Shard viewed from London Bridge.
London was not yet asleep, there was traffic everywhere and a ridiculous amount of city workers letting off steam. But it was nice. I felt extremely unwell, but it was easy to focus on something other than the anxiety that I’m starting to develop about becoming unwell and the effect it may have on university. It’s difficult to walk around knowing there is a life threatening emergency brewing in your veins. Without realising how tense I was, I ended up by the Thames again, and once again the huge mass of brown, salty water drowned the weight that was dragging me down and left me floating on a feeling I hadn’t been able to comprehend. Those are the kind of moments I want to capture and drag out forever. I was so much more unwell than I could admit. When I eventually returned home I stumbled a few steps into my room and I was out like a light. My health is far worse than I am willing to admit.

This morning I went to uni as normal, refreshed from my wandering and still smiling as I looked back through the photos. But photos were not enough to escape reality, and it hit me hard.

As I stood up at the end of the two hour lecture, my heart felt weird. I didn’t know quite what it was doing, but I couldn’t walk straight, I was dizzy and disorientated and I felt a weird sort of light headed. I went home and grabbed food before walking to Whitechapel with HK Uni Friend. In the middle of the supermarket there, my eyeballs felt warm and my vision started going, and my head felt like it does right before I pass out. I thought I was going, and my heart felt weird and eventually skipped a couple of beats, but it all made no sense to me. I didn’t stop, I sort of just hoped it would stop and carried on. Eventually I got an awful headache and began to get an ache in my chest as my heart raced far faster than it needed to. It continued to feel weird, and walking home was very, very difficult. I genuinely almost couldn’t walk, my body was just grinding to a heart, I felt like I was going to pass out, and my heart rate was very, very high. I didn’t know how I was moving. I got home and instantly just flopped onto my bed. The weirdness continued, and I realised acidosis is probably not my only significant concern right now.

I went down to reception as they were giving out big boxes of free stuff to residents (also because I decided I should probably tell them about my health, as I was that convinced I was going to pass out). I managed to lock myself out of my room and had to ask them to give me a key card to get back in. I felt like such an idiot, but luckily the first time this happens they help you out for free, so I got away with it this time. I bumped into the super attractive guy on my floor (who I met the other day) again, and he said hi once again (I was too awkward to find any other words to respond with, so our conversation stopped there).

My heart is still racing, which I think is responsible for how spaced out and dizzy I feel. There is a constant weird sensation there that I can’t even describe and I’m getting occasional palpitations as it hiccups, but nothing sinister or anything.

But this is not good. This situation, and my health right now, is not good. It might not sound too bad, but that’s because I don’t want to get all dramatic and I don’t want to spend paragraphs listing the severity of the situation. I’m out of it. I’m half asleep even when I’m awake. I can’t think straight, and there keep just being these gaps in time which I’m not even aware of unless I suddenly find myself in the middle of a road or I’ve walked into a wall or whatever. Breathing is such an effort, and I kind of know I’m going to need some serious help sometime soon. This is due to the creeping acidosis and the effects that having a lower than normal pH for the past few days has had on my body. The last think I need is for my heart to have a tantrum on top of this.

For now, time to go out again (I don’t think this is a good time to be alone). Uni Mum messaged me to arrange going for drinks sometime soon, and I may be going to stay with Auntie Godmother tonight as I messaged her, and in response my cousin asked me to stay the night with them…

This post was almost decent, and then I rambled and ruined it. But anyway…

No way but through.

 

I’ll Stop When I Fall

Things I learned yesterday:

  • It’s weird having a lecture in the basement of a hospital you’ve been treated in.
  • The medical lecturer who stood in the basement of the hospital lecturing us said that biomedical science was harder than medicine because we had to know the biology behind the medical junk as well.
  • We’re going to be assigned tutors from the medical school for the next two years (so the medics that tell us to get off “their” campus can please go away).
  • I started thinking about the future. Properly thinking about the future, like even more than I have been. I’m toying with several ideas, ranging from going to university in Australia/ Canada, doing a cardiology/ physiology/ journalism degree (vastly different I know), moving to Plymouth, settling into research and getting my competences in biomedical science, and getting a PhD.
  • I’ve been thinking about a tattoo even more seriously and started sketching about some designs. My brain knows this is a very stupid idea. It also doesn’t care.
  • Going to the women’s rugby taster session is a very good idea. Women’s Rugby Uni Friend invited me along because she said there would be copious amounts of free food (there was, I sat there while they all played rugby and ate until I was stuffed). Most of the girls were medics, they were all lovely, it reminded me of when I used to play for a football team and made me want to get into sport again more than ever.
  • Stepney Green Park exists (until I sat in it with all the rugby girls for hours watching the air ambulance take off and return, I had no idea it was even a place.

