Tag Archives: hope

(What’s the story?) Morning Gory

Last night I was in agony with my foot, to the extent that I genuinely didn’t know what to do with myself. It was happening within a depressive phase of my life with Bipolar, which made it all the worse. You can catch up with it by reading my last post.

Well, I took extra sleeping meds (within the dosage I’m allowed), to enable me to sleep through the pain. So tired I couldn’t sit up straight, me and the Black Dog curled up in bed, and fell in to the deepest sleep I’ve ever had.

I woke up this morning, hearing Bess (my darling little dog) having her fur cut. Honestly, you’d think a wolverine was being tortured, not a a little terrier having her tummy trimmed whilst being cuddled and kissed! I laid in bed, opiate lozenge in my mouth, and waited for Mum to come and help me up. I felt wide awake, and decided to sit on the landing floor to cuddle the now cashmere soft Bess.

All was fine – I was smooched on the nose, and I held her in my lap – then I tried to get up. Because I felt awake, I forgot that the sleeping meds (of which I’d had more than I usually do) are also muscle relaxants. I’d put my wobbling down to the state of my feet, but oh how wrong I was.

I turned to kneel and push myself up…one arm gave out from under me, I grabbed the chair in front of me – forgetting in my panic that it’s a swivel chair – it spun around, my legs collapsed, I unintentionally flipped over and ended up with my head hanging over the top stair.

Poor Mum was stricken. Luckily, as it was ending, Dad came back in from the shops and ran up to help. I sat up, knowing instantly that I’d badly hurt my left elbow, which is already constantly painful, and my left knee, which is my best behaved one.

I was quick to reassure Mum that I was fine – explaining what had happened with the bloody chair and my rubber limbs! There were a few tears as the shock hit me, but then Bess appeared.

She has no understanding of EB. To her, I’m just one of the pack; I give her treats, I play with her when I can, and I give extraordinarily good tummy tickles. She knows when I’m sad, and she’ll stand on my lap, with her paws around my shoulders to cuddle me. Her big liquorice nose snuffling in my ear, her soft whiskers on my cheek.

But as I sat, booing on the floor, she rolled her most treasured possession under my leg…a soggy, grubby, chewed up tennis ball. She wanted me, or Mum, or Dad, to play. And that stopped the tears, because I had to laugh. In the midst of packing for hospital and panicking over what I’d just done, there was a little furry ray of sunshine at our feet. Bessie’s tennis ball is her ecstasy, and she wanted me to have it too.

She was jet black as a pup, but now her Yorkie daddy’s genes have come through, and she’s mostly silvery grey (with a ginger ‘tache!). My little, scruffy Grey Dog chased away the big Black Dog today. He’ll sneak back, but Bess will be there, shining with love and silliness, and she’ll see him off again.

Yesterday, I felt lucky, but I wanted to give my parents their freedom. Today I feel that, once again, something saved me. Something kept me here. Being agnostic, I won’t rule anything out. But I feel that if I keep being saved, there must be something I’m meant to do. I just need to find out what it is.

So until the Black Dog comes crawling back, I’ll have a good think about what I’m here for. Playing with Bess is definitely one of my purposes 🙂

M xxx

My Bessie Bear, chilling in my room, with the tennis ball!

20110816-145426.jpg

1 Comment

Filed under Disability

Fit for nothing, but good for something!

Once again, the media – in all of its many guises – is getting its knickers in a twist about us layabout disabled scroungers, refusing to work and laughing at the saps who do. The Daily Mail even reported that people have been awarded Incapacity Benefit purely because they have “blisters”! How ludicrous, eh? I mean, it’s not like having blisters could affect your daily life, or leave you dependent on your family and carers, permanently disfigure you or carry off nearly thirty of your friends, or… Oh…wait a minute….

I’m not in the habit of feeling sorry for myself, and I’ve never thought “why me?”, but when these stories hit the press, I can’t help but curse my body for being useless in so many ways. You see, until a few months ago, I thought that maybe this year would be the one where I would find a job in an office that could accommodate me and my needs. Then I started a personal project in earnest, and the reality of the situation my body has put me in really hit home.

Having been given such a lot of help and support by DEBRA UK over the years, I wanted to give something back, other than giving talks and doing interviews. Not that those things don’t help or have their merits, but I wanted to do something more. When I a) became more involved with my burgeoning love of vintage clothes et cetera, and b) realised that finishing my Masters degree was becoming increasingly unfeasible, I decided the time had come to organise my very own fundraising event for DEBRA. How hard could it be? A few phone calls, a few emails, maybe some letters and hey presto! a event is ready to be enjoyed by all. Now, only a few months on, my naivety astounds me, and it makes me realise how much I’d been denying the true impact EB has on my life.

