I don’t want this to sound twee, but today I am writing about gratitude. Finding the things in your life to feel grateful for even when everything feels rubbish.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are times when we all need to wallow in that swamp of woe. We need time to feel those feelings and accept them. It is healthy for us to look at the negative stuff going on around us. Sometimes we all just need to have a big cry/scream/shout/snotty tantrum.
Also there are times when we just can’t ‘pull ourselves together’. I have been in that pit of depression where I could barely hold my head up, let alone start searching for the things in my life to be grateful for.
But sometimes, it can really help when we are feeling down and in the shit, to think about the good things in our life.
At the minute, I am still trying to come to terms with the traumatic experience I had during and after my last surgery in February. And it is easy for me to slide further and further into the quicksand of despair. I find myself instantly taken back to certain moments around my recovery and the panic hits me. I put on a nightie and all of a sudden I was in the moment of wearing that nightie and having an NG tube pushed down my nose and throat. I swear I could feel it and my chest tightened and I couldn’t breathe. I burst into tears. All because of that nightie.
I sat up in bed in the middle of the night last night and I just was back in the moment where I was vomiting litres of bile and my kidneys were shutting down. I thought I was going to die and all I could think was about the kids not having to see my dead body in the house. And I am there. I have time travelled back to that point. It is terrifying.
So I have been trying to avoid thinking about it. To not remember being in hospital. Because it is scary and it hurts. I mean, it’s not working! I have no control over these memories that pop into my head just to scare the pants off me.
So instead I am trying to remember the good bits. As small as those bits were, they were there. And it was all about the people around me.
My friend Hannah came to visit me in hospital, we have been friends for almost 30 years. She had heard that I was upset that my hair was dirty. I’d not really been able to wash properly, I had bed baths but couldn’t wash my hair. She came to see me and helped me to have a bath. She washed my hair like I was a child. I was so vulnerable and weak, I couldn’t do anything for myself. Weirdly, now I think about how laid bare I was, but she didn’t make me feel embarrassed. It was so loving and sensitive. I am truly grateful to her for being there for me in such a time of need.
I am grateful to my friend Caroline who visited me at my lowest and my worst. Who allowed me to cry and tell her my fears without judgement. She held my hand and let me be. She has been there through every surgery, every recovery and every time has kept me going. She has seen the worst of me and still loves me. She is my soul mate.
I am grateful to Sarah who not only has looked after me, but after my family. She cleaned the house, cooked meals for the family and took the kids out to take their minds of it. She visited me in hospital and at home and has been so kind, patient and hilarious. It meant the world for her to be thinking of Timm and the kids in a time where I didn’t have the energy to. She came and just laid in bed with me when I came home. No expectations, not a guest just a friend to be there.
I am grateful to Tania who came to see me in hospital and remembered that what we all need the most is human touch. She came and massaged my hands and arms, not put off by the tubes and wires that were everywhere. She reconnected me to life, to the world by massaging my skin and holding my hands. She went through meditations and breathing with me, teaching me to visualise my pain and fear.
I am grateful to my sister Lisa who lives in Australia and called me, messaged me every day. She had to deal with the stress of knowing how unwell I was and being so far away. There were so many days where I was so ill, so out of it that I couldn’t speak to her or reply and I know how tough that must have been. But knowing she was there and her constant love made all the difference.
I am grateful to all my WhatsApp crew, there was a WhatsApp group of loved ones who sent messages from all over the world. Who made me laugh, who cared, who were really inappropriate (!) and who made a network of support that I am truly grateful for. I feel lucky to have so many amazing people around me, thank you to every person who visited me, who sent me a message, a phone call, a card. Thanks to my aunties and uncle who came to see me in hospital.
I can’t name every person, but there are so many loving friends and family members who visited, called me or sent messages. And to each and every one, I thank you more than you’ll ever know.
And of course to my husband Timm. I don’t even know what to write. I had nothing and he was there. I was at the bottom, I had nothing left to give and I clung to him, begging him not to leave my side. He sat for hours every day next to my bed. Arriving at 8am and leaving at 8pm. Most of the time I was asleep or crying. He took it all in his stride.
He was there for the tubes going in and out, held my hand through scans and cannulas. He wasn’t put out by the tubes in my nose, the bags of bile, the vomiting, the poo, the central lines. He just quietly held my hand, kissed my head and told me it was all going to be ok.
When I was so weak, when my kidneys were failing and I couldn’t sit up, let alone stand. When I was barely conscious. When they told us it was serious. When I thought I was going to die. He was there. Every moment.
It has been so hard to write all this down. To go back over scary and traumatic memories. But in each moment, I am concentrating not on the horror. But on the person who was there with me.
They say in the toughest of times, you find out who is on your side. And man, I have the best side going.
So I will focus on my gratitude. On the people around me who have held me up, kept me going and loved me. To my friends who have been there at the worst of times. I have had a tough time but my god, I am so lucky.
Sometimes, people ask me how I cope. How do I deal with having been ill for so long, with having so many surgeries. And to them I say it is because I have the best support system in the world. And for that, I am truly grateful.
Peace and love