So, I’m here again. Trying to kick off my writing..
I have spent the last year fighting tooth and nail to get help with my neck problem. I raised money. I got it diagnosed. I saw specialist after specialist and finally I got in with one of the best neurosurgical teams in Britain at, apparently, the best hospital.
They dragged me down there for appointments, pressured me into dropping my other doctor, then discharged me with no help whatsoever.
When I say no help, I mean it. “Sorry we can’t do surgery on you” (yet admitted they would for anyone with my issues without EDS) “You’re discharged.” That’s all I got. No advice on how long to wear my collar, what collar is best, where to turn for any form of palliative care, if I’m going to degenerate further… The list goes on. I never even got to see the doctor I was referred to. Yes I did ask. I also asked all my questions. I was met with shrugs and I don’t knows.
Then the worst happened, I fell apart. I fell into a million pieces in front of both of my kids. (My specialist was in London and we had no choice but to take them due to circumstances at the time.) I saw my life stretching before me and it terrified me. It still does. I’m desperately trying to piece myself back together whilst reassuring my kids I was just overwhelmed at the doctors. I am not lying, I was overwhelmed, but the thing is I still am.
That evening, so my children didn’t have a night of listening to me sob in a hotel room, we dragged my broken body and soul to Winter Wonderland. I couldn’t walk round, so we went to the circus. My children thrilled at the spectacle in front of them and seeing them happy made me and my husband smile, at least for a little while. We took lots of photos of the pretty lights, it may seem we were there for an age. We were not. It was the circus then home. Home being a hotel room where I fell into bed in agony, an agony of my body, mind and soul. An agony unlike anything I’ve ever felt.
The next morning was back to our home, but to make the visit a little more special for the kids we took them to the Natural History Museum first.
It may seem strange, ‘claiming’ to be in so much pain but still pushing on. However, as a mother, something took over me.
A need to push the memory of me breaking down out of my children’s heads. Show them I’m ok, even though I’m far from it. I wanted to fill their minds with wonder and excitement so they were the lasting memories they brought home from the trip. Me too I guess.
Again many photos were taken. Again many smiles were seen. All were uploaded on my profile. I love to share the fleeting moments of being a ‘mum’ to my children. Most of the time I feel almost ghost like in the home. They know I’m here, but I’m never quite seen. The museum was genuinely a wonderful experience and great for access. So was Winter Wonderland (or at least the small part we saw). But inside, I was millimetres from falling apart. The whole time I was going out of my mind at the thought of a life like this, wondering how far I’d decline, how rapidly?
As the photos uploaded the likes from family and friends rolled in. They know how important these times are to me, how hard it is for me to achieve a few hours out and about. To keep that smile on my face.
Sometimes though, sometimes I wonder if I’ve gotten too good at it. Comments consisted mostly of how nice it was to see me ‘genuinely happy’. Even on the evening after my appointment where I’d originally told my husband I didn’t want to be in any pictures because I couldn’t force a smile. The evening I made sure I was too exhausted to sob myself to sleep so my children didn’t hear me. Even then I looked genuinely happy.
That scares me. It scares me because how can I reach for the help I need if people can’t see the cracks that run so deep? Why would anyone believe how bad things really are when I hide it so well? Am I hiding it for my children’s sake, so they’re not afraid, or because I can’t face it? Because if I do I’m afraid I just won’t be able to take it? Honestly I don’t know the answer. But I do know this..
I’m not the only person that does this. Many of us in the disabled /chronically ill community hide our pain. We put a veneer of smiles over our heartbreak and show that the phrase ‘you can’t polish a turd’ really isn’t true. My life had honestly gone down the toilet, but a few sparkly lights and a smile I ensured reached my eyes and all was well. I also know I’ve not been writing here because when I write I open up and a culmination of exhaustion, depression and certain events, has left me afraid to do so. But I had to write this. I had to get it out. Because I can’t fall into old traps.
The last time I hid too well behind a mask of smiles I left myself completely alone at the point in my life I was most vulnerable. I almost lost myself entirely.
I will not do that again. To those of you also hiding behind those smiles, the posed photos which hide the pain; some even making their illness worse to appear ‘normal’, I implore you to try to open up. I used to. I’m going to try to again. Not to seek attention. Not to garner sympathy. Simply to show the truth of my life. To help me accept it and hopefully find a way to come to terms with my new reality in the best way I can. This, this is the reality of that night…
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