Firstly, making phone calls: I can only hold the phone with my right hand, the thumb of which repeatedly blisters and then becomes raw. Holding the phone either aggravates the blister, or causes the dressing to ride up and leaves the phone handset covered in wound “ick” (technical term there!). That would be lovely in an office, wouldn’t it?! Then there’s my mouth, which, when blistered, causes me to sound like the Elephant Man. Try phoning a company for a donation when what they hear is “El-oh. Ahm or-ha-ni-in ah fuh-ray-in uh-ven”, and that takes an age to say. If those two aren’t a problem, there are always the oesophageal spasms which suddenly take hold, leaving me gasping for breathe and rigid with pain, unable to speak. Or, there’s just the absolute fatigue that comes with chronic illnesses. Thus, my marvellous mum has done the majority of the ‘phoning around for me, including several hours when I was exhausted on my hospital bed and imbibing opioid pain killers. Are you a business owner who wants to employ a twenty-five year old and her mum to do one job? If so, we’re your women!

Emails aren’t without their difficulty, either. Having deep ulcers at the tops of my thighs makes sitting upright very painful for me, and so I have to lean to either side alternately. Try typing on a laptop, which is balanced on your hip and making you very hot, with your osteoporotic spine twisted around and see how much you get done. That’s if my eyes aren’t blistered, or the brain fog isn’t so dense that I can’t remember how to explain my own disease. If anyone knows a company where sending an email saying “I’ll get back to you when my bum calms down” is acceptable, please let me know!

Arranging meetings is like something out of Challenge Anneka (look it up, kids). I can’t imagine important meetings at a work place being deferred because I’m having to lay with my legs in the air to ease the pain, or because I’m having my oesophagus stretched again, or have a Colitis flare-up (wherein my mum has taken phone calls and passed messages through the bathroom door). I could only do that with my event because I’m organising it with friends who understand my situation, and know that things can change at a moments notice with me. It is far easier to find friends who accept the “EB permitting” caveat than it is a job or employers.

There is also the issue that the vast majority of the organising of the fundraiser has been done either at my home or from hospital rooms whilst I await surgeries, usually with me in bed (mine or one at St Thomas’ Hospital) wearing my pyjamas. I also send many of my emails during dressing changes, even though the distracting pain can cause errors in my messages, or late at night when my discomfort is keeping me awake.

I’m sure this sounds terribly depressing and negative, yet despite all I have said here, the continuing experience of pulling this event together hasn’t been a horrible one. Vastly because it has proven to me that the majority of people are not just good, but kind and generous beyond my imagination. So many people, especially those I have met via Twitter, have put their hearts into helping me and my friends to help DEBRA. And I have made friends, wonderful ones, because of this; friends who I had never met until they heard about my event, but who have given so much time and love to it. There are independent crafters and jewellery makers who have taken the time and effort to make pieces for us to raffle, small businesses who are giving to us even though we are in austere times, and who have pledged more support than I could have dreamed of. A Forties style singing trio, who emailed and asked if they could play for us for free (then thanked us for saying yes!), and bloggers who have offered to write about it – including The Broken of Britain’s Lisa J. Ellwood, even though she has tons going on and should be resting! – sharing their expertise and readership with us.

I’ve also encountered several emails and tweets with messages like “I know it’s not as bad as EB, but I have…”, with revelations of what people are living with. For the record, the severity of one illness doesn’t negate the difficulties another person is experiencing, but it has widened my circle of “differently abled” friends in the best way – not purely because we have health problems in common, but because we have shared interests.

While this project has shone a spotlight on my limitations, it has emphasised knowledge my heart has been trying to convince my brain of for some time:

1) Though I may not be fit for work, or good for employment, I am good for something. I just need to be able to pander to my body when it demands attention – which I couldn’t do in normal employment. Having a disability does not mean that I cannot contribute, it just means I can’t contribute in the way the majority of the media has decided I should.

2) Britain is not broken, but full of wonderful people, in all classes, ages, races, religions, jobs and bodies – the only thing that is broken is the view the government has of the people it should be serving. The minority of the “bad” people is so small, it’s laughable that the government and media waste their time working themselves into a frenzy over them.

