It’s miserable to be ill.
Your body fails you. You can’t do the things you would usually enjoy doing. Your duvet has become your new best friend and everything smells rather stale and sweaty.
You have to miss your favorite childhood band’s reunion concert. You’re really pissed about that because you booked the tickets last year and you’ve been looking forward to it.
You miss being trained for a new role at work. You miss out on doing your own grocery shopping. You can’t cook. You begin to lose control.
You drag yourself to a variety of doctors’ appointments but no one knows what is wrong. Thirteen “professionals” later, ten diagnoses and they finally give you a blood test. For one possible cause. That you know isn’t true.
“But you’re feeling better right?” Because this can’t go on for so long. “Stop being so miserable.” “If you ate your carrots, you wouldn’t be ill.”
The words “stroke” and “aneurism” are thrown about deliberately casually, They are thrown down telephone lines in order to avoid lawsuits and are the reason you become under an almost 24hour house arrest.
“It’s cheese. You eat too much cheese.” “It’s chocolate.” “You shouldn’t eat that.” (You want to scream. They mean well. But you’d really like to hit a wall about now. It’s not cheese. Or chocolate. Or exercise. It is your head. Your head is broken.)
You move back in with your parents, released every weekend to your boyfriend’s on “good behaviour”.
You are trapped within the boundaries of your own headaches, riding the crest of one migrainous wave before being hit by nausea and vertigo dragging you under.
You lose your own identity as you attach yourself to everyone else’s plans: no longer safe to be left alone in case you implode, you become the world’s best shadow.
“You should walk more.” “You need to get out more.” “If only you’d exercise, you’d feel better.” “You need to get up now.”
You are given pills, so many pills. The ones to stop the nausea make you hurl. The ones that are supposed to make you sleep detach you from living. The ones to stop the spinning make you convinced that there is another, parallel axis to the one everyone else seems to be standing on.
“Oh you look so much better — doesn’t she look so much better?” “How do you feel today? Better?” “You look better.”
You are pushed through a doughnut in the back of a truck (the only CT Angiogram you could be offered) by a man who, in an attempt to be funny, pretends he has lost all of his equipment. This is not funny. You do not laugh. Instead, you despair of the events that have lead to this moment; to the moment where you are strapped in a head brace, waiting for an injection that will make you think you’ve peed yourself, alone in the back of a truck with a madman.
“So glad to hear that you’re better.” “Migraine they say? Surely it’s gone now?” “Are you better yet?” “Why not?”
You are now convinced it must be a brain tumour. Google assures you it’s a tumour. It’s not a tumour. It’s not a bleed. You are not about to have a stroke. It’s just a migraine. A stuck migraine. One that’s been stuck for twelve weeks, seemingly without cause. That’s the reason you struggle to stay upright and can’t see properly and have to lie across the floor, pinning your knees in a bid to make the world stop shaking.
“I’m just worried that if you go home, you won’t get better.” “You’ll just stay in bed.” “You must promise me you will exercise.”
With a diagnosis in tow, you can return home. You can now live alone, and drive a car – just a little bit. You can go back to writing your essay and paying your council tax. You can return to the pieces of your life you suddenly dropped in blinding pain several months ago and start planning again for the new school year in September. You can lock yourself away from the well-wishers, the do-gooders, the ones who only wanted desperately for you to get better, who hated seeing you in that much pain that they made it their mission to simply will you better. You slowly regain your autonomy. You book more appointments to see more doctors for more pills, because although you can now walk and talk and live alone, you still get migraines. And they really freaking hurt.
And then you heal. You move further away from the phone call that heralded your probable death. People stop treating you as though you might break and start demanding the usual efforts they would normally expect. Your cat starts crying again in the middle of the night because she knows you’re now able to play on her demanding schedule.
And you hope to return to work in a week or so, leaving this whole sorry saga behind you. You have never missed chopping fudge more.
It’s miserable to be ill.