One of my most frustrating conversations with somebody who wanted to know the affects of my disability and the subsequent medication for it, came a mere two years after my accident and a mere year after my invasive spinal surgery.
The friend who made such an innocent enquiry is known to be pretty forthright, outspoken and all too often overly opinionated the wrong side of a bottle of Merlot, (as he was that evening)- yet was a friend; so when one is feeling as delicate and vulnerable as I was so back then, you naively expect your friends to behave in the unrealisticly perfect and understanding manner in which you dream them to be in your head.
Staying with this friend and his pregnant wife and child in their home, the former mentioned naturally retired to bed early of an evening each night of the holiday, leaving me to mange the Merlot induced banter flying left right and centre between my husband and said 'friend'.
After a rally of particularly harsh, yet hilarious blows, the mood suddenly changed, when after a long pause impregnated by a deep gulp of red, our friend, (who is rarely ever serious or banter-free), asked the much dreaded question at the time of, 'just how are you both? I take it now the operation has been and gone things are improving?'.
Taking our own gulps of dutch courage, Garry and preceded to present the now much practised precis of our journey and current situation.
The news wasn't good to tell and we wondered whether our friend truly really wanted to hear it?- or was he just asking those three little words of 'how are you'; like so many do all over the world everyday and unfortunately so rarely truly mean. Do all of those people actually really want to hear and most importantly deal with the answer given to them?
In this instance I actually believe that our friend was interested and willing to hear a true answer and not the false, 'fine thanks, how are you?: the only trouble was, that our friend was a little tipsy, leading the element of his character that all to often believes himself to have the answer to all things and never be wrong seep out with avengance.
On hearing that, how until this trip, (in which I was only able to be out of bed a couple of hours and unable to leave the house much at all), I had been confined to my bed completely and had been unable to fill my time of convalescence with anything other than watching films and television, he returned our honesty with a quizicle look and a look of disbelief!
'Why? Why? Why?', he drunkenly repeated as I felt the knot tighten in my stomach and the draw to the sanctuary of my bed pull me ever closer.
These words struck deeper than they should have ordinarily; as this was what I believed so many of my less forthright and tipsy friends would have felt and said, if they too had had the courage to do so. 'Why would anyone waste over a year and a half of their lives in which they may be confined to bed, watching television alone?
Why indeed? 'Why not read, learn a language, study a distance learning course or write a diary?'-
these were thoughts being expressed in an extremely animated and agitated manner by my friend, whom I almost felt a hostility from- unexpressed thoughts of- I didn't think you were that lazy, brain dead or stupid!
On reading this at his desk tomorrow morning, I can imagine my husband will shake his head and say that these feelings were probably self-imposed and not at all those acurately being expressed by our friend, but that is truely a hard line to define.
Garry immediately jumped to my defense at our friend's incredulous expressions, stating that it is all a completely unappreciated element of the situation we were living, thanks to the side effects of the strong medication.
Despite our two man attempt to try and explain this, my friend, an extremely bright man who always needs much stimulation himself, ( I can not tell you quite what is job is or the game will be up for many, in terms of keeping anonymity!), he simply couldn't understand how somebody could waste their time in such a manner.
A lover of reading and writing and even studying, (weirdly), myself- as soon as I was told at the beginning of this journey that I would be in bed for a long time; I began to research language courses, distance learning degrees and a making vast lists of books which I had yet had the time to read. If this time in bed was going to be imposed with no other option than to lay there, then I was going to make the most of it and crucially make it count and certainly not waste it!
Never in my wildest dreams did I envisage the truth- that on top of losing my mobility and my life as an air hostess, dancer, runner and swimmer, I would also lose my cognitive function and ability to read, write, use the phone and have any kind of correspondence by email or letter.
Now I properly felt a prisoner of my circumstances, confined to my bed to either stare at the wall or stare at the tele, it frankly didn't make much difference which, as I couldn't even tell you what the programme or film was about by the time the credits had even finished rolling!
I read the same page of a Harry Potter book, again, and again, and again, for two and a half years until my circumstances changed and allowed me the facility to read and write again.,
Even then, it has been a struggle to retrain myself in these diciplines and battle against my morphine which cruely eats away at my concentration daily.
Writing this daily blog more often than not takes me three to four hours at a time and then the following day I am horrified by the amount of grammatical errors and begin to edit it for yet another hour! Life is a perpetual state of confusion and frustration.
I know had I not lived it, I would struggle to understand how somebody could spend two years out of contact with friends and simply confined to one's bed, stripped of a vast amount of one's mental facility and consequently literally staring at four walls- but the truth is, it happens and happens to more people than you realise.
Lack of concerntration and mental faculty, is a MUCH too underestimated and misunderstood element of many people's physical disability's and of course a factor of many people's mental and behavioral disabilities also; which is why I am writing this to you today, so that you may hopefully forward a link to this post to as many people as you can, in the hope that more people can be aware and more empathetic of this difficult and distressing elements of people's disabilities.
As such a keen writer and lover of literature, it has certainly been one of the most difficult things I have had to deal; like being kicked when you are down- having more and more of my loves being ripped from me again and again.
The positive we can gain from a negative here is learning. Learning that this is actually going on for many people behind closed doors and false smiles and learning how to speak of it - e.g., not in a disparaging manner that gives the impression to the person suffering that... surely must be something they could do if they really tried!
That is the sentiment that I feared, (on reflection perhaps with an element of paranoia), that everyone I knew was thinking this unreasonable judgement.
Let us make my two years in bed count now; let us turn this negative into a positive and spread the message far and wide.
Today's Reason to Smile, is a superficial and personal one I'm afraid: no profound statements or inspirational stories to be found here today unfortunately!
Today, 1st September 2011, sees the arrival of Karen Suzanne Reader's new desk! I LOVE it and it is of huge personal significance to me, in testiment that I have had the patience, determination and good fortune to be able to read and write again!
Happy 1st September everybody, have a great day tomorrow- it's a Friday after all so it can't fail to be fabulous can it!
Treasure those things you take for granted. Sweet dreams.