There’s a level of vulnerability that comes with being sick that scares me when I think about it too much. My approach to deal with it is to get to know someone in between the bad days and then to trust them to be who I know they are when things go a little wrong. For some, it unfortunately means being shoved out the door unceremoniously with a bye-bye now, whilst for others it means a game of not-so-fun charades as communication is one of the first things I struggle with on the downhill slope. Friends are the people you trust with some of your secrets and seeing you at your worst because you know they’ll be discreet, tactful and still like you afterwards.
Having a bad headache, or what’s starting to feel like a bad headache week, is a little like being smashingly drunk and high. It affected my judgement, my speech, my ability to reason and make decisions, my memory, my balance and coordination and a whole host of other things. Somewhere in the back of my head, there’s a built-in natural reticence to trust or share which I’m eternally thankful for. We have made-up words when I’m not well and the most used by Chris is probably ‘nantinenemy’, which means ‘I’m not the enemy’, which means ‘you can trust me, I’m not going to hurt you’. I do scared kitten very well when I don’t feel well, so it’s not as if I place myself in situations where I can be taken advantage of. Even kittens have claws.
I just dislike feeling vulnerable. I dislike knowing that I cannot trust my own judgement at that particular time. I guess I should be thankful that most of the time I retain enough sense to realize that I can’t trust my own judgement and therefore I don’t, but it’s a small consolation. I can’t connect the most basic of dots and in the lull in between the hours spent in bed cradling my head going ow-ow-ow, all I’m really up for is a single simplistic distraction, something other than pain to drown in. Most of the time, I prefer having company but choose to be alone because I worry about what I may say to the people I do trust. It’s not that I share intimate details of my life that I later regret, it’s more that I simply say whatever I’m thinking and although most of those thoughts tend to be innocuous stream-of-consciousness along the lines of ‘I’m cold/hot/thirsty/hungry’ and ‘The cat just jumped into my lap’ or ‘I’m drinking coffee, I love coffee’, it can be a little embarrassing to say the least when it becomes ‘I like you, you’re funny’ or ‘I’m cold. I think these silk pyjamas are just too thin and skimpy’. At least I usually have the sense to start the conversation with ‘I have a headache’, so if you’re not up for the mindless babble, grab an excuse and run.
Mostly, I like who I am. I now know that I am still me whether I’m curled up crying in a corner saying ‘want bunny’ or whether I’m talking to my Dad about math, Chris about programming or space travel tech in various fictional universes, immersing myself in a computer game someone else is playing with the sum total of my vocabulary stuck at ‘that’s so cool’ or reading medical research about balanced translocations between chromosomes that disrupts the fibrillar collagen type V gene COL5A1. I’m me when Chris asks for an opinion on his stats and I can look at his gear and do the calculations in my head but I’m also me when I look at his gear and say ‘Intellect, spellpower and crit is important… is that a handbag he’s holding? lmao’. I’m comfortable now with who I am. But I still have standards. I don’t like being incompetent and I still get upset that through no fault of my own, my sanity goes on vacation with most of my IQ for big chunks of my life.
I like feeling independent. I like being in control. But it’s nice that Chris comes home, gives me one look and either goes ‘there-there’ and sits quietly in a dark room and strokes my back until I fall asleep or tells me something interesting about his day and listens as I tell him something interesting about mine, often along the lines of ‘today I read about …’, which then turns into ‘genetics are actually really interesting…’ and ‘balanced translocation just means…’ It’s nice to know that people have the capacity to get it and be accepting and considerate, saving good conversation for good days and either leaving me alone or be content with the simplistic the rest of the time.
I no longer try to be inconspicuous.If I have a headache, I withdraw to my room and don’t talk until talking doesn’t hurt. Headaches can start pretty quickly and so I may leave mid-conversation and not return for days and if that’s not acceptable, well then we won’t be talking again. I’ve gotten a lot more confident recently and it’s made life that much easier and more pleasant. I don’t constantly try and explain any more, I don’t feel the need to justify myself and I am fully aware that chiselling out a friendship in between unpredicted absences, kitten days and the crises-after-crises mode is probably one of those roads less travelled, but I won’t apologise for it again and again. Be in my life if you like me and if you don’t, shut the door on your way out.
I woke up this morning feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. I dislocated my shoulder in the shower and spent twenty minutes with a thankfully very nice and calm temp who didn’t know what to do but was happy to follow instructions to help me get it back in without needing to go down to A&E on a Sunday or call Chris home from work to come fix it. I used to think that the way people treat you depends on who they are, but I’ve come to realise that the way people treat you depends on who they think you are and they take their cue for that from you. I’m only as vulnerable as I think I am. And although things like being unconscious on the floor isn’t something I can control and what happens then leaves me a little at the mercy of others, it’s not as if I don’t get a say in who those others happen to be.
Temp opens the shower door and I say ‘now don’t panic, here’s what we’re going to do’. Not too long ago, I was a nervous wreck most of the time and although joints dislocated frequently, I panicked when it happened, panicked when I think it may happen, panicked when I thought about it happening and panicked after its happened because its bound to happen again. Now, I get a little hyper occasionally, but the panic for the most part seems to have dissipated. I have started to trust my judgement and skill and when I know that I can’t, I trust the judgement and skill of the people I trust. It’s a big change for me. It means I no longer lie awake at night and worry about what ifs or the future or the past or whether I did or said the right thing in a social situation where I wasn’t comfortable or anything that comes to mind really. Now I lie awake and listen to an audio book and when I dislocate my shoulder turning over, I no longer panic and then struggle in the dark trying to get it back in without waking Chris. I wake him up and say ‘honey, fix my shoulder’ and he does. Then he goes back to sleep and I go back to my book. Life has gotten easier for it and I don’t feel as vulnerable as I used to. I also only shriek and scream like a girl if a spider runs over my foot. I like this me better.