So I thought I should tell you I am finally back to Manchester…. 7 weeks after I moved. I am sorry I have been really bad in keeping you up-to-date with my progress. I don’t have many excuses really but I shall try to outline why a little later on. But first what have I been up to? What stage am I up to in my rehabilitation?
Well I’ve finished really. I don’t walk with an aid anymore really and you can’t tell that I have a prosthetic leg just from glancing at me. Going down stairs in particular is a bit annoying as my leg gives way a bit but I don’t have pain, not on any more drugs and just back to normal really.
After three months in a wheelchair and then three months on crutches, I had to learn to walk again which, bizarrely, is a really hard adjustment. Crutches were an utter pain – literally – so I’m very glad to be able to walk around without the blisters and burning pain through my wrists! I felt like I had a life stuck on the pause button just waiting to press pay again. Actually, the first time I thought “I want to blog again” was when I saw the x-ray which showed that my bones had finally fused together and I could come off the crutches. I was such an amazing feeling that I couldn’t quite believe it at first.
I felt like a waddling duck when I first started walking. It’s so frustrating because you remember how to walk but your body doesn’t seem to! Ballet training really helps though – having to think about the level of your hips, shoulders, knees and then the tempo and evenness of your footsteps and the swing of your arms. I didn’t realise just how much bum muscle goes into walking – sounds intuitive but it really does put so much work in! To help with all this, I progressed onto a rather fancy-looking waking stick which I still use sometimes when I’m feeling tired. The picture below is of my first steps.
Actually I was at a “Stand-up for Ealing Labour” comedy event in November where one of the comedians was complaining that young people don’t realise that old people are just the same as young people except I quote: “they just feel lucky to wake up alive in the morning.” Thus, I learned that threshold for old age is 22 but then again I do have a walking stick and freedom pass!
But what have I been up to? Well, I went away with my family to the Yorkshire Dales which was really lovely. I learned that the National Trust have really good ways to make things more accessible and can’t praise them highly enough. At Malham Tarn, you can hire a motorised all-terrain wheelchair for £5 though my grandad’s foot did not appreciate this… twice!
I’ve actually done so many things that I can’t really think. I have amazing friends and family and have never been one to stay much at home anyway so I haven’t stayed still. My ballet friends, Charlotte, Lizzie and Lucy came to London in July for a picnic and then a Cuban dance show at Sadler’s Wells which was really fun. Actually Sadler’s Wells is another place that has great accessibility options and you can get a free carer’s ticket with their Access Scheme. It’s also really easy to get to from King’s Cross in a wheelchair. I’ve been a few times with my mum and also my good friend Kate since. Definitely recommend it.
Another huge thing – that was like one of the actual good things of 2016 – was that my sister graduated with a 2:1 in maths in Surrey! She was absolutely gorgeous as always even when she smoothed her top with chocolate – very classic Susanna!
I also made some great friends through the local labour party and went quizzing with them every week. It was actually one of the really nice releases each week to enjoy three hours of feeling normal and not being treated differently or with care.
I also enjoyed my physio sessions – as grueling as they were! And of course my physics friends too who I stayed with when I was in my wheelchair for a weekend and then again in December. They were so kind to me and even gave me the bed!
Christmas was nice but I was quite ill along with the rest of my family – we joked that the Queen gave us the lurgies! I did go to the annual hiking winter trip the week before Christmas which was a lot of fun and so many of my wonderful friends were there. I did a lake and a forest bimble and went to the café every day. We had a ceilidh and just dome really funny memories. Aw, it was bliss!
I did have a bit of a stressful incident before the trip… so I decided to go to Scotland from Manchester with my friends but, the night I got to Manchester, my leg started wobbling…. The next day it was even more wobbly and when I tried to get to the limb fitting center in South Manchester, my leg fell apart at the bus stop. You should have seen the faces of the crowd at the bus stop! It basically looked like a really bad break but their jaws hit the floor when I put my foot in my bag! A very kind young man picked me up by the armpits and Laura helped me back inside. I was already very late for the center so was driven there by our friend Lisa and it was all fixed in 15 minutes!