So I dedicate this to all of the amazing people I now know – you haven’t just helped DEBRA, you’ve helped me, too.

2 Comments

Filed under Disability, People Power

Soul on my skin

“Our tattoos are us wearing our souls on the outside”. So said a Maori chief at the Wellcome Collection’s ‘Skin’ exhibition last year. I was there because I had been immortalised in an etched portrait by the wonderful artist Gemma Anderson, in a piece we entitled ‘Against Nature’.

As the chief said this, my dad leant forward and said “like yours are for you”.

And it was true. Despite the fact that my desire for tattoos was a source of conflict between me and my parents for some years, they now understand why I not just wanted, but needed, to have them.

I have scars of all different types and shapes and shades across my body, caused directly by EB or by the treatments and surgery it has lead me to undertake. Some are hidden by my dressings and clothes, so are completely visible, not least on my hands, neck and on my left eye. I don’t hate them, they are what they are. Battle scars, I suppose, from a war with my own body.

For me, tattoos represented a chance for me to have “scars”, permanent marks on my body that I had chosen to have there. The marks I already have are a testament to the weakness of my skin, the defects in my genes and collagen. They show what is outside of me. Tattoos would reflect my strength, physically and spiritually, and the beliefs and ideas that have given me the positive energy to keep going. That sounds incredibly cheesy, I know. But it’s true, nonetheless.

So my parents escorted me to the tattoo studio, where the artist, Pete, and I made an accord in three parts: 1 – one of my parents had to be with me, as the tattoo would be on my back and he needed someone with experience to watch for impending damage. 2 – If damage occurred, I wouldn’t protest at him stopping immediately. 3 – If it didn’t work, I wouldn’t go elsewhere and try again.

Tattoo 1 – Two small stars on the left side of my lower back. Though the sound of the machine initially made me want to do a runner, the adrenaline rush of having the needle buzz against my skin was immense. To anyone but other than me, those stars are completely unremarkable, but to me, they mean so much – mastering my fear of pain, proving that I know my body better than anyone else, vindication for standing by my beliefs, and a step toward having some control over what my body looks like. Not only was there no damage to my skin, the tattoo healed better than on someone without EB. No weeping or scabbing, it looked as if it had been drawn on in pen. No one has any idea why, but my back has always behaved differently to the everywhere else on my body.

Though I didn’t, as my mum feared, contract blood poisoning, but I did catch the Tattoo Bug. The two minute experience of the stars wasn’t enough – I wanted more.

Tattoo 2 – “I believe that whatever doesn’t kill you, simply makes you…stranger”. Yes, it’s a quote from The Dark Knight, uttered by The Joker. It speaks to me because the more I experience with EB, the more warped my sense of humour becomes. The quote and the speaker fitted perfectly, and it’s a reminder to me to only let darkness into my comedy, not my heart or soul.

Tattoo 3 – “Now I know that freedom must be taken, and fate stolen ~ Anno”. This comes from an untitled poem by Anno Birkin, someone I will write more about, as he deserves a post all of his own. It’s part of a longer excerpt, the rest of which I have on a pendant. I had this tattoo after a long spell in hospital, losing a friend, and having another battling cancer. I was realising, more than ever, that life is short and you have to reach out and grab what you want from it. Nothing worth having is easy to get. I haven’t achieved as much I’d like, but carrying this on me, always, reminds me to never stop trying.

Tattoo 4 – “Bettina. Some Fantastic Place”. Betti is the above mentioned friend, who battled cancer. She passed away in December 2009, and I’ve never known grief like it. I knew that, wherever she was, Betti would be telling me to stop crying and carrying on and enjoy life. ‘Some Fantastic Place’ is a song by one of my favourite bands, Squeeze, and as it was written about their friend who was taken by leukaemia, it seemed to call to me. Bettina was the bravest person I’ve ever known, and I feel honoured to have had her in my life, and to still have her in my heart. Betti having her tattoos gave me the courage to have mine, and that felt like the best memorial I could give my amazing friend. It’s completed with a little butterfly, flitting away from the words. Not to symbolise EB, but to show the free spirit that Bettina was, is and forever will be.

My next tattoo is imminent, and no doubt I’ll write about that, too. My tattoos have given me things to love about my body, marks I can look at with pride and happiness. One the rare occasions I disrobe in front of people now, no one comments on my EB scars, instead asking about or admiring my ink. They give me the freedom to be me, and I’m eternally grateful to Pete for being brave enough to take the needle to me in the first place.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized