Parts of recovery I expected. I knew I’d get to the point where I’d be able to walk far enough away that I wouldn’t be able to see my house. I knew the day would come where I’d be able to use public transport again. That I’d be able to walk around a shop, or stand in a queue at a bank. No details, just tasks to tick off a list.
One thing I never expected was to be able to enjoy being around people again. I really thought I’d never get there. I remember reaching the stage where I could sit up in my wheelchair so my mum could take me out on errands with her. I’d been away from people for so long that it was distressing hearing and seeing so many in one place. Then there would be the way strangers reacted to me, seemingly managing to stare at me whilst totally ignoring me in conversations that were conducted far above my own head height.
Worst of all was the reaction I’d get from people I knew. People who had known me for years. The horror on their faces at the state of me. 6.5 stone and being pushed around in a chair I could barely stay upright in by my tiny mother who I’d towered over for years. They were mortified. I was mortified. Nothing good ever came of any of the exchanges. It just shut me down further.
Then there was the point I could walk, badly, and I was scared, incredibly. So I’d try and conduct conversations whilst grabbing onto things to steady myself and stay upright. Shaking violently, my body, my voice, I sounded and looked like an old lady. Again the reactions I got were never good. Again it just made me retreat further.
So I just stopped speaking to people. The only person I would talk to was my mum, she was the only one I trusted. I persevered and got good enough at walking that I looked normal, and just stayed as quiet as life would allow me.
I watched though. You get a lot of opportunities to people-watch when you have to spend time sitting down and resting between walks. I’d see girls my age just sitting around in groups, laughing, chatting, just being totally relaxed, it looked great but I knew it was over and never going to happen for me.
Then I began to realise I could talk to children with no problems. Children don’t notice if you are different. They either like you or they don’t. So l would hold conversations with a 3 year old no problem…and slowly progressed from there.
Life went on, l was now well enough to do the Bare Minimum. I’d go to work, l’d keep it together most of the time by pretending to be normal, then I’d go home. I’d exist. I wouldn’t socialise at all, it was too hard, and I was done with everything being too hard.
After living like this for far too long I realised it had to be worth the trauma of speaking to people socially just so l wouldn’t be alone anymore. I knew I’d never be very good company but at least I’d not be existing entirely in solitude. So I would go meet friends one at a time, for an hour. And it was dreadful, I was as panicked and uncomfortable as I had been since the first day I left the house. Some weeks I gave up and went back to solitary living. But most weeks I did ok. I did that for a year.
Then one day it was just ok.
It really was that Simple. One day I just had a conversation with a stranger that I really enjoyed. So much so I didn’t care if I was shaking or my voice was shaky or if I could stand up that long. It was beautiful. It was life affirming. I’d finally got there. I’d fallen in love with people again.
From that moment on the love affair has gotten stronger and deeper. I appreciate every exchange I have with every person I meet. It never goes away. The enjoyment factor is indescribable. the glass partition I felt separating me from life finally lifted. It was worth every second.
It’s been the best thing that’s ever happened to me. My life completely changed because of it. I feel more love than I ever thought possible. I’m better with people than I ever was before my Life After began. It’s a blessing and a relief I am eternally thankful for. To be with someone and be able to connect with them and feel a part of the world and be ready for it is like being in love with the entire world.
I spend a lot of my conversations with people just saying thank you in my head. Thank you for saving me. Thank you for bringing me out of the darkness. Thank you for letting me love like this. Because that’s what every conversation is for me now. That’s what every single person does.