“I’m a quarter of the person I used to be, I’m not sure I recognise myself anymore”
I lay in my hospital bed as the doctor came and told me I had to be admitted again. This time; a suspected blood clot in my lung. The heart monitor I had been hooked up to as I came in screamed at me and for the first time in almost a decade of illness, I cried in front of a doctor. I cried because I was scared. I cried because I couldn’t understand the vast downward spiral my life had taken. I cried because I was so utterly sad. Sadness isn’t an emotion I have always been able to comprehend, I find it difficult to be outwardly sad. I created this person who feels positivity and optimism in the face of adversity and right now, I’m really struggling to see it. It’s still there, I can feel it, it’s what keeps me going. But right now it’s being overshadowed by an anxiety and a sadness I’m working to overcome. On this particular instance I got the all clear, the sigh of relief I let out is still happening now two months down the line. But it was a truly harsh reminder of the reality I face. I’m poorly, I’m really poorly and for the first time, I faced a complication in which I feared for my life. You see, just a few weeks before the blood clot scare I was taken by ambulance straight to a hospital bed and shadowed by medical professionals for three days straight as I fought off a life threatening sepsis infection that my white blood cells had let into my body, I know what you’re thinking, complete incompetence. We’ve since had words, they’re participating in a three month long strike but we’re under negotiations for them to come back. That day the unshakeable optimism I had embodied since I had begun to fight for my health a decade ago, the strength I had surrounded myself with when I was diagnosed last September, left me. I felt an overwhelming sadness. I lay in my hospital bed that night, staring at the ceiling in my isolation room, tears falling down my face as I pondered how I got here. Where were your clever jokes now?
I became someone I didn’t know, someone who was so overwhelmingly scared I couldn’t sleep in my own room. In the past when I faced a complication, believe me there have been a few, I bounced back up straight away and tried again. I was unwell through my exams and I passed. I was poorly when I decided to take off and travel for a year, but I swore I’d live my life to the fullest, you only get one life after all and I swore I’d make mine the best story in the world. When I was sat down last September and was told the illness I’d been fighting for nearly a decade was in fact Ulcerative Colitis, an incurable autoimmune disease, I took a deep breath and I asked what we did next. I don’t know why I just coped. I don’t know why I didn’t allow myself to feel the fear I probably should’ve felt. I just didn’t, I moved forward. I ALWAYS move forward. But this time something in me changed. That unwavering coping mechanism I had embodied faded and it let in the fear. All the fear I should’ve felt throughout my illness, I felt all at once. To the point I couldn’t catch my breath, I was always on the brink of tears, fighting back a huge lump in my throat 24 hours a day. I cried for so long I could’ve sworn I didn’t have any tears left. I was a shadow of the person I was before.
I don’t want to say I didn’t cope because I did, just not in the way I expected myself to. I’ve since been told maybe I expect too much of myself, nobody expects me to always pick up my pieces, that thought is a monster of my own creation. Because I coped. I fought for my life despite the fear. I continue to fight for my health because I completely and utterly love my life, quirks and all. The fear I have wouldn’t be there if I didn’t. I coped in the only way I felt I could. My whole life fell apart and I let it. I let everything fall away and I didn’t try and get back up, everything piled on top of me and I made no effort to move any of it away. I stopped trying. But I’m gradually feeling less guilty about that, although I am a little disappointed in myself still, I’m beginning to understand that maybe I’m not invincible. Maybe I can be both the girl who fully believes in the world’s hidden positives and also the girl who is dealing with a broken heart. Because plain and simple that’s what it is, I’m a little heartbroken just now. I’ve got a big heart, room for everything and everyone in it but for a while I think I forgot to include myself. I did myself an injustice by not allowing myself to feel things I should’ve. So right now, I’m learning to forgive myself for being human.
I’m gradually pulling myself out of the hole I’ve found myself in. I figure I’ve probably been down here for long enough now, it’s getting a little dusty and I’m definitely no Cinderella, so there is a rock bottom up for rent if anyone is interested. Yellow walls. Minimal décor. Comes with a tear stained carpet and empty tubs of Ben and Jerrys. It’s comfortable enough but it’s not where I belong. I made a big step the other week, a scary step, but a big one all the same. I took back control of a situation that has been out of my hands for too long. Although this disease is incurable I can still fight for my health, I can fight for my life and that’s what I intend to do. The anxiety I expected to feel after I made the decision was there but I managed it, I took a breath and I was my own voice of reason. It’s a small victory but it felt huge to me. Day by day, little by little, I’m learning how to be this new me. I might even like her a little.
Here’s the thing; I told my nurse I didn’t know who I was anymore, I told her I missed myself. But you see, I was wrong. Because I’m not a different person, I’m just a different version of myself. Everyone becomes a different character in their one person show at some point in their life. I’ve titled mine; “Anna’s life – a series of unfortunate events”. And right now, I’m my anxious self. Anxiety Anna. She’s a little tired and a whole lot scared but she has something in common with all the other Annas that stand behind the curtain, she’s got one hell of a fight in her. Through everything thrown my way I have held onto my resilience. It may not always be evident to me but I’m still here, aren’t I? I’m living, despite it all. And it might not be cool to say it but I’ll let you in on a secret, none of my Anna’s have ever been even an iota of cool. I’m proud of myself. I’m proud of anxiety Anna, because as tough and as scary as it has been, the smile she wears is never fake.
“If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.” ~Martin Luther King Jr