You may have noticed I’ve been missing in action for a while. I’m going to run with this metaphor because I’ve been away at war, battling not only a relapse but a crisis in confidence.
It all began with a cold virus. I was actually doing pretty well, relatively, and then the cold hit and my body freaked out. I’m not talking a little toddler tantrum here, I’m talking full on psychotic breakdown of my body’s functioning. I missed an entire 4 nights sleep, as in, I didn’t fall asleep at all for 5 days. I was so tired I wanted to cry, but my body was shouting GO GO GO like an army drill sergeant. While laying helplessly in bed it was like my body was a French battlefield during World War One. All the infections that were previously being kept at bay, all came out with a bang and I was sliding backwards faster than a right wing political party goes back on their pre-election promises.
Eventually I stabilised and although 5 weeks later I still haven’t kicked the cold, I’m no longer free-falling down a giant slippery lubed up bouncy castle Slope of Doom.
Once my health stabilised though, the mental stuff started. When you’re in physical crisis, you don’t emotionally deal with the fall out of the crisis, because you just don’t have the energy or resources. But when it all calms down you’re left thinking ‘What the actual f**k was that about’? ‘Am I ever going to get better?’ ‘What if everything I’m doing is wrong?’ ‘What if I’m never going to have the life I’m holding out hope for?’ ‘What if I don’t get over this?’ ‘Am I going to be permanently worse now?’ ‘I CAN’T COPE WITH THIS SHIT ANY MORE’. And an assortment of other woe-is-me, pessimistic freak outs.
Now, because I’m not the kind of person that can just accept things like normal people, I have to analyse them to death, pick them apart with a tiny tooth pick and then label them neatly and organise them into alphabetical boxes in my head. So I decided to analyse the shit out of my freak out.
1. It was a physical trauma. This is traumatic. (duh.) No one likes to be sick, it’s out of your control, everyone likes to be in control. Having a physical trauma is emotionally traumatic so there is always going to be a freak out of some description. This isn’t me being a wuss, this is a normal reaction to a set of events.
2. Being on the Slope of Doom is terrifying. Properly properly terrifying. This is for the following reasons – you don’t know when you’re going to be able to get off the Slope of Doom, you don’t know how far you’re going to fall, and you’re terrified you’ll end up back where you started. You know, that place you were in that was so bad you fought your ass off to get out of it to get to a better level of health. The idea of going back to suffering to that degree would fill anyone with fear.
3. Being physically worse brings back the memories of when you were permanently physically bad at some other point in your illness, so ill that you feel quite traumatised by the whole thing. Feeling like that again is like ripping open the emotional wound and pouring lemon juice all over it. Not in a fun dare-devil way, just in a ‘OMG DON’T DO THAT’ way.
So there we go. I had a downturn, I freaked out. Then what? Well, I pulled up my big girl pants, and rather than deciding I was going to be a brave warrior because I want to be a brave warrior. I decided I just didn’t have any choice. That’s the thing about being chronically sick, a lot of your choices get taken away. My options were as follows (here goes the logic again)
- Kill myself. – Crap idea because it would make people I love upset. Also, I have the distinct impression the world would still carry on without me, and I have a Fear Of Missing Out complex the size of a planet.
- Quit treatment and let myself get horribly sick again – not an option, I’d just be hopping back on the Slope of Doom and I’m not doing that voluntarily for a million squillion pounds or dollars.
- Try to self treat to save money and let go of the hope I had to get well – sounds a lot like giving up to me. The saving money is tempting, but I worked out the cost of just treading water is quite high, so what’s the point? I may as well go the whole way.
- Carry on as I was, holding onto the hope and pouring pills down my neck. Bingo. Only available option.
So call it brave if you like (no really, go ahead, my ego likes a good stroke) but really coping and dealing is just the only logical option. You don’t have to be positive all the time, you don’t have to cope all the time. Even when you’re absolutely terrified, you just have to carry on. Cope in whatever way you need to, and eventually, things will feel better.