You Are Here

“You know what?”

“What?”

“I’m actually feeling kind of normal again. Like, happy.”

That’s how this post ends, which is good – because the route there is kind of winding, and not exactly cheery. It’s not even really that interesting, or dramatic, in the wider scheme of things – but it happened to me, and I’m a self-involved kinda person, so let’s go with it.

Let’s start, also, with the fact that in many ways, this last year has been gorgeous, chock full of perfect moments. My sister got married to a man she loves, and who loves her, and it was a beautiful wedding – the kind of day you can’t help but smile over whenever it comes to mind.

Specifically: dancing maniacally to Bohemian Rhapsody at 1am in trainers and a bridesmaid’s dress, clutching an inflatable guitar, with my Mum, Dad, and of course, the bride and groom. I mean, I felt kinda bad for outshining the bride with my incredible moves, but I can’t help it. I’m an icon.

I’ve also moved into my very own little flat, way out of London, which has wooden beams and a log fire, and a bed in a little hidden away nook. Ignoring the fact that I am rapidly coming to discover spiders enjoy living in and around wooden beams and log fires, it’s perfect. I wake up here, and I make myself a coffee in my tiny little kitchen, and feel like I’m home.

And I’ve seen all the things you want to see for the people around you, too. Like, romances, and new jobs, and gorgeous lil’ babies, and so on. All that montage-worthy stuff Louis Armstrong was singing about.

So it’s not been all bad.

But damn, it’s not exactly been a vintage year for your girl Katie.

Months, and months, and months of sickness; long, exhausting hours of not being able to get out of bed – not even really able to move, because my brain feels like it’s melting out of my eyes. The last twelve months, for me, are defined largely by a six month period when I threw up all the time (and I do mean all the time) and another three-plus months of chronic, world-ending migraine headaches.

With that, plus a bunch of other inconveniences, aches, and downright sad feelings, I forgot all the things I thought I knew to be true.

Because it’s not easy to be a fierce, powerful woman in control of her shit when you’re having an anxiety attack because you think you’re going to faint on the tube. Even harder, when you do, and have to spend three days in hospital as a result.

It’s definitely not easy to love your body when nausea and aching bones keep you up in the night, and then make getting out of bed seem about as doable as my winning gold at Rio. Not gonna happen, unless eating cake is now an olympic sport, in which case: Team GB, hit me up.

And it’s hard to extol the virtues of a healthy diet and three-times-a-week workouts when standing in the kitchen makes you feel like you’re being repeatedly beaten in the back of the head with a tree branch… So you eat toast, and go back to bed. Again.

Given I’m someone who’s been pretty open about dragging my ass through periods in which my mental health hasn’t been so hot, I don’t think there’s any need for me to elaborate on the ways that particular beast reared its ugly head during this last couple o’ seasons.

Lord o’ Lord o’ Lord. It’s been laugh-a-minute.

Then – when things finally started to get better – the Worst Week happened. Over a four day period, I put myself in hospital, once again hitting the deck in a very public place (though I did come out with a diagnosis for one of my many symptoms – so, you know, there’s that.) The next day, another member of my family had some news about her health that we’re all still reeling from, months down the line… The kind of thing you can only ache over.

Just to cap off the week, the next night my Dad put himself in hospital, with an awful case of pneumonia from a cold I Definitely Gave Him (sorry Dad). In the time he was in there, we were told it was a heart attack, and then it wasn’t, and then they didn’t really know – with the rest of us hanging around uselessly offering tea and hiding in the shower at every opportunity.

Y’all. ‘Twas the worst of times. So far, so grim.

And then, just when I’d given up on expecting it – when I’d pretty much written off the concept of it… Life started coming back.

At first, small things began to make life better. New medications began to click. Symptoms began to ease off, one by one. Nausea, first. My heart rate slowed down to a rate that didn’t feel like I had a scared bird living in my chest. And then, the headaches – which are now more of a fortnightly thing than, say, a twice-a-day terror.

Then, even smaller things.

An unexpected major chord in a sad song. A sunbeam on a day that was all cloud. A beautiful phrase in a hard-going book. The things that make you sit up and wonder if they’re what life’s really about.

Now, I’ll be honest – finding these things was almost as scary as losing them, before. Which is why, up ’til now – even though it’s been a gradual thing over, say, two or three months – I’ve kept it to myself. I haven’t really admitted it to myself, come to think of it.

But last weekend, I was unpacking the very last box brought over from my house move. I had a glass of wine in hand, and I was singing along to Marvin Gaye (Let’s Get It On being my go-to karaoke tune, in case you’re wondering.) I wasn’t thinking of anything in particular… Just living.

I cracked open that last box to find no fewer than sixteen types of supplements I’d bought, each offering me another solution. I found thirty foils of different types of painkillers, sleeping tablets, anti-sickness medications, each offering some form of relief.

Seeing these things, I remembered weekends when I’d only left the house to buy painkillers. When I’d had to stop, half-way, because I couldn’t walk the five minutes down the street to the pharmacy. When the half-way point was a coffee shop, but I couldn’t go in, because I couldn’t risk being sick in the queue.

I felt an echo of those days – that creeping dread, the inescapable feeling that this particular moment was forever – and then blinked. There I was, sitting in my new house, Marvin Gaye making way for Stevie Wonder (another classic on my own personal karaoke playlist), a cool evening breeze passing through.

And I realised, the world had put itself back together again. Or, more accurately: the amazing people around me had propped me up long enough for me to see it’d been there, waiting for me, the whole time.

Sure, things are a little different. I’m not exactly a health icon, for one thing (though if you’re wondering – still flawless, still giving Beyoncé the occasional run for her money, still iconic). But – as I said to my Mum the next day:

“You know what?”

“What?”

“I’m actually feeling kind of normal again. Like, happy.”

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Comments
  • comment avatar westernmassdogs 12 August, 2016

    Welcome back, sweetie. Thanks for reminding me that it’s not over til it’s over. And have a happy weekend.

    • comment avatar Bran 13 August, 2016

      I just found your blog recently and I’m finding it so odd how much I feel like you are a friend I care about as I read your story. I was sad for you, then happy… I’m mostly just thankful that you are writing about your experience and that you’re still around to keep doing so. Keep up the hard but amazing work and thanks for being part of my night tonight!

  • comment avatar Jo 15 August, 2016

    This was fab, thank you so much for coming back and reminding me how happiness can creep up on you! 🙂 xxxx

  • comment avatar Jana 30 August, 2016

    Glad to see you’re back and feeling better. Wow, that’s awful. Months of illness are really the most debilitating, not to just your body, your bounce-back-ability but terrible to your self-esteem and outlook. I suffered from a bad case of bronchitis for about 5 months a couple of years back, from December to late April and I was terrified of getting sick again. Any time I’d feel better, I’d get hit with worse symptoms the next day, so it made me really skittish to feel normal again. But it finally did stop and I was able to function once more. Your bout with feeling insecure about going anywhere because you might be ill or outright pass out must have been terrifying – sorry that happened to you. I’m glad you are on the mend.

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