I used to be one of the lucky people.
I was part of a healthy, sporty, happy family and enjoyed a great career with colleagues and friends – the kind of life that would be nice to imagine as “normal”, but a few years ago, my OH was diagnosed with an incurable condition, I needed a series of unexpected operations, and then in 2018, we were told that a heart condition might run through our entire family. Cue eight (more) months of hospital tests, during which time I lost two thirds of my working days.
My writing vanished, my career foundered, time with friends all but disappeared, and nights were spent working and worrying. I contracted shingles, over and over. I lost weight.
I fought back. I hiked up mountains with my children and hurled myself into lakes because it’s harder to feel miserable when your body feels fantastic. In between mountains, I spent my time volunteering at a little school that I love. I’ve helped there for years with the grounds, library, and reading in class. It’s a place of warmth and friendship. As we deteriorated medically, I ran more and helped more at school. I clung to anything healthy that remained within reach. I grew some sturdy muscles.
However, volunteering was a peripheral role and working alone left me lonely. I applied for a parent governor position, but two other applicants had educational experience, so I withdrew to ensure that the school could benefit from the better candidates. School accepted my withdrawal and appointed both of the others. I was right to withdraw – but it hurt to not be wanted.
Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, think I’ll go and eat worms.
Naturally, 2018 put this into damning but hilarious perspective: in the very same year that a dead pimp (an actually dead, actual pimp) – who in life had called himself the “Trump of Pahrump”, managed to be elected to state assembly in Nevada, I couldn’t get an unpaid place on a school governing body that I’d supported for 12 years.
And, on the very same day, because this is how 2018 rolls, I was told I might need another, eighth, operation.
There’s a calm moment when you know you’re beaten. This was it: this was the point where illness, injury and isolation finally won.
I still can’t build my career or start a new one. The people I love are on the line. The people I want to volunteer with don’t want me.
Now would be a good time to be on a hilltop. Alone.
I had my heart tested in hospital the other day. My heart is good, I was told, but not perfect. I disagree. If I had to pick one heart in all the world to take me up mountains, face fear, and care for my family, I’d pick mine. It beats at 55 bpm, it’s strong, I trust it completely, and my children know it. I wouldn’t change it, even if I could.
And it’s going to take me running until I find somewhere far, far better than this.
Image attribution – Sunset