I recently re-read my old diaries (or ‘journals’ if you’re American), from just as I was getting sick, and was shocked to discover how lost and confused I was. I was utterly miserable, sad, raging at the world and my situation. There was also a noticeably marked increase in the use of capital letters and exclamation marks strewn across the pages…
I realised I can’t be alone in these feelings, and that there will be countless others feeling the feelings and overusing the Caps Lock just as I did all those years ago. I decided to write a letter to my pre-diagnosis self. I thought it might be cathartic somehow, like those rituals of ridding yourself of bad juju where you burn photographs of ex-boyfriends and set fire to their homes and cars, that kind of thing.
So here goes:
Dear Kath (aged 24),
This might seem a little bit weird, me writing to you (well, me) like this, but I’m you; from the future. I know, I know, it seems mad right? But I borrowed a TARDIS and blah blah blah whatever works.
Anyway I’m writing to tell you that I know you are having a really hard time right now and that you’re doing just fine. You are sick, angry, sad and everything in-between, but all you are feeling is part of the grieving process. On top of the constant nausea, vomiting, unbearable pain, running to the loo, and the inability to eat/sleep/work, you are also dealing with the loss of your old life. You are stressed about losing everything that is important to you; your relationship, your friends, your job, your dignity. Well I just want to tell you that you won’t. At least not the first 3, the last one is a longer and more trying process.
Stop being so hard on yourself. Stop blaming yourself for this; you didn’t give yourself this disease. Nothing you could have done would have stopped this happening to you. The same goes for your parents; they are not responsible for your illness. I know you don’t blame them, but they might be blaming themselves in some way, so try to reassure them.
You might be focused on the negative stuff right now and that’s understandable – it’s BAD. But you should try, when you’re able, to see beyond this initial horror. Focus when you can on what YOU can do to help yourself. Don’t rage and weep and wail about where you perceive the doctors to be failing, (OK well you can a little but let’s not bankrupt a tissue factory), try and begin to tentatively educate yourself. I promise you it’s not all as scary as it seems. You feel out of your depth and intimidated right now, but trust me, the more you know about your body and this condition the easier it will become. Understanding why you feel the way you do will help you adapt to it. But do be careful not to overload yourself; steer clear of horror-stories and don’t let anyone scare you. It will happen; there is a strange culture of ‘competitive suffering’ within the world of chronic illness so try not to get drawn into that. Focus on your recovery and don’t compare your ‘journey’ [I know you hate that phrase, I do too, this isn’t Pop Idol] with anyone else’s.
As future ‘you’, I really wish I could tell you that life is amazing now, and that you’re magically cured and that Jon Hamm is your husband, but I can’t. I will say that life is certainly better, doctors are still beavering away on that elusive ‘cure’, and Jon Hamm has only taken out 3 restraining orders against me so far.
Look after ourselves,
Love and kittens,
Kath (aged 31 and 11months)