Earlier this week I went swimming for the first time in many, many months. And coming to the end of only my 6th length I was mentally despairing at the effort it was taking.
My arms and legs were lead, and although I wasn’t moving that slowly, to me it felt like a snails pace.
In my head I was thinking back to a year ago, when I would happily push out 50, 60, even 70 lengths, sometimes after a spin class or a gym session. A year ago, when I had just completed the half marathon and 26 obstacles of Tough Mudder.
I felt deflated.
Then I went and sat in the steam room for a couple of minutes, and thought some more.
It was 6 months earlier, to the day, that I had been rushed into hospital and hooked up to an array of continuous fluids, pain relief and steroids. Worked on through the night, I had bloods at 2am, was in x-ray at 3am. Under constant observation by the nurses who were concerned fluids weren’t going in quick enough and adjusting the machines.
In the morning I was taken down for an emergency scope so they could survey the extent of the damage. I can easily tell you it was the worst day of my life.
The consultant visiting me a few hours later told me that I had 48 hours to see if the treatment was going to work. There was an 80% chance it would, but it was a wait and see.
As well as the extent of the disease activity in my intestines, due to the length of time they’d pretty much not been working, I was seriously ill. Dehydrated, malnourished, lacking in numerous essential vitamins, weak from losing blood and tired from lack of sleep due to the agonising pain.
I pretty much couldn’t do anything. I’d been pushing myself to keep going, though I was sick, not eating during the days to make it through a week at work.
In the following 8 days I spent in hospital I mostly just laid there, didn’t watch TV, couldn’t concentrate to read. At night I found solace in listening to Harry Potter audio books, but that was mostly to block out the other patients and the constant whir of the machine I was hooked up to, I wasn’t really listening.
If you’d asked me 6 months ago, swimming 6 lengths was an unthinkable dream.
I’ve had lots of ups and downs since then, mentally and physically.
The positive of getting out of the hospital, only to be admitted 4 days later after a relapse. The mini panic attack at walking down the street on my own for the first time after 2 months in the house.
The realisation that everyday I’d become apprehensive as the afternoon became the evening, because, after 5 traumatic weeks of suffering, I dreaded what the night would bring. I was scared to go to bed, and even now the dread still simmers under the surface every night.
The insomnia and side effects of the steroids, and the fear of weaning myself off them and potentially getting worse again. Adjusting to having a reduced immune system due to my treatment.
Being too worried to eat because I didn’t know how it would affect the damage already done to my insides, my head saying it was easier not to eat thus saving myself from any potential pain it could bring.
I couldn’t take much more, so if there was any way to stop anything bad happening I would take it.
When someone is suffering from a physical illness you don’t think about the mental affect in brings with it, but I can tell you it is just a big a part of the suffering.
The consultants warned that I would have to mentally come to terms, not only with my diagnosis of an incurable disease, but of the trauma I has experienced and the severity of how ill I was, and they were right.
There have been days when i’ve felt like the most isolated, loneliest person; housebound and missing interacting with other people. Missing my friends, missing my old life, missing my freedom.
Days when i’ve felt like the recovery was going on forever with no sign of change or improvement, or worse, going backwards.
The fight to go back to work, and build myself back up to being able to do my job. The total heartbreak I felt staring at my computer screen knowing I used to be able to do something, and still, somewhere in my head, knew how to do it, but right then and there for the life of me had no clue what to do.
Staring at my hands on the keyboard willing them to magically work on auto pilot.
It was frustration and anger to a level i’d never felt before, because it was my own body letting me down, being unreliable. Struggling on through an insufferable brain fog, praying for a chink of light where i’d suddenly remember how to do something and it would all come flooding back.
Nothing I did could hurry the process along, the harder I tried to push myself, the worse the feeling of helplessness was.
Trying to run before I could walk came back to bite me in the bum a few times – i’ve learnt that I need to just listen to my body nowadays – i can’t push it that extra step like I used to, not yet anyway.
So sitting annoyed at my pathetic attempt at a swim, I reminded myself that 3 months ago the thought of it would be tiring enough, and 6 months ago, well that was 6 months ago….
There have been positives to the whole experience however, i’ve definitely changed as a person – as cheesy as it sounds nearly dying can do that to you.
I’ve found i’ve become a ‘do things now’ person – i’ll do things straight away, rather leaving them to catch up on later – paying bills, doing the washing up, putting my washing away – it can’t be left til later.
I don’t let stress get to me as much – don’t get me wrong, I still get stressed out at work, but I don’t dwell on it. I’ve found it doesn’t affect me half as much, there are bigger things for me to worry about.
Having my life pretty much put on hold for the past 6 months I don’t have time for things that have a negative impact on my life. So stressing over people or things I can’t control is something I don’t need.
I’ve definitely stopped saying yes so much too, sometimes you have to say no to people for your own well being.
I’ve started reading, a lot! Self help books, autobiographies – anything to broaden my mind and help me learn. I’m all about trying to implement the best tips i’ve picked up along the way.
Still on target to meet my personal challenge of 52 books in 52 weeks 🙂
Be Better, Not Just Get Better
I am on a mission to make my life better, not just get back to where I was before I was ill; physically and mentally.
For a start I will never be the person I was before I got sick, I have this illness to deal with for the rest of my life, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be better than I was before.
I know more about my body than I ever have before, seen more than a person ever wants to see of their insides to be honest, and I have to in order to stay on top of the disease.
But in another 6 months I’m aiming to be mentally and physically stronger than I am now, which is miles from where I was 6 months before.
I’m still wary of going out on my own, confidence is one of the harder things to build back up, and I might still have the bad days where I feel sorry for myself and that everything sucks. But I have to make sure that is all they are now – days, not weeks, and just keep putting one foot in front of the other.