I went back to WR Uni Friend’s flat afterwards and discovered that my heart was very annoyed. She said I looked “peaky” but was awesome enough to walk me home, and offer to let me live with her and her flatmates next year. She gave me a pack of bagels that she had, and some of the risotto that she had cooked the night before, and I returned home to my flat with it. By the time I walked into my room I was on the verge of passing out. I had an accidental three hour nap, and woke up in time to actually answer a phonecall from my godfather. I love his phone calls almost as much as I love him. We spoke all about uni and lectures and the layout of the course, and then we got onto the subject of my health, and we started talking about exercise. He was the first person not to try and discourage me. He knew what he was talking about, and he knew that certain symptoms weren’t good, but he also seemed to pick up on how much it meant to me. He didn’t call me reckless and he didn’t tell me it was a bad idea, he tried to help me find the safest way to do it. He steered me away from swimming and said I should ride a static bike, then he decided a rowing machine was less of a height to fall from if I passed out. It was so lovely to end a conversation with: Love you and Love you too.

Walking home from lectures this morning, a really weird thing happened. A week or so ago I was walking back to my room and walked into a wall because there was a complete gap in time. The same sort of thing happened again. I was walking along the pavement one minute, and then it wasn’t like anything went black, or I was outside looking in, it was literally like time jumped, like a few seconds just didn’t exist. Suddenly I zoned back into myself to the sound of car horns and shouting, and I had no idea where I was. And then I got a bit more with it and found that I was in the MIDDLE OF MILE END ROAD. A main road. Just walking slowly and clumsily across it. WR Uni Friend was way more freaked out by this than I was (If there was any hope of this post being chronological, it just died, I’m sorry).

Other things I learned yesterday:

  • MY STUDENT LOAN WAS FINALLY PAID
  • 10:30pm is a fantastic time to go shopping in a low budget supermarket, especially with HK Uni Friend, who already knew what products were good and what weren’t.
  • Carrying 6l of drinks home from the supermarket is too much effort, even if I get the bus half way home – by the time we were almost home I was coughing and coughing, brining up fluid, and wheezing, and it wasn’t fun. I was close to passing out. My abdomen was so swollen it went out past my boobs – I was told it didn’t look that bad, but if it had been observed in its usual state the difference would have seemed as alarming as it actually was.
  • I had an appointment in the pacing/ device clinic at the heart hospital the next day at 10am, and would therefore not be getting a lie in.
  • Having a lot of food is awesome
  • Breaking news for diabetics everywhere: Some system became the first artificial pancreas system to receive FDA approval. This. Is. Huge. There are a lot of mental health issues associated with diabetes. Diabetics are more likely to experience depression or eating disorders, and people often underestimate type 1 diabetes, confusing it with type 2 (even my friends who are studying a degree in biomedical science seem to think that diabetes is a trivial thing. I know two families who have lost children to it. I nearly lost myself to it).

 

This morning I left home at 9 and stood around on a slowly filling platform on the London underground as District Line trains rolled in and out. I knew it was going to be an awful journey when I looked up at the board, and instead of saying time until arrival, it just said HELD next to each train. There were major delays on multiple lines including the District Line, which meant the Hammersmith and City line was also significantly delayed. I wormed my way onto a packed train when it finally arrived, and stood there unsure whether I was going to fall asleep or pass out. People shoved and pushed and tutted and sighed and were altogether grumpy and impatient as London commuters usually are. The train sat in tunnels for minutes as the trains ahead of us sat at platforms, delayed. When we reached stations we sat with the doors open for five minutes, allowing an extraordinary number of people to force their way onto the train before it pulled away again.

I went to the clinic, sat around waiting, they did whatever had to be done with Reginald (the little device that lives in my chest), told me to go back in three months time, and i wandered out into the rain. Finally, some rain! It was refreshing and the air smelled amazing.

