When I was little and my brother would get away with murder, or my school mates would pick fun at me and bully me, I’d come home and proclaim how unfair and unjust the world was through tear-stained cheeks. Usually all was quickly forgotten after a cuddle and a bit of dinner, and as only a child’s mind can I soon moved on to bigger and better things, without dwelling on the ‘what ifs’ and ‘maybes’ that come with later years.
We forget once we reach adulthood what that feeling must have been like, it’s almost like a kind of childhood dementia that keeps you pure and untroubled. No problem or woe, no matter how big it seems at the time remains an issue for very long, and with a new day comes a clean sheet to start again.
Of course some children have hideous experiences as kids, and that stays with them for a long time – but for most of us, these years of play and endless good days are something it seems impossible to grasp as an adult.
We read constantly about the need to de-stress, to de-clutter our lives and our minds – surviving on the basics, living a simple ‘hygge’ lifestyle. Which is all very well and good if you can achieve it, but actually switching off a worried mind, shutting out dark everyday thoughts can be a near impossible task.
I like to think I’ve got quite an inquisitive mind, I like to know why things happen, how they happen and how people react to those things. I’ve always been interested in fairly morbid events from history like the second world war, and the great depression in America. Thinking what must it have been like for those people. How did they live? How were they so resilient? Stories of good triumphing over bad, and of living just for the moment because it could be your last – always sounded quite poetic and romantic to me.
I have known about my UC diagnosis since December 2015 and for most of last year I tried to put it to the back of my mind, chin up, take the tablets and get back to normal life. For about 10 months it worked, then at the start of this year, I began to feel like the world was slipping away from me again, and I couldn’t claw it back.
Within weeks of Christmas I lost two of my grandparents, and my boyfriend of ten years became unwell. Losing people you love and worrying about the potential loss of your soul mate is probably enough to tip anyone over the edge, and sure enough I started to see the familiar signs of a flare up in the toilet bowl. Blood – a very stark warning that my body and mind was not happy about the situation.
It’s been a month since all this kicked off, and although we still don’t know what’s wrong with my bf – the MRI at least reassured me that he is tumour free and not about to keel over just yet. Although I am still worrying for him, I’m trying for the sake of both of us to be strong and ride it out, just like I did waiting for my own diagnosis. Easier said than done.
Recent events have taught me that nobody is invincible, and at some point in life everyone gets a harsh lesson to that effect. Nobody sticks around forever, everyone loses people they love in the end. In a way, dealing with your own mortality is easier than dealing with the people you care most about, because when I feel weak and feeble I lean on them – and if they were taken from me I would feel like a building site with no scaffolding.
It’s completely selfish really, you think of all the things that a person means to you, how they help you, love you, support you and what it would mean to you if they were gone. Let alone what they must be thinking and dealing with themselves.
I cried all last weekend, big howling, self-indulgent, bucket filled crying sessions that lasted hours and even under all that part of my brain was wondering why? It was like a tap I couldn’t turn off and obviously my body needed to expel that worry, self-doubt and fear in order to feel stronger again.
I’m slowly coming to realise that life is short and so very fragile, we will all die of something (even if we pray it is just old age) and there is NOTHING that can be done to alter that fact or shield it from those we love. Of course everyone knows this, or has some awareness of it, but until it becomes real to you as an individual – it cannot be really understood.
Those living through the first and second world wars didn’t have a poetic romantic existence, they didn’t choose to be thrown into that mess – they simply had to get on with life as best they could. We view their struggles and long-lost love letters as romantic and passionate, because we have the advantage of distance and time. We didn’t see it, we didn’t feel the loss and the pain – they did. To them it was just life.
So, once you know the inescapable truth and you’ve stared at the cold hard facts of life, what do you do? What can you do? I think the answer is fairly simple, ask yourself what your 6-year-old brain would say, “oh well, tomorrow’s another day”.
Children wake up totally unaware of what the day will hold, what will unfold in front of them and how that might or might not impact on them. They are excited to see a new day, to see birds in the trees and splash about in puddles. They don’t question their future because they have no idea what it will bring, and neither do any of us.
Age may bring with it complications, big decisions and scary home truths – but it doesn’t change the facts. You can still choose to see each morning as a fresh start, as a blank page and as an exciting time to be alive. Which is something I want desperately to achieve, knowing what I know and not being afraid of life.