ABOVE – ME ASLEEP AFTER FAR TOO MUCH EXCITEMENT WITH WINNIE, AFTER A DAY OF EXPLOSIONS AND NON DIGESTED TABLETS – aren’t I an angel!!!
I will never forget the day that I decided to tell my mum about what was happening to me. I was just 13 years old, a geeky teenager who was in the midst of spots, boy worries and dealing with all the crazy body changes kids of that age go through – God know’s how we all got through it and came out even slightly sane 🙂 – well i’ll let you guys be the judge of that.
For a year I had coped with the growing symptoms of my illness. I say coped, really what I mean is struggled hopelessly to just get through each day without curling up in a corner and dying. The real fact was that my body was fighting, fighting with all its might and strength to stay alive.
I went to school every day with no energy whatsoever. I would go to every class, do my homework, in fact I never failed to submit an assignment and managed to excel, working around the clock – and who could forget that I was member of every single musical group in the school (hell I even played the pans in the flaming string concerto) – was the school council rep, a mentor and millions of other pointless extremely GEEKY extra-curricular roles that only gained you a shiny badge on your tie – the more you had the easier it was for the bullies to point you out in a crowd.
Hell I was such a geek I even played in a brass band and I think boys thought I was a Yetti with my hairy legs and monobrow and obvious lack of makeup – I hated them at the time and probably shouted how they were many things under the sun, but now thank my parents for keeping me as a child and not letting me grow up so fast I would now have 17.1 mini brats in tow when I’m not even capable of looking after myself.
Anyway, anyway, anyway. I remember how I would be racing to toilets around the school from my lessons, wanting to scream the pain was sooo bad, and people had to have noticed, I mean I literally needed to be excused around 50 times a day and once I was allowed to go, after almost levitating as I bounced up and down with my hand desperately waving for attention in the air, I would be gone for at least 15 minutes.
And then, i won’t go into it, but there was the few months that the head removed all the loo roll in the toilets because idiots had been literally decorating the loos (Laurence Llewellyn Bowen eat your heart out) with the tracing paper rough sheets, and I had to race to the front office from where ever I was in the school to collect a key to get a roll – and then they locked the toilets as well. NIGHTMARE. One you can only possibly relate to if you have ever had food poisoning on holiday in Egypt…like trying to run a marathon while holding an Elephant in your arse.
I hardly ate the pain was so bad. I felt so tired, I mean desperately tired. I would get in from school and just collapse. But no one ever saw because I was home before my folks and would sleep on the bottom of my bunk bed for an hour surrounded by fluffy teddies, before somehow managing to wake up and get changed for brass band practice or homework just as my parents would arrive home.
Looking back I have no idea how I carried on. Before this started I wasn’t chubby, ok I had a little baby fat which as a teenage girl influenced by stick thin images of bone protruding models ( a look which I now know – due to the skinny little me that I am – is painful – I mean being that thin means it literally hurts to be in your own skin – even lying on the softest bed hurts your bones) I dreamed of loosing. And I guess this is probably what brought this illness to the surface. I hate the word ‘triggered’ but I guess deciding I wasn’t going to eat anything out of a packet or wrapper or that had food colouring or a certain level of fat might have just helped the DEVILISH little minx of this illness scramble its way to the surface a little quicker.
Looking back I am terrified of the way I hid my illness. I hate my 13 year old self and love her for the strength and resilience she showed (you go girly). How did I carry on? How did I not just break down into a withering wreck as I have so often over the years? I me (pardon my French) I was literally shitting myself to death – parts of my bowel were coming out, there was so much blood and guts and pain, and I remember one time the pain was so great I passed out and fell off the toilet seat hitting my head on the door of the girls toilets (near the language classrooms) smashing my forehead against the adolescent graffiti I had come to know off by heart.
After a few months and loosing shit loads of weight very quickly my poor parents must have been wondering what the hell was going on. All sorts must have been going through their minds – especially with the weight-loss and toilet visits – their brains must have been screaming OUR DAUGHTER HAS BULIMIA – I don’t blame them that they did, I guess I would have done .