I got back, ate food, made lecture notes, learned that today is apparently national heart day or something, and then fell asleep until 2pm. It took me a full hour to wake up.

WR Uni Friend told me about her family, and it inspired me to FaceTime my little brother. We spoke for well over an hour. He talked to me about school (he NEVER talks about school to ANYONE). He told me what he’s been learning and what subjects he likes and started showing me his exercise books (you’ve no idea what a big deal this is, my brother is 14, hates school, and thinks it is a waste of time). He told me he’d been sneakily doing the homework that he forgot in the bathroom late at night so that he could hand it in for the next morning, and then he started talking about films and general life. He is still not enjoying life with narcissist nephew, who thought he was a big man making gestures about me behind the phone while I spoke to my brother (who got very defensive and made me feel ALL THE FEELS). He called me back and we spoke for longer, ignoring my parents insistence that he did his homework. When I asked him how stress dad was being lately, he just made a deadened groaning sound and said he’d say no more. I asked my mum if she wanted to meet up with me today a few days ago, and she said no because Thursday (today) is her only day off. But my little brother and her are now coming to meet me on Saturday, and my brother and I are really looking forward to seeing each other. He was disappointed when he had to get off of the phone and go for dinner. I felt like I’d finally reclaimed him from his games console and it was so nice!

With my newfound funds I bought some textbooks and applied for a new students’ union card, and I’m currently trying to ignore the nausea, distorted vision, headache, and taste of acidosis that is slowly overwhelming my senses. In a few hours, I’m going to have a problem. Right now, I intend to have a life (HK Uni Friend is on her way back to our accommodation and we’re going for a night time stroll… At 9:30pm… In Mile End – which, for those of you who don’t know, is not a particularly nice place, especially for young women… There’s a lot of crime, especially muggings and sexual assault, and especially among our university student colleagues… But hey. We want to walk).

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I’m pretty sure the metatarsal on my right foot isn’t supposed to look like that… Or hurt so much. I also don’t want to bother doctors for such a minor thing, and sort of feel like I deserve to hurt because I’m such an awful excuse for a human being.
Everyone around me is moaning so much about having a cold or a paper cut or a sore throat or whatever, and in a way I kind of feel like a badass enduring this and want to see it through until it doesn’t hurt any more. I feel like I’m kind of pathetic bowing down to the pain of this, and I also don’t want to appear weak in front of anyone. My friend is a doctor. He looked at it… Swore. Told me it was quite clearly broken, that I was THE definition of a tough cookie and must have a ridiculous pain threshold, and that professional footballers rolled around on the floor with injuries like this. I do have a rather irritating limp, and I have tried to put it back into place multiple times (as soon as I stand on it, it looks like this again). It’s a minor, minor injury and compared to everything my body has been through in the  last few months alone it is barely a scratch in comparison, and in my mind therefore nothing to worry about (especially as I’m currently significantly unwell and that is demanding all of my attention instead).

My health is creeping up on me. My heart is getting grumpier as the days go on and as I sit here I can feel acidosis brewing again. I should go to a hospital. Really I should, for so many reasons… But my friend is back and she wants us to go for that walk, and I want more than anything to wander with her. So it’s stupid, but I don’t want to be like one of those people who resigns to bed with the lightest sniffle and acts like they are dying. I want to bury my health, stop letting it hold me back, ignore the pain that I rightly deserve (and in fact let it remind me that I am still alive), and go out there into the night, into the city I love… And live.

I stop when I can’t carry on… And I’m not at that stage yet.

Sorry about this post. I’ve no idea what it is, but hey.

No way but through.

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Time to step out into this beautiful city… I fancy wandering along the banks of the Thames, so I may go and do exactly that!

I’m just trying to get a life (as the title of this blog suggests) I’m lost, but even my godfather noted that I’m in such better spirits than when I met him on Southbank a few weeks ago…

I just need to live a little. Just a little, before the next time I almost die (who am I kidding, the next time is already here, my body is killing itself and I can’t hold this of for much longer).

No way but through.

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.

Back Home In The City I Love

She reaches into her purse and pulls out £15. A trolley of empty boxes beside her, she holds the two creased notes out towards me. I thank her, and am told,

“This is the last penny you’re getting out of me for a year.” thanks to me (well, the place I’m living, so… technically me), my family are now in a financial tight spot. She can’t afford to give me any more, and she can’t afford to give me any money again. She’s given me the money because she wants me to go to the “welcome drinks and food” taking place in the restaurant in my accommodation. She says I might have to pay for the food, and hugs me.

