Hi, my name’s Emma, and I’m kind of a hypocrite. No, wait. Scratch that. Definitely a hypocrite.
I’ve not been having a very good week so far. Monday night saw me eating some Co-Op chunky chips for dinner, and Tuesday morning caught me totally off guard by presenting me with… a partial bowel obstruction. From chips. So I spent the day utterly useless, on my bed, writhing in pain, and tearful because – of course! – the one item I’d forgotten to bring back to university was a hot water bottle, that is, the only item that could have helped me.
This morning (Wednesday) I woke up and I thought it was all over. Actually, no, that’s wrong too. I hoped it was over, because I had some academic events to attend, and I really wanted to go! I wanted to meet my academic advisor and coursemates and learn anything about the exciting year I’ll have ahead. So, as bad an idea though it seemed, given that I was at this point severely dehydrated, I got up, got dressed, and made my way over.
Yeah, it didn’t work out. I had to rush away from the queue to get in so that I could find the nearest disabled toilet and vomit some more. Last night it was a torrent of neon green bile and acid, but this morning it was… just the few sips of water I’d had to try and begin the long rehydration process. WHAT. Really? In retrospect, the cold water was probably a massive shock to my long-empty stomach, causing the vomiting, but my brain really wasn’t working at full capacity at this point, and I started to panic. So I did what anyone would do. I sat down and cried for a while, and then I called my parents.
I’m the first person to promote self-care and making sure that we don’t lose our health underneath maintaining our everyday façades. So why is it so difficult for me? Until I am forced, by dehydration and exhaustion, I just do not want to admit defeat. But, I think, it’s far harder to do when we’re alone. As chronic illness sufferers, we want to present the image of a normal, healthy human to the outside world as much as possible. Perhaps too much. So we push ourselves, even when we are sick, even when we are far past the limits where an able-bodied person would take the day off. It’s a difficult habit to shake – we feel obliged to do it, and guilty otherwise. When there’s someone else around – maybe not physically, maybe just on the phone or a Facebook message away – we can receive the comfort and validation that we need from them. A lot of the time, we need confirmation that we absolutely should go and rest. We want reassurance that we are not being unreasonable, or lazy, that it is acceptable for us to go and recover, even though it’s frustrating. Even though we feel like we’re wasting time. But it’s completely necessary in order to not injure ourselves further.
So my parents made the drive down to see me. They brought bottled water, hot water bottles (two!), and the thing I needed most – comfort. I needed a hug. I needed to see them, as much as they needed to see me (if only to evaluate whether they had to put me in the car and drive me to A&E!). I needed my mum to tuck me into my bed and warn me sternly not to eat anything more adventurous than bread and butter until I was certain my stomach had recovered. And, thankfully, I got all of those.
Now I’m lying in bed, typing up this post on my phone. I’ve kept some water and some Lucozade down so far, but I think I’m a while off food just yet. For now, though, I’m not going to think about it too hard. I’m going to try to relax. That seems like a bit of an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Surely relaxation is where you stop trying. But I’m going to do it anyway, and take as many days as I need to recover. Fully, this time. Because it’s not selfish. And even if it was, so what? Everyone else gets to be a little selfish – so let’s give ourselves a break, and put ourselves first for once.