I need to hide.
I used to be one of the lucky people. I was part of a healthy, 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, and I needed a series of unexpected operations. Raising a young family and juggling careers between hospital trips was tricky, but we held it together.
Then 2018 came along.
I was still recovering from three operations and my OH was seriously ill, when we were told that a heart condition might run through our family, including our children. Cue eight months of hospital tests, during which time I lost two thirds of my working days. My writing vanished, my career foundered, time with friends vanished, and nights were spent working and worrying. The anxiety suppressed my immune system; I contracted shingles, over and over, and lost weight.
I fought back. I hiked up mountains with my children and hurled myself into lakes because it’s hard(er) to feel miserable when your body feels fantastic. Constant running can lead to injuries so, 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.
However, volunteering was a limited, peripheral role when I needed to work and belong. I couldn’t start teacher training because of the hospital dashes, but did apply to be a parent governor. However, the other applicants had more relevant (educational) experience than me, and I realised that if I were voted in, our lovely school would miss out on a better candidate. Feeling conflicted, I withdrew. The school opened a second, co-opted position… and gave both to other people. I’d been right to withdraw; they didn’t want me.
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 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 almost daily 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.
Illness and injury have isolated me. I 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.
It’s time I went for a long walk by myself. Now would be a good time to be on a hilltop. Alone.
I’m stepping back from social media. I like Twitter, but what am I tweeting or blogging about? The fiction that I don’t have time to write? The career that I can’t reach? Volunteering in a place that doesn’t want me? Running?
Or I could just run?
I was 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.
Pics: running into a gale at Heartlands (21st of 78 runners, 3rd of 38 females).
[Update: for those of you who have sent kind messages, thank you, it means a lot. I will come back and catch up with you.]
Image attribution – Sunset