I’m more interested in standing and watching her walk away. In my mind, I am coming home not leaving home… but my mum will always be my mum… and as she left I held back tears. I think she did too. She kept turning around to wave. I’d been meant to be meeting my Italian friend from uni. She usually bails on me. She did again. I think I may be done attempting to meet up with her. So my mum left, and I was alone… Until she called me to say

“You forgot Harvey and your notebook” (Harvey is the bonsai tree I bought at the start of last summer. Whenever I nearly die, he loses all his leaves. Seriously. I’ve nearly thrown him away many times thinking he was dead. And then he just grows new shoots and leaves again). This time she drives away, I lose sight of her faster, and it’s like ripping the plaster off instead of peeling it away slowly. She spent hours helping me move in, and now that she’s gone, I don’t know what to do.

(Change of tense here, because why not?

There was nobody around. It was awkward. At this stage of freshers, I went and sat in my kitchen with my flatmates and the awkwardness dissolved between us and our collective desire to get to know each other. I wandered round and could find nobody in the communal areas. There was nobody. My room is like a little bubble. I

Ex-flat-brother (who lived in my flat last year) also lives in this accommodation too. I met up with him. It was kind of awkward to my brain, but he’s a nice guy most of the time and has been a good friend to me in the past. We wandered around a bit, I showed him where the garden was (there was a BBQ, but nobody had showed up, so…) then we just sat on a sofa and talked for a bit. He showed me his room, and I ordered myself a pizza, onion rings and some chips, and took them back up to my room.

I laid on my bed looking out at Canary Wharf in the night. It was all lit up and so it illuminated the clouds that, as the night progressed, sank into a mist that glowed like a big yellow halo in the light from the buildings it had swallowed.

It was silent, and I was alone, and thoughts started to swim. I had to pay for wifi and have no money at the moment, so I went with the free service, which gives me 20MB per… some time period (whatever, it was too slow to watch youtube videos, so I connected to my phone). I watched Julien Solomita vlogs, then a load of Roman Atwood Vlogs, and then the latest Lance Stewart vlog. And then, as I rolled over onto my stomach to go to sleep, I hung my left arm out of the bed and said “Good night [my dog’s nickname]”. My hand closed no thin air and for some reason I had expected to feel warm fur. And that was when it hit me. In my old flat, I would have wandered into the kitchen and found other humans, but nobody was about. I gave up on sleep and I stared out of the window and listened to sirens, and eventually drifted off at 3am. I woke up two hours later, and I reached for my dog again. I even called him, that time, wondering where he was. I’ve never done that before. He obviously wasn’t going to be there. But I nearly cried. If I hadn’t fallen back to sleep, I probably would have.

This morning I woke up to the same awesome view I fell asleep staring at. I said good morning to my dog, and reached for him again, this time stopping before I grabbed at thin air, realising before reality hit that he was not there, and craving the company of something, somebody. Anybody, really. I started unpacking the rest of my stuff and listened to back-to-back Jenna&Julien podcasts all morning. It filled the silence. They made me laugh out loud. I looked out of the window (something I find myself doing an awful lot, even as I type this) and saw a running club or a park run go past in Mile End Park. It made me smile so much, to watch others running. It also really made me want to run.

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Top left: what the room looked like the first time I walked into it (after I’d dumped my bag). Top right: The walk I’m used to seeing as I walk towards my Whitechapel lectures. The big blue building is the hospital I live in a lot. There’s a teeny tiny red dot on top of it which is the air ambulance. Bottom left: What I could see as I laid in bed. Bottom right: After I’d finished unpacking the chaos and tidied up this morning. 

I discovered that I can see the O2 arena (on the other side of the river). I then sat for ages watching planes take off from London City Airport, before they turned (each one at the same point) and flew straight at me, and then over the uni campus behind me. On campus I used to try and work out where the airport was as the huge low-flying planes roared overhead. Now I know, which is kind of cool.