I don’t quiet understand why when I was made to go to counselling for anorexia – yes the thing people still tell me I have (and to them I say “you closed minded people, I like cake as much as anyone else but my silly digestive system doesn’t”) – I didn’t pipe up and say “I am shitting blood and guts, I’m tired and emotional and don’t even have the strength to get out of my bunk bed in the morning – I’m not sticking my finger down my troat, I just don’t understand what’s happening to me”.
But I didn’t say a word….I put my family through hell and back, and it was all because I was really frightened and really embarrassed. I mean that level of scared that leaves you paralyzed, you feel numb with the pressure and the pain…as a 13 year old girl I thought I was turning into some sort of circus freak. How could I talk about poo and blood and mucus to my friends, family or teachers – it was not acceptable – I guess Crohn’s and Colitis are what we would now call embarressing illnesses, you know the kind people now go on a live tv show and wave around on a pod cast to the entire millions of viewers around the world instead of seeing a GP in private about. I was ashamed of who I was and what was happening to me, and that secret shame very nearly (more nearly than I like to admit) killed me.
Until one day something happened, well something scared the big Jesus out of me and I told the only person a girl can tell about anything monumental – My Mum.
I remember the moment so clearly. That morning I couldn’t lift my body out of bed. my weight had plummeted to below 6 stone and my body hurt against my soft pillows. I couldn’t lift my legs and dragging myself down the bunk bed stairs took about half an hour. I can’t remember where we were going that day, I remember my parents and sister watching as I ate my cereal (scrutinising my every spoonful as if watching a monkey paint the Sistine Chapel), before we got in the car to go somewhere.
At some point we stopped at a motorway services – not any service we only stopped at the good ones, you know the ones with the duck ponds and picnic areas and Marks and Spencer local shops) – and I raced to the loo. As I was sat there on my THRONE, dealing with the mind numbing pain – which if you don’t have Crohns can only be described as having a gremilin armed with a knife and chain saw trying to slice its way out from inside you abdomen – I saw a notice on the back of the toilet door. This is what it read:
ARE YOU EXPERIENCING : Severe abdominal pain; seeing blood in your poo; suffering from lack of appetite; feeling tired all the time; going to the toilet more often than before???? (well probably more elequantly put and in better font)
You could have BOWEL CANCER!!!
I don’t know what the look on my face was at that moment, but it must have looked like a cross between seeing a ghost and a look of dreadful realisation. I was sure at that minute that I had cancer, and that small sign made me finally tell my parents what was happening to me. I told them in the car, and I don’t remember really how they reacted, I expect it was mixture of anger, frustration, fear and relief.
I don’t know why I am telling you all this…It’s all rather depressing, I am crying while I write this and look like an exhausted panda with black mascara all down my face. This is meant to be a happy, funny, look how silly she is blog, which will change the world, but I guess now you (whoever you are) now know something intimate about me – not like when I wrote about my Crohn’s for the Newcastle Chronicle during my MA and opened the paper one day to find a massive full page pic of me with the headline “my secret shame” plastered over the front of the health section – ekkkkk!!!!! Didn’t do much for my street cred guys!
I guess I want other people not to handle it the way I did. If I had just said something to someone it could have been stopped – well I don’t think this illness would ever stop its like a flaming rampant rabbit – but at least I won’t have been alone and frightened and I won’t have almost died!
Don’t handle it on your own guys…no matter what it is. Depression, sexuality confusion, health scares, even whether you should kiss the spotty guy or the floppy haired guy – talk to someone, get advice – but don’t read the internet horror stories or you will believe you are about to grow a horn on your head an turn into a spotty unicorn with wings.
What would I tell my 13 year old self now? I guess, I can’t believe you managed it! I can’t believe how stubborn and determined and what a little madam you where. I would tell her to tell someone…to not be afraid.
I bet she wouldn’t listen – but then again would I be the person I am today if she did?
p.s – I promise the next post will be happier 🙂 and about the challenge