Let me ask you a question – What is your most admirable personality trait? Take a second, take a day, take as long as you wish, but do have a think about the answer to this question. Once you have the answer, cherish it. Own it and allow it to forever grow within you. I was asked yesterday what I thought my most admirable trait was and I must admit, it had me stumped. However, today I believe I have come to an answer. The past three years have taught me that I am intensly, incredibly, exceedingly, emphatically, neurotically patient. I came to this conclusion whilst on the loo. Yes, I blog on the bog. Do bare in mind that I probably spend a good three hours of my day in the bathroom, I spend almost all day thinking about my bowels and when I’m not thinking about them, I’m writing about them so that you lovely people have the joy of thinking about them for me! For those who haven’t read my previous blogs, I am three weeks post surgery after having my stoma reversed. I’m doing well, my scar is healing fantastically after a small infection, I’m still taking pain killers and I’m spending most of my time either in bed or on the toilet, but I’m okay with that. I’ve learned that everything will take time, healing takes time, both physically and emotionally. I’ve been ill for three years and some mornings I wake up expecting a pain-free, functioning bowel. Some days I wake and my mind is clouded with frustration, it seeps from my pores and sweetens my breath with its bitterly sour taste. But that feeling is always short-lived after I remind myself that (you guessed it) life is too short. I have a wonderful family, incredible friends and I’m lucky enough to have found the most caring, trusting, beautiful man on this planet. Life is good. Okay, I can’t eat certain things, I always need to know where the nearest toilet is and my future is plagued with hospital visits. But luckily for me I have an army of loyal followers who are right there beside me, every step of the way. Patiently awaiting my awakening patience. So…for anyone who may stumble across this blog, what is your most admirable personal trait? Let me know!
“one day, much too soon, the end will come to each of our precious, brief lifetimes; knowing this; live fearlessly; leave unchallenged not a single obstacle between yourself and the realisation of your most joyous dream”
With this being said: I’ve decided to finish my studies at university. Yes; I adore learning about the human mind, I am like a sponge, absorbing each molecule of the fascinating, intricate, beautiful workings of the wonder that is the human mind. I could sit for hours reading books, articles and the dreaded online journals simply to leave myself asking more questions than I started off with. I love psychology, it is to me as water is to a fish: vast, captivating and necessary. However, I will forever be learning about the mind. The past five months have taught me more about the mind than any book can. It is an incredible thing. Capable of storing hundreds of thousands of images, sounds and tastes. Capable of blocking out memories too raw for you to re-live. Capable of allowing you to forget excruciating pain and reminding you every day of what you are on this planet to do: live. Some view religion as their path in life, to spend their time preparing themselves for a life in heaven. Some believe they are on this planet to work, to set a goal and achieve it. Others simply have no understanding as to why they are here…yet. Some see the good in everything, others, not so much. But each and every individual is here to live. I highlight the most important word in this sentence for extra emphasis: It is only you, the individual that is capable of paving the way for your own future. I recently had what you would call an ‘off day’. I was full of hatred, blame and denial. I was angry that I was sitting in my house doing nothing, because I couldn’t do anything. I was immensely frustrated that I was told not to lift anything heavier than a kettle, I was furious at my body for being painful and I was terrified that this wasn’t the end of all my suffering. It had finally sunk in that Crohns disease is like a puppy; it is for life, not just for Christmas. Was I ready for this commitment? Could I face the fact that I may be back in hospital in a month, a year, a decade? What surgeries do I face in the future? How many more tubes will I have to have stuffed down my nose? How many things will I be unable to eat, or drink? – I was spiralling, being consumed by an unknown fear of the future and what possibilities it held. My mind is constantly thinking about my bowels, every sound they make has me on high alert, each cramp sets my adrenaline pumping: if I am to be honest with you, I am completely and utterly exhausted. I need a break from my body, I need something that will allow me to escape, so with each stomach gurgle, I urged myself to write, write and write and you know what? I feel so much better. What is the point in living life if I am afraid of what’s to come, that’s just time consuming. I re- read what I have written and I’m taking my own advice, surrounding myself with good people, good music and good food. The three things that make my life what it is: incredible. I may not wake up each day with a smile on my face but it certainly makes an appearance at some point and right now, that’s all that matters to me.
“Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance,you must keep moving.”
“When the body goes through what you’ve been through, there is a place it goes to that means no one can get in. You surround yourself with yourself and don’t let anyone else in. It’s a survival instinct the body uses when you’ve been put through such stress.”