Another stressful incident over the summer was when a patient transport driver stole a package off me after wheeling me into my house. I think he’d hoped I hadn’t realised but I distinctly remember thinking that it was Mum’s Christmas present (ok so it was June but there had been a saga over what she wanted and we finally decided on getting something in June). And then it wasn’t there later on but my Godmother, who lives over the road, saw in with the package in his car. Anyway I thought I’d have to defend against my own mind – how did I know that the drugs I was on or post-traumatic stress didn’t cause me to see something that wasn’t there? But when it came to the first hearing, he turned up… with the necklace! I can’t commend the policer officer, Bryan Winson, enough for all his hard work and for such a successful outcome. He said he’d never heard of someone bringing back the stolen item but all’s well that ends well!
But what’s it like to have a prosthetic leg? Generally I don’t notice it except that I’m quite conscious of how I walk and try not to walk unevenly and it can be quite uncomfortable. My stump shrinks throughout the day as I walk on it or just by wearing the prosthetic which means that the bottom of it (which is basically bony like your elbow) rubs on the prosthetic and can cause sores or just general discomfort. In order to combat that problem, I regularly have to add more socks designed especially for amputees so I actually have to remember to take spare with me. This is quite a feat for someone who can’t remember their phone and would probably lose their brain if it wasn’t so firmly fixed in her skull – although I still think I leave it at home sometimes! The liner gets really hot and sweaty so this week I’ve actually had a pretty sore leg like a friction burn to the point that it was painful to walk on.
Actually just everything is made uncomfortable – sleeping is uncomfortable especially since it is only comfortable to sleep on one side. I’m mostly off the drugs but it’s still uncomfortable with the bulbous shape of the stump. Kneeling is uncomfortable due to my scars. Showering is uncomfortable but I’ve adapted. I have a shower stool and have adapted where I put my shower stuff and my towel so it’s all in easy reach. Also TOP TIP: use a 75 litre dry bag to put your leg in so you can have your leg in the shower with you.
And now I’m finally back settled in Manchester, feeding and having a lot of fun with my dear Laura and completing my studies and back with the hiking club! Most of my old friends are still around and of course I’ve made more! The picture below is Laura, me, Kim and Anita enjoying a very lovely and romantic Valentine’s day!
We had our annual recently where we all dressed up and went for a three course meal out in the countryside. I did my first hike the week before last just walking up to Red Tarn from the Youth Hostel in Glenridding. My friend Matt had the best quote of the weekend. When we popped into the café at the nature reserve at Leighton Moss for cake and Laura commented that she was surprised there was Wifi, Matt flatly said: “Well, how do you expect the birds to tweet?!” I swear I went to bed with a headache that night from laughing so much! I went to karaoke for the first time last week with the same group of friends and we go for dinner all together and just have a lot of fun really. I was also elected ‘weekend secretary’ of the hiking club so basically I am back to the fray!
Otherwise everything else is basically the same except for the elephant in the room.
As I promised earlier, I need to explain my lack of blogging and general communication up until now. Muerbauertraurigkeit is a word for the feeling of wanting to push people away even those you are close to, which I learnt about on a friend’s Facebook post. The describes exactly what I felt last Autumn. The short of it is that brains are weird and complex things. The long of it is:
August 2016 was rather hard for me. I think the effects of post traumatic stress took over my brain and so I just didn’t want to talk to anyone and some days I wouldn’t even get out of bed. I felt like I was trying desperately to cling on the rim of a bottomless pit but the rim was oiled and my fingers were slipping. Now, I’ve had more time to reflect and I think a better analogy as to why the response is so delayed is that it is like a pane of glass that has shattered but it hasn’t quite broken yet so it’s intact and just waiting to shatter properly. I can’t say anything in August triggered the glass to break, it was just inevitable that it would at some point and my brain chose August.
I actually forgot to tell most people that I was out of my wheelchair/ off crutches/ in Manchester. I bumped into a friend, Dowan, in Sainsbury’s and, when he said, “Oh my God,” I realised I had forgotten to tell that group of friends I was actually back in Manchester. But we went for a very lovely meal in Fallowfield, so all’s well that ends well. If there’s anybody who I’ve forgotten to tell who is reading this, I’m really truly very sorry!