I ate cold pizza all morning and panicked that I couldn’t find my Oyster card. And I had a small unhelpful train of thought which shall get its own blog post shortly. I messaged My Fellow Third Wheel, and spent hours laying on my bed, staring at Canary Wharf and helping him with a problem he has right now. He told me I was helping when I wasn’t actually sure whether I was or not, and I felt a little better, I guess. Sixth From Friend’s Girlfriend messaged me, having just moved into uni, and seemed to have already decided that she couldn’t have any form of social life at all and had to shut herself away and work all the time. I spent a while fixing that situation – talking to her always reminds me how young 17 really is. I was lonely, so I messaged a few people, including my godfather, asking if they wanted to meet up. I think I might ask Aunty Godmother & her family if I can go and stay with them again.

I got ready (by that, I mean, I threw on clean clothes, the shower can wait) in preparation to meet Uni Pal, to then find that she would be delayed by three hours to our meeting because… wait for it… somebody stole her mum’s numberplate… while her car was parked on their driveway! Who even steals a numberplate?! We’re still trying to figure this out.

I’d noticed that my shirt was very difficult to button up (I had to pull it together really hard and struggled to get the buttons together… Usually this shirt is baggy over my flat stomach) and was almost bursting at the seams, but it wasn’t until I finally knew Uni Pal was almost home in London that I put on my shoes. I wear running shoes that are basically super thick socks with a sole attached (wearing running shoes was my compromise last year at uni when I wanted to run so badly, but couldn’t. I put on running shoes and it made me feel a little better. I now practically live in them). They are stretchy, they can’t be too small (especially not on my feet, which are so narrow and thin that I can’t find strapless shoes that actually stay on them). And yet, I couldn’t get them on my feet. It was at this point that I stopped to look at myself. Moving in yesterday, my abdomen had swelled a little over the course of the afternoon as the strain of lifting boxes irritated my body. Today, it had taken the swelling to the extreme. From literally where my sternum ended, my stomach bulged further forward than my boobs. I couldn’t find a single item of clothing that fit. I realised the wheeze and odd feeling in my airway that I’d been brushing off all morning was probably also related to this, because it had a very specific feel that I suddenly realised I recognised. And then I looked at my feet. Or at least, two puffy things that used to be my feet.

I couldn’t be bothered to have a defective body today, so I wrestled my shoes on, and stepped out into the city that stole my heart when I was about 14. My legs seared with pain as blood pooled and my calves cramped. My feet felt tight. I coughed and wheezed. But it was heaven. It was what I needed, to move, to get outside. I was not going to have a defective body, and even if it insisted on being defective, I wasn’t going to give it the satisfaction of acknowledging it.

I saw huddles of freshers stood at the traffic lights, waiting with no idea that they could cross safely in the absence of the green man as long as the cyclist’s traffic light was still red (means you still have time to cross). I felt at home, with a podcast still in my ear, and familiar sights surrounding me, I felt like I was home. My room is nice, but everything in it, including the room itself, feels foreign to me. It doesn’t feel like mine yet. It feels like I’ve put all my stuff in somebody else’s space. But Mile End… It was like a comfort blanket of sights.

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Top left: My desk area. Top middle: The district line at Mile End station. Top right: waiting for Uni Pal by Charing X station. Bottom left: Walking past trafalgar square and Nelson’s column. Bottom Middle: China town, heading back to Leicester square. Bottom right: Heading home after a nice afternoon. Embankment station with the London eye in view. 

We went from Charing Cross to The Strand, and walked from there past Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery to Leicester Square, where we wandered past all the police and the fountain to stroll along/ through Piccadilly Circus. We walked on to an Irish bar in China Town, but had just missed the end of the gaelic football final Uni Pal wanted to see. I bought us a couple of drinks (I ad non-alcoholic, because I figured my body was already annoyed enough). Uni Pal then took me to a really posh French bakery in Covent Garden. We sat and I ate an apple puff pastry, and a biscuit that was bigger than my face. As we walked back along the Strand to get to the underground, we passed a sight that almost made Uni Pal cry, and almost broke my heart.

A line, about thirty metres long. Some people in suits, most looking completely normal, just like us. Some neat, some holding guitars. Some were wheeling suitcases. Some were scruffy. Some were young, old, attractive. Some looked just like us, like they could have walked right off of a uni campus. They were all queueing for a van serving soup. They were all homeless. And most of them, had I passed them in the street, I wouldn’t have thought were homeless at all. I wanted to give them all my money. I wanted to cross the road into the fast food restaurant and buy all the food I could afford and hand it out. But I had no money left. And until my student loan payment hits, I can’t get more. People judge the homeless, but there was a man stood in a very expensive suit… And it just showed that it could be any of us. At any point.