This is what I was told happens after a surgical procedure like the one I’ve just been through. I went to a very dark place. I felt no love, no joy, no excitement. It was a short time, but it will be an extremely raw memory for quite some time. You see, I’ve just had my stoma reversed. This involves a surgery that re-opens my original scar down my stomach. The surgeons take my stoma (the end of my small intestine) and join it together with my large intestine. I decided to have an epidural, which would numb my stomach and allow me to be out of pain, but still quite coherent. However, as the rest of my body was untouched by the painkillers, I could feel everything. This would have been alright had I been pain free, but I began to experience referred pain in my ribs and shoulders. Referred pain occurs after the diaphragm has been irritated, a possible bit of blood or air has escaped and causes excruciating pain in the shoulders. This is because when the body is being formed in the uterus, the diaphragm and the shoulders are created at the same time. Therefore the pain experienced in the diaphragm is felt in the shoulders. I can tell you now, I have an extremely high pain threshold. I’ve taught myself to breathe through painful experiences and mentally take myself somewhere else. But this referred pain is so brutally agonising that I couldn’t cope. Each intake of breathe had me screaming my heart out, verbally inflicting my agony on anyone who was listening. It was so exhausting that it left me invalid for the rest of the day. I struggled to keep my eyes open, I couldn’t talk, walk or interact with anyone. It completely consumed me. The doctors decided to put me on morphine to combat the pain, but morphine is a very sinister drug. It slithers through your body, wrapping its morbid, slender fingers tightly around any ounce of normality left inside of you. It is a killer disguised in drug formation, ready and waiting to enter your nervous system, slowly suffocating your senses. One. By. One. For me, pride was the first to go. I no longer cared if I fell asleep whilst someone was talking to me, I had collapsed in on myself, not hearing the people around me. It was clouding my vision, my never ending sense of positivity. Second to pride was my trust. I was beginning not to trust the people around me. When the nurses tried to get me to sit in my chair, I didn’t trust that they would look after me. I didn’t trust that the doctors believed the pain I was in. But the worst thing was, I no longer trusted my body. I didn’t trust it to accept the reversal. I didn’t trust it to continue breathing by itself. I was battling my way through an internal war which was both physically and mentally exhausting. Last to leave was my sense of hope. My hope for a normal life began to trickle through my fingers. I blamed my body for failing me, I blamed my doctors for not spotting Crohns quicker and I blamed myself for whatever I had done to deserve this hell. The morphine was succeeding in it’s quest to completely quell my hunger for life. But after one particularly awful afternoon, something clicked…and it wasn’t my morphine button. I decided that I’d had enough, I put aside the morphine button and fell asleep. In the morning when I woke up sore, instead of reaching for the drugs, I got myself up and walked to the toilets. It was painful, yes. But I could feel the suffocating sensation starting to subside. I started on my breathing techniques; in, out, in, out. Gradually, things became less terrifying. I began taking baby steps, at first it was walking to the toilet by myself, then having a shower standing up, and then finally! The grand awakening of my anus…my first poo! Albeit it was a little painful, odd and ground shudderingly noisy; the smile was on my face for hours. I felt I’d climbed a mountain and accomplished the biggest challenge of all, I was one step away from shuffling through the corridors at my top speed of 0.1mph, wheeling along my drip stand and screaming at the top of my lungs, “I’ve just done a poo!” Things were finally going my way and I felt my usual sense of hope, pride and trust returning. My motto was fresh on my mind and I was determined to get myself fit and healthy and start living my life again. After a week of being in hospital, I was allowed home. Now I’m resting, writing and breathing. I’m living. things are going to take time, I’ve been thrown back a couple of steps, but soon I’ll be sprinting ahead, taking the world by storm. It’s lovely going to the toilet again, and ironically my first fart was like a breathe of fresh air. I keep touching my stomach to check if I need to empty my bag, but I don’t ever want that to stop, each time I touch my stomach is a reminder of what I’ve overcome, and I am so, so proud.
“there on my stomach is a map of the roads that I have travelled. Like wrinkles upon a smiling face, they tell a tale of a life. A life of joy, and a life of laughter. But most of all a life well lived.”
As I stare intently at the white space in front of me, I wonder if the words will ever come. I knew a post was imminent. It had been bubbling up inside of me for days, the words begging to burst from my lips, or rather, from my fingertips as I pad lightly on the screen. I stared and stared at that white space realising how beautiful it was. So pure, empty and untainted. Then it suddenly occurred to me; nothing would make sense without whitespace. As you read these words, you are forming sentences, understanding punctuation, creating complex sounds, comprehending vowels, nouns, adjectives and many more. Without the whitespace surrounding these beautifully crafted words; this would mean nothing. We need this empty, vast abyss to make sense of our language. It was when I applied this knowledge to my life that things started to make sense: life is curiously ironic. To enjoy silence, you must first defile your ears with deafening noise. To fully enjoy the company of your friends and family, you must first feel cripplingly alone, and to understand how short life is, you must almost have it taken from you. If we lived our life forgetting how precious it is, then it wouldn’t really be lived at all. My last post explained the hardship I was struggling with, I couldn’t understand why everything was happening the way it was, why was I still in so much pain? Physically and emotionally. But I now realise that without this pain, I wouldn’t appreciate life when I am pain free. I have become a master of patience in the last two years and I know I need to wait a little longer until the next chapter of my life begins. My reversal will be in the next few weeks, and although with this I face more pain, more pills, and more time in hospital, I understand that I need a few moments of pure frustration in order to bask in the calmness that will be waiting for me somewhere in the future. All of this is a wonderful albeit painful lesson and I’m determined to get an A+.