The pieces that I then tried gluing together didn’t seem to fit anymore and what was more, to mix analogies (#sorrynotsorry), I couldn’t remember what the picture looked like before. In the end, I guess I just painted a new picture with the help of counselling and my own inward reflection. I can’t stress the importance of counselling. For me, it gave me an hour a week where I could cry when I was feeling really down without having to do it at home. Not that I didn’t at home – there were a lot of times where I did, especially to my mum. But I didn’t want to worry my family. If I was sad, they’d try to cheer me up when I did just need to be sad. It wasn’t like I wasn’t happy. I always felt like I had a high, happy line when I was with friends and family but I couldn’t shake this low constant line that felt like the elephant in the room. Now, I would say that the lines are reversed and, though the low line creeps up on me sometimes, I’m more the high line that not.
It did make me think I was being dishonest sometimes though and, in a way, I’m not really sure what Emily is any more. Am I the same person? Is the outside bubbly Emily the same one as before? I don’t really know but then we can only look forward, right? There’s no point in looking for an Emily that once existed when I am relatively happy with the Emily I’ve got now.
But I was, and am still, dishonest when it comes to telling someone the reason why I’m not hiking with them or whatever and they’re a new friend so they haven’t realised. I can’t bear when they’re face uncontrollably drops with pity or sorrow – it breaks my heart every time. So instead of saying that it is hard and infuriating – even the smallest things – I laugh it off and say it’s alright. It’s dishonest but it protects them and it protects me from heartbreak. Sometimes I wish I was a bit braver and just cried like I want to but I’m not very good with vulnerability so I’ll carry on smiling.
I don’t want to be pitied though – that is something I despise. I am very proud and stubborn, two things that I don’t think are necessarily vices. My pride and stubbornness have meant that I have been determined to get back to where I was and hence how I am in my room in Manchester typing to you now rather than languishing in my bed in London still. They are the reasons I have gone back to dancing and hiking and will be as good, if not better, than I once was. When anyone asks how I can be so brave in such a situation, I guess to me it’s not bravery. It’s definitely stubbornness and pride. There was never really a question of whether I would go back to ballet, tap, hiking, scrambling and just living normal life. The saying goes “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. Well, I’m not really content with just making lemonade and don’t think anyone should be. I want to make curd or a nice drizzle cake or screw the lemons all together and make the chocolate cake I’ve always dreamed of! And so stubbornness and pride aren’t all that bad – they’ve got me where I am now. Just like that immortal classic ‘Galaxy Quest’ says: “never give up; never give in; never surrender”.
I have learnt – or rather decided – what the meaning of life is and, to me, it isn’t 42 or a divine purpose, it is: “a faff” and “a fudge”. I never really could take the easy and straightforward or easy path and always cherished being different though I do have to admit I may have taken the biscuit here. Life is a major faff that we are all just fudging through. We all just have to adapt to the things that come at us, which I have done rather well if I might say so myself so don’t worry about me too much.
It is hard to think that this is one year on. A lot of it feels like a movie on telly I vaguely remember rather than that it happened to me. Yes, I do feel sad today; I can’t escape that and anyone would. So I’m spending the day cuddled up with Laura on the sofa watching brilliant films and eating takeaway. The memories are dull now though I still feel a bit sorry for myself and especially what I did to my mum. If I can become half the woman she is, that would be the highest compliment I could ever receive. I’ve even remembered Mother’s day this year before it’s passed by which, knowing me, is pretty impressive! I can’t lie and say that I feel happy today though. I hope I’ve amused you with this blog today but I think today I need to be sad for the day. I’ll be back to being happy tomorrow.
Anyway I think I’ve waffled on long enough! I hope I haven’t saddened you – that was certainly not my intention. I just wanted to let you know that I am – and will be – ok. I’m looking forward to the future now. Going to my friend Lucy’s wedding (the first wedding I’ve ever been to), exams and a more karaoke! Stupid 2016 has finished. Now I can focus on graduating and then eventually becoming a doctor whether it’s in 2018 or beyond, it’s not a case of “if” but “when”. Maybe I’ll be an award-winning writer too, hey! I’ve rather enjoyed this blogging and I can only hope you’ve enjoyed reading it. All that’s left to say is thank you for not giving up on me or not letting me give up on myself – I couldn’t have done it without you.