Peace, it’s such a simple word, yet it has so many meanings, some so personal, they hurt. I can already hear the questions, how can peace be painful, oh, it can, it really can. To someone like me, someone who knows nothing about war, in the traditional meaning of the word, other than second hand, I believe we have to personalise it to get anywhere near being able to understand it. My war, the only one I have ever fought, or been part of, is simply the war to live. I know life shouldn’t be a battleground, but I didn’t choose mine, unlike those who once mounted horses, or climbed into a tank, I couldn’t choose to be a warrior or simply a foot soldier or even a pacifist, as my battleground is me. I don’t believe, that even the strongest warrior ever actually chose to go to war, they simply do the only thing they can, they fight.
My fight started so long ago that I don’t honestly know what triggered it, but I do remember the day. I was in what our school called Kindergarten, year 2, I had reached the grand old age of 6 and I wholeheartedly believed, that the underside of a road roller was preferable to life. The girls of my year were taunting me. I’m not saying that girls are more spiteful than boys, at that point, I didn’t know, as it was an all girls school. They were taunting me, for what, I don’t know, I sat on the wall watching the roller trundling up the hill. The words just came out, “I’m going to kill myself, I’m going to lie down in front of that roller”, they taunted me even more, so I did what all confused children did, I started to cry and I ran inside. Although I remember a teacher following me into the toilets, where I locked myself in a cubical, I don’t remember what followed, outside of my head. Did I want to die, no, I just didn’t want to live, they’re two very different things. I mention this now, only to give you a start point, as to where my personal war began.
From 6 to 28, it is fair to say that my life continued to flip, from either not wanting to live, to actually wanting to die, broken with bright spots of happiness, but never more than spots. That’s why I have always found my health somewhat ironic, as it threw itself full force at me, in the first elongated happiness, I had ever had. I had had two years of bliss from the day I met Adam to the date they told us that my fears were correct, I wasn’t well and I was facing yet another battle, another war, far bigger than I ever imagined my health had brewing inside me. So surely, peace, a complete cure, it must sound like the most wonderful thing possible. To have that chance of rediscovering that bliss, to take back that happiness and have a life worth living, it must be my ultimate dream. To an outsider, I can understand that, but to me, the idea I might one day be cured, no matter what it might ultimately bring, what terrifies me, is all that would lie in between.
When a war ends, to those who have never lived through one, we have this idealised picture of people just picking up their lives as though nothing has happened. That couldn’t be further from the truth if we tried. At the end of a war, there is devastation, not just of buildings, but of lives and families, they all need to heal and be rebuilt. Becoming well again, after so many years of anything but, would be like waking up in the middle of Berlin at the end of world war two, but totally alone, with a city to rebuild, by yourself. Around me right now, there is a support network, I may not choose to use it yet, but I know it is there when the time comes. If I were to wake up tomorrow totally healed, that network would be gone, other than Adam, I would be on my own. How on earth, do you go from where I am now, back into normality? It’s easy to say, well you get dressed and you go and get a job. It’s easy to say, but it would be so difficult, that I wouldn’t know where to start. I haven’t put a single foot outside this house alone, in 8 years. From the little, and it is very little, that I have seen from an ambulance being taken back and forwards to hospital appointments, there has been so much change out there, that I hardly recognise the place I call home. In just a hundred yards from my front door, the shops that were once there are all gone or changed, the gap, that was once at the end of our terrace, has a completely new three story block of flats in it, and the people who lived around us, have all changed. That’s within feet of my front door, what will have happened in the next 100 yards, and the one that follows that? The city I once knew, how much of it is still there? Eight years is a long time in the life of a city, and finding a job, in a city where not one of the networks I once knew and would have used, have all vanished. Outside of my front door is an alien planet.
If you haven’t worked for 8 years, how do you go about getting a job? With no current work history, and in my 50’s, my chance of anything in the role I once knew is zero. I have missed 8 years of advancement of the technology required, I would have less knowledge of how to go about it, than a school leaver, who wouldn’t be considered either. If I were 10 or 20 years younger, then maybe, I could find a way. Retraining would make both mental and financial sense, but with just 10 working years left, who would pay for it? As for getting through an interview, well that’s a nightmare I haven’t even thought of for over 20 years. I doubt I would have the conversational skills, let alone the confidence required to master that one. When you are cocooned in your own world, the one out there, unlike yours, doesn’t stand still and how you reenter it, I quite honestly don’t know. Remember, that at this point, I am financially aided by the state to live, it’s not much, but it keeps the wolf from the door. If I were suddenly well, that would end, the pressure to work would be unbelievable. Without the required confidence alone, my chances would be nil, with the rest of it, it gets even lower.
When you become ill, friends disappear, I haven’t even held a conversation on a one to one basis, with anyone other than Adam and my daughter. Family don’t expect social skills, strangers do. I am used to being able to sit in my own world and do and say whatever I want. Could I honestly hold my own out there? Would I even fully understand what some are even speaking about, as trust me, I struggle when I watch TV to follow at times, nothing to do with my brain, but to do with changing words, fashions, and acceptability. In 8 years, it’s not just the world, but people change. Watch a movie from 10 years ago and tell me in all honesty, that it doesn’t look and sound dated, well that’s the outside world I last saw, that I was a part of, and right now, I’m still there. The second I was well, I would be pitched into the middle of a world I don’t know, understand, or have the first idea, how I could begin to build a new life in. I’m not agoraphobic, but when you put all of the above together, the whole idea of walking down those stairs and to be in the open is more than just daunting. Even more so, the idea that I could be surrounded by people. Even when I have been to the hospital, I don’t think I have been in close quarters to more than a handful. I don’t know if I could cope with a busy city center, or even going as far as the shops at the top of the hill. I was never great in crowds, unless, I was controlling them, as in when I was a DJ. Even now, just sitting here thinking about it, I don’t think I could be happy out there, with so many people around me. I suppose I would get used to it in time, but I wouldn’t have time, I’d have to go today.
When a soldier returns from war, he is supported back into life by his regiment. If he is wounded, he is cared for, rehabilitated and slowly reintroduced to life. If you get well, your war and the damage it has done to you, psychologically, or physically, is ignored, you’re just turfed back into life. What more do you want, we’ve made you well, get on with it. They don’t even bother to pat you on your head, as a parent would a child, they just chuck you into the world, sink or swim right into the middle of another war. My health will never be cured, unless by a miracle. They might find a cure, but the damage is done, my body would be caught in time, well where I am, no more getting worse, but not better either. That’s not true for some, some will be ill for years, but eventually cured, I don’t envy them at all. I expect it’s fair to say, that the longer we have been ill, the longer we are housebound, the harder it will get. But there is one other element that would change everything, the fact that we are used to this life. This is now our own personal comfort zone, they way we live, the way life is, to throw it all up in the air and to have to once again, start all over, well, even with renewed energy levels, I think it would really, really hard. I guess there really is a point, even with health, that the saying “Better the devil you know”, starts to be true.
Please read my blog from 2 years ago today – 15/12/2013 – Little problems, little choice
I seem to still be paying for my exertions although I did actually sleep last night, it was nice not to be woken over and over again just because there was no way of finding comfort. I know my mind was racing, but I think…..