Content Warning: This article contains references to suicidal thought and other mental health issues. Please be aware before reading. This series also contains to-the-point references to a chronic bowel illness.
Most of us have been in hospital at one point. Whether we were fresh out of the womb, breaking a bone in a game of five-a-side, or holding the hair back of your fresher’s friends who couldn’t predict the wrath of the Student’s Union. Everyone has a story.
I had dabbled in A&E like it was a new hobby I’d picked up but didn’t really like. Little scrapes and burns here and there, nothing to write home about. In 2019, I was admitted to hospital three separate times for my Ulcerative Colitis. First time was one week, the second time was two, and in November I almost made it to Christmas (okay, about 10 days ahead). Some people can manage being in hospital just fine. I’m sure there’s something to enjoy about not having to think about any meals or meds, and just lying down and being looked after. I can see the appeal, but when it was my turn, it was a whole new level of twisted hell.
I loved my nurses and HCAs, I loved people visiting, I loved my midday naps. I didn’t love being ill, having my body pumped with meds that sparked huge body image issues, the doctors who lied and made me cry every morning, a constant string of invasive tests, feeling trapped every day when they said I had to stay for longer. Each hospital stay got progressively worse, until November 2019, when I had what can only be described as a total nervous breakdown in the hospital bed as I felt it all so immensely; I was living with this shit forever, it was never going to let up and leave me alone. I would never be at peace again. From a typically depressive but mostly carefree individual, I became an anxiety-ridden flight risk. I stopped sleeping. My dad held me through the days, unsure what to do, as I would scream and sob until my lungs were sore. I told him I just wanted it all to be over, forever. I repeated what his own dying father had said to him years before: if I could jump out of this window right now and die then I would. Shame I was on the ground floor.
It may seem quite sudden. I got diagnosed with a chronic illness, and after being in hospital I just randomly became suicidal. Truth is, so much shit built up to those moments at the end of 2019. The other hospital stays included; I discharged myself in August after I couldn’t bear it anymore. It felt like a hydraulic press on my already-fragile brain, yet my body kept failing and putting me through it again. Some people have Colitis and it doesn’t bother them too much. Doctors kept making the point clear for how my illness was presenting itself: “Severe case”, “Worst I’ve seen in years”, “Surgery imminent”. It was just too much.
I don’t have the worst chronic disease in the world. I don’t have the best. The point is, it made shit hard. I missed weeks of lectures. When I came back, I was never really myself again. Saying “I was in hospital” feels so flippant now, but it carries so much weight with it. My ‘normal’ had been completely ruined, and I didn’t know what world I was in or who I was anymore. I tried to find my feet, but the world had gone on without me and I didn’t know where I stood anymore. Everyone else’s lives had carried on and I was far behind, even though I looked like I was still running alongside them.
Maybe my friends and family will say I talk about hospital too much. They’re right. It’s just one of those things I can’t quite let go of yet. I don’t know who I am without it anymore. I don’t mean to be pessimistic. I’m hopeful that one day, it’ll be a distant memory. Unfortunately, having a chronic illness implies that hospital will always play a big part in my life. I’m afraid of it and I’m scarred from it. I wish it had never happened to me. I’m not quite ready to even accept it. It’s okay if you can’t let go of something yet. It’s okay to feel your feelings, let them swallow you up for a bit. Just make sure you come up for air sometimes.
Photo by Daan Stevens