Less than forty metres from the back of the line was a bank where you can’t open an account unless you have £100,000. Uni Pal said you usually pay it in cash (she knows these things). I hated society right there. I hated the world for walking on by, for the looks of disgust people were giving at their fellow human beings. The only thing I felt when I looked at them was an overwhelming desire to bring them all home with me and give them a warm, safe place to sleep. People even spat. At other humans… I have no words…

If my health stays good enough, I think I will find a local soup kitchen and volunteer. Normally when I see people living on the streets, I buy food (usually hot food, if I can find it, but at least a sandwich) and a drink (also usually hot) and ask if they would like it. I’m aware that they are people, with pride, and I never mean to be condescending. Some refuse, but most take up the offer. A lot of these people cry. I sat down with one guy once, and he told me all about how he’d become homeless. I always carried spare food after that. There are plenty of people living on the streets in London, everywhere, especially in the better areas (e.g. Holborn). I find it easier just to leave an apple or something next to the people that are sleeping, I’m kind of shy and I prefer not to have to face the awkwardness of watching their reaction. But anyway…

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Left: Home. The view from the other end of my corridor (at my end you can see the Olympic park and stuff) this end you can see the Gherkin and that part of the London Skyline. Top right: Piccadilly Circus. Middle Right: The apple pastry and giant biscuit I ate (it didn’t even fit on the plate!) Bottom right: A lonely dinner for one at my desk in front of my favourite photos that I’ve taken over the summer (YouTube eventually became my dinner companion – Roman Atwood this time).

I’m not going to lie, I feel so, so lonely here. I like to be around people. I want to be around anything living. I might go swimming tomorrow, or for a walk. And I’m going to ask if I can go to Aunty Godmother’s house. I have people to meet up with for the rest of the week, but even then that’s only for a couple of hours at a time. I don’t like being alone. Well, I do, sometimes. But I like to have the choice. I don’t like having no option. I am so lucky to have a place to live, especially such an amazingly nice one, but I feel so guilty about the financial impact this is having on my family.

Talking of family, my dad drove up here to drop off my stuff, and he didn’t even want to come in and see my room. My mum told him to say goodbye to me and he just shut the boot and went to get in the car. She called him again and he said he hadn’t heard. He was going to leave without saying goodbye. And that said it all to me. I couldn’t even look at him as he stood a couple of metres away and said the word goodbye. It stung to matter that little. My mum told me off for looking at the floor, but I was looking at where he made me feel I belonged, and I was trying to to crumple into a million pieces and lay in the gutter beside me forever. I won’t miss moments like that.

But being so alone is bad for my mental health. I feel like I’ve moved into the place where I’m going to end it all. Genuinely. I think living here is going to kill me. All I’ve wanted is some space to myself, but not to be in my own bubble shut off from the world. I’ve walked around the communal areas and there’s still nobody. Most of the rooms on this floor are still empty. I’m so lucky to be here. It just isn’t good for me. Sometimes the things we want, and the things that make us happy, are also the worst things for us.

But I am in love with this view. In a city of millions of people, I feel very alone right now. I can’t wait for my course to start. I can’t wait for My Fellow Third Wheel and my little brother and my nephew to come and stay (each at different times). I can’t wait to try out for the swimming society.

There’s just a week between me and that.

And I rally don’t know what to do with it (there may be many more equally long and equally awful posts)

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It was worth it for this picture that I took from the window at the end of my bed last night though, wasn’t it? This is a fraction of the view I look out at. It’s Canary Wharf in the mist. To the left of it there’s a cluster of red lights, that’s the O2 arena, and to the left of that is a tower block – the planes from London City Airport (which is further to the left) fly past this tower block and then turn and fly right towards my building!

Thanks for reading. I mean it. I don’t know why you read this far, but thank you so much. Means a lot. (I also love that you guys refer to uni as home in the comments you leave. My family refer t Kent as my home, and it doesn’t feel like it at all. It makes me smile when other people call London my home because… It is).

Back to YouTube I go! (My data is going to run out soon I swear)

No way but through thankful.