Last Thursday, I woke up to two unwelcome sounds; my alarm (obvs) and the smugly gentle pitter-patter of rain on the window. I got up, made what turned out to be poor shoe choices and walked through the rain to the hospital, where I had a 10am appointment to start a new infusion treatment for my ulcerative colitis. There was some confusion when I arrived on the ward about whether I was supposed to be there, but when this was resolved I was set up on a chair next to one of those wheely, medication-hanger thingies (technical term). Considerably less welcome was the news that my boyfriend wasn’t going to be able to sit with me for what I’d been told would be a four-hour appointment, but instead was to be banished to a waiting room down the corridor (from which he could presumably have hollered reassurances if he’d been so inclined). So I spent two hours sitting alone with a needle in my arm, quietly hoping I wasn’t about to have a massive allergic reaction to the drug being pumped into my blood stream. Then another half hour getting ‘flushed’ (actually a technical term) with saline, and two more hours sitting around whilst the hospital staff confirmed that I definitely WASN’T going to have a massive allergic reaction. Thankfully Pete was able to sit with me for some of this but had to leave early due to bad Tesco delivery timing, thus scuppering the mental plans I’d been making literally all day for a conciliatory Subway lunch. Once I was finally freed, I had to go home and do all the flat-tidying I’d neglected for weeks, as the following day five friends were arriving at my flat for the weekend to attend a wedding. After a couple of hours of bed-making, kitchen-wiping, bath-scrubbing and ‘sod it, I can’t be arsed to hoover’-ing, I collapsed into bed.
THIS Thursday, I got up and had a non-rainy walk into work. I treated myself to a bacon sandwich and spent the day trickling through odd jobs and bits of stuff in the fairly quiet office. I went home and made a tasty dinner with Pete, watched a couple of episodes of an old favourite TV show, and scrolled through pointless crap on my phone until it was time for bed.
On one of these days I was cheerful and upbeat, making jokes to my friends on WhatsApp, laughing, chatting and generally feeling pretty good about myself. On the other I was riddled with unshakeable grumpiness, felt thoroughly victimised by the universe in general and so totally, unjustifiably sorry for myself that I’m sure I was nothing short of horrible to be around (sorry Pete).
I’m sure you’ve guessed that the point of this blog post is that these days and these moods did not exactly align.
I spent a long time during the second – perfectly normal and also inexplicably horrible – Thursday wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Was it hormones? The Pill? A side effect of some of the other many and varied drugs I’m on? PMS? Am I just an unpleasantly moody person?
And why couldn’t I shake it off? I spent the whole day feeling as though my own head was a party I hadn’t wanted to go to, full of people who were being awful to me – and you can’t just get up and walk out of your own mind. The longer the Epic Bad Mood lasted, the more annoyed I was at my own inability to get rid of it, which put me in a worse mood, which made me more annoyed…
Over the course of the last couple of years I’ve been told several times and by several different people that I seem to cope with my ulcerative colitis quite well. I’ve always been surprised by these comments, and usually respond by sort of smiling serenely (whilst remembering a time I hysterically threw a pill bottle full-force across the room because I couldn’t open the friggin child lock). But you know what? I do cope with my colitis pretty bloody well. Diagnosis, colonoscopies, medication changes, horrible side effects, lack of progress, false hope and enemas galore have all been met with relatively quiet acceptance, a few jokes, brushed-aside concerns and only the occasional meltdown in more private settings.
So why can’t I cope with what, essentially, amounts to getting up on the wrong side of bed? Why can I soldier on with minimal complaint with a dysfunctional bowel, and be reduced to a blibbering mess just because I feel a bit out of sync with the world today?
Well, I don’t really have an answer. Partly, I think it’s down to a hatred of the abstract. My IBD is a concrete, definable problem – whatever drama it throws up is quantifiable and solvable, one way or another. I understand what’s wrong, and even if I don’t know how to fix it myself I can call someone who does. But on a bad day, in a bad mood there’s no reason which means there’s no cure. I can’t solve a problem I don’t understand. There’s also the frustration of knowing I’m making a pathetic mountain out of a molehill; the anger at myself for being such a weiner. Whereas with IBD, I’ve often felt quietly proud of myself just for getting through this day, or that appointment, or managing to go through the half-hour medication rigmarole at bedtime even though I just could not be arsed.
So I think my point (and I sort of lost it myself there…) is that with many things – but especially with health – the scale of a problem will not necessarily measure up to the scale of your reaction. And I think (hope) that’s just human nature. So I’m going to try not to beat myself up about it next time – because even though I found myself throwing a half-hour tantrum because the cinema screening I wanted to go to was full, I have also had several feet of metal camera shoved up my bum, and not cried. I reckon that balances out.