Last Thursday I went back to Newcastle for the first time since November. I spent a short weekend back, celebrating a close friend’s birthday and gathering some of my possessions (because I’ve been living out of a backpack for the past five months).
Although I thought I was ready to start getting out again, I’ve found myself completely flattened by the experience. I guess I have to be a lot fitter – a lot healthier – then I am now, before I can pick up my old life. The only way I can explain it is like when you’re tired after some hard exercise. Except I don’t pick up after resting. This is my third day of resting up after my trip, and I’m still very weary.
Which really sucks, because the last thing I want to do is be stuck on the couch.
I might put a few posts up explaining what happened to me, as my medical crisis was both hilarious and gory. So when I can unstick myself from the couch, where I’m watching my way through these Star Trek box sets I brought back, I’ll update my blog with something a little more exciting than a post about shoes.
Addendum: I’m not actually that happy with this entry (hey – no links and no pictures?! Does this still qualify as a blog post?) but I’m just so knackered right now that it’ll have to do. It’s not like I can improve it with a picture of my couch.
Every day that I’m on “the sick” is extremely stressful. It’s very rare that I don’t need to call up some government department related to the job centre and correct them. This involves playing phone tag with uncaring, bored people in phone centres.
I just got off the phone with Atos, the private healthcare company that assess the medical state of sick benefit claimants. They called me this morning for about two seconds, hanging up when I answered. Yesterday, I’d had a call from one of my flatmates in Newcastle, telling me that I’d got a letter from Atos. Of course, I’m not there – I had to move back in with my folks because I was too sick to look after myself back in November. This does make it hard to arrange the interview, but after being on hold for twenty-five minutes we managed it. They did refuse to give me their name though.
I’m lucky; I’m recovering from my illness. There are some people who are trapped, by ill health and poverty, in a constant battle with this bureaucracy. At every point of contact with the agencies set up to support me I’m suspected of fraud, and have to continually prove that I’m not somehow “cheating the system”. To be honest, I don’t think I have enough energy to cheat, as playing it straight is so much hard work – purely because of the lazy people behind the desks, phonelines, and Job Centres.
I doubt that this system will ever be fixed. It seems the ideas of mercy and hospitality are far removed from our society; the instinctive reaction to somebody who is on ‘the sick’ is that they are a scrounger. Personally, I can’t wait to be not sick, or at least not sick enough that I can stop dealing with the mean-spirited stupid people who run these systems. There’s no benefit to be had from them.
‘You have to get well. Being ill is like being attacked, you see? Your body is like a great fortress that has been besieged by invaders. You’ve repelled them, you’ve seen them off, but you have to be good, and marshal your forces and rebuild the walls, refurbish your catapults, clean your cannons, restock your armouries. Do you see?’
Iain M. Banks, Inversions
As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been unwell recently.
It turns out I was a lot sicker than I thought. This December has seen me go back into hospital, where I almost died from a massive hemorrhage. From there, I was diagnosed with a very rare illness (in the vasculitis family) and told that I’d probably been suffering from this illness for at least six months.
The only near-death experiences I’ve had prior to this have been the result of my own stupidity, but this time wasn’t my fault. There was nothing I could have done, nor was there anything that the medics who’d seen me earlier in the year could have done. Vasculitis is staggeringly rare; so rare that they don’t even know what causes it, and I was well out of the age range for people who usually suffer from my specific strain of vasculitis.
At the time, I didn’t notice nearly dying. I was busy, or – more accurately – distracted. In fact, I only realised how close to death I’d been after a few days, when the nurses who’d looked after me during my hemorrhage came back on duty and were fantastically happy to see me. Why?
Because they thought I was going to die, and I didn’t.
Make no mistake, this was a catastrophic breakdown of my health, and although I’m trying not to be dramatic about these events it’s hard to convey how much of a near thing it really was. Would it help to tell you that I couldn’t eat for six days after the hemorrhage, and was attached to several cannula’s and a catheter? Or am I being too revealing?
I don’t think what’s happened to me was a bad thing; in fact, I’m grateful for the experience. I’m still ill, and I’m told my recovery will take months, but given the alternative I’m happy with how things are going now. I’ve had a fantastic Christmas with my family, and my friends have been amazingly supportive. In fact, I should say that there’s nothing more life-affirming than not dying.