One giant step

I spent a few weeks in this distant, rebellious, stagnant state. On reflection I think I was scared to try things, in case I couldn’t do them. I well remembered my experiences with O.T and that I had struggled to do things I would have had no issue with before. To fail or be unable wasn’t a good feeling for someone who was determined they were fine again.

Friends started to come and see me. Friends who I know had wanted to before, but couldn’t because of how very ill I had been. Some of the first were my work colleagues, that band of sisters I spoke about before. Three of them came to the house and I opened the door to the faces I had missed so much. They came with flowers and hugs and it was just a delight to see them again. It was a gentle visit, Nova hovered nearby, always watchful to make sure I was ok. My veil had become a little bit thinner and I enjoyed having some conversation with them. I was still very fragile, Nova had had to pick out clothes for me that morning. I didn’t say a lot but I could join in, if slowly and a bit hesitantly. My hair had thinned from all the drugs and I was beginning to puff up with the steroids but in just over a week of being at home I sat round the table with my friends and caught up on the work gossip.

My previous boss came to visit. I now know how much of an honour this was as she is absolutely petrified of cats! To come into our house was a big deal for her. She brought me garlic snails, remembering that I loved them from before.

We went to stay with my dad for a few days and went to Lucie’s for dinner. It was all progress but I still wasn’t there yet.

The real turning point for me came one day, when Nova’s persistence finally paid off, and, alone in the house, I picked up a book for the first time in five months and started to read. Books have always been the place I escape to when I am sad or ill or in pain. When I first fell ill one of the first things I noticed was that I couldn’t read anymore. I could see the words but they meant nothing. This time it was different. I read that book from cover to cover before Nova got home from work. My elation was probably also the first trickle of emotion coming back as well. I was so pleased with myself, so relieved. I could read. It was heaven. No more hours and hours of emptiness because now I had my books. From that day I read like a woman possessed. I read virtually every book in the house and then I bought more. It was three months from this time until I finally went back to work and I spent the majority of it reading.

Because I had had success with the book I started to try other things. I remember the first time I plucked up the courage to play the piano. I was so scared it would be forgotten to me, all those years of learning and practice undone, but when I sat down to play it flooded back into my mind and my fingers ran across the keys. I was sky-high again. As soon as Nova came through the door that evening I was in a rush to tell her. I can still play the piano.

Then there was the day I baked a cake for the first time. All by myself. I am actually crying as I write this because I remember the sheer joy of the shreds of normality that were starting to come back into my life.

I had lived in a nightmare for what felt like the longest time. I had been reduced to the absolute minimum of myself. I had lost everything that I felt made me who I was and I had suffered humiliation and shame at what I had become. Above all, I lost my dignity. To have it begin to come back is beyond description in words. Sometimes, quite a lot of the time actually, I feel that what happened to me was a gift, a horrendous, terrifying gift of course, but it gave me the ability to savour and delight in the most tiny of everyday things. Reading a book, playing the piano, having a conversation with friends, baking a cake and being at home. This has never left me in the three years I have been well. Not for one single day.

Half-me was now almost three-quarters, although I would have argued about that, and I felt I could face some of the hurdles I still had to overcome. I needed to get my driving licence back, to be told I was well enough to go back to work, to use a bank card and take care of my own finances, to go places on my own and to regain my independence. It really was a battle to try and get me to take things slowly, I was on a mission.

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