Red lights


This blog piece was influenced by ‘Red light’ by Baby Queens. They have a beautiful harmony, I encourage you to listen as you read. Chronic Illness can leave many feeling as though you are stuck in the slow lane in life. I know that I am not alone with feeling these sentiments.

With love and light x

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

‘An optimist is a person who sees a green light everywhere. While a pessimist sees only the red stoplight. The truly wise person is colour blind’.
-Albert Schweitzer

driving no

Red.

Intersections aren’t my kind of thing. If you were to ask anyone who has ever had the misfortune of being in the car with me, they would say that driving in general is actually not my thing. One day I was driving my younger brother to school and I asked ‘Am I good to go?’ as I waited for him to give me the all clear from his side to pull out of a carpark.

Fun fact; ‘No’ sounds a lot like ‘Go’.

I used to only see green, to the point where with hindsight, I am able to recognise that it was to my detriment. Of course, had you told me this at the time I would have snapped at you that I would show you wrong. Doctors, family, my lecturers. I was going to be a nurse, and over my dead body would I do anything else.

It took two years, until my clinical placement teacher sat me down and told me that if I continued, it truly would be over my dead body. In the space of an hour I transitioned from indignation to anger, to being downright offended. Finally my face cracked in two and I sobbed into the folds of her shirt as I realised she had made the decision for me that I could not make for myself.

I was too sick to be a nurse. And I had no idea how to be anything else.

Right now, while I purchase second year psychological science textbooks, my friend’s who I initially began Uni with are purchasing their uniforms for the designated hospitals where they will be beginning their grad year. As they begin their careers, as they cannulate, intubate and consummate their knowledge, I will be walking late into class and listening to students raise their hands as they asked ‘So like, referencing is like, compulsory yeah?’.

I am angry. I am angry that my parents decided to fuck one night twenty three years ago. I am angry that my DNA fucked me over. I am angry that most nights, I am too sick to fuck at all.

But anger is like a red light; It kinda stops you from going anywhere.

Orange.

reading hospital

Go to class. Spit up in the sink on the way. Avert your eyes, pretend that the other girls didn’t see. Pretend that you can’t taste the thick of your lungs upon your tongue. Apologise to your tutor for being late once more, and mumble something about there being too many fucking stairs. Pretend that you can’t feel the heat of the stares as they catch sight of the bruises along your inner arm. Tell them that drugs are a poor choice, and take your seat when they mistake joke for truth.

Watch as they raise their own perfectly unblemished arms and make intelligent comments about attachment theories and Bowlby’s monkeys. Submit yet another request for extension on an assignment and feel the shame creep across your collarbones. Look into the eyes of your lecturers and speak too quickly and too much about how you aren’t stupid, it’s just hospital and vomit and codeine and you’re talking too much and now it’s awkward and oh fuck. Feel as they touch your arm and tell you it’s okay, to look after yourself.

And the truth of the matter is that it’s expected that you know how to look after yourself when even your DNA doesn’t know.

When the stars hang limply in the sky, your friend’s ask you to go clubbing and you mumble excuses about having other plans. It’s less shameful than admitting you will spend the next ten minutes sitting in your car working out how to drive home, let alone rub your breasts against the flesh of another thick by cigarette smoke. Finally you make it home and your Mum spoons chicken and tablets into your mouth, sometimes metaphorically, sometimes literally. A bucket and laptop will rest swaddled in your lap, and you will frantically reference and spit out another sentence.

And you continue to wait.

green eyes

Green.

My eyes are green. Google will tell you that it is the rarest eye colour on the planet. My family will tell you that they change colour in the sunlight. Lovers will tell you that they change colour when I cry. But regardless of how you look at it, they are a spectrum of green. Green is my homebase, my grounding breath.

When all is said and done, green works for me.

I am in my fourth year of Uni, and only my second year of Psych. My HECS debt will be greater than my burden of disease, and when a graduation cap sits upon my skull, my friend’s will already have established their careers. This isn’t what I ever asked for, it isn’t what I signed up for. I thought I was meant to be doing greater things than this. But when you have a Chronic Illness, your flesh has other ideas in mind. You are forced to be colour blind, and time has a sense of it’s own. Someone recently said to me ‘You know, I have always wanted to be a clock. I am always running late for something. But imagine if I was time?’. If I had a choice, I wouldn’t be a clock. I wouldn’t be in a rush, and I wouldn’t be time. I just wouldn’t be sick, that’s all.

Three mornings ago I dragged myself to four hours of class at 8.30 in the morning despite being up sick all night while my Golden retriever moaned in protest at my own moans and retches. I cradled a tea in my palms in a lecture theatre, limbs folded unto themselves. Did you know that women are most likely to be murdered when pregnant or shortly after giving birth? And did you know that psychologists are now beginning to recognise a new stage of development, ‘Emerging Adulthood’? And did you know that there was a guy in my class who got his head stuck in a cake tin until he was freed with tin snips?

I know this now. I know this because I am eager and wanton, begging for more. More books, more essays, more words plaited around my skull. Answer my questions with more questions. After four hours I drove home and fell into my parents bed, too exhausted to walk to my own. Later I drove to hospital and sat in the office of my professor. I listened to him tell me that he wished he could cure me, and that one day maybe a cure will be found. He smiled as he listened to my heart, and I shed a tear as I learnt in the waiting room that another woman living with Marfan’s had died just as I continued to live.

And then I studied some more. Finally, after four years, or perhaps twenty three, depending on how you look at it; I have come home. I am where I am meant to be.

Maybe I need to be colour blind. Maybe it would hurt a little less at every red and orange light, and every slammed brake at intersections (My brother would be inclined to agree).  Perhaps it would make my bones wiser if they were merely ossification and not technicolour.

But truth be known, I really like green. 

It’s a good colour on me.

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One thought on “Red lights

  1. Jess, nobody ever signs up for chronic illness.
    I was chronically ill for several years but for me it was kidney disease.
    y kidneys never grew as I grew but at the age of 10 years and 3 months I had a kidney transplant after hearing how all would be great once I’d had it.

    Well, to cut a long story short it was far from great.
    It was catching eve3ry cold and stomach bug known to man and constantly being off school sick.

    The time off school even continued even after I lost the kidney because 3 days a week I was connected to a dialysis machine to clenze the blod of inpurities and then 3 hours, 4 hours, then finally 4 and a half hours later the blood would be returned to my body.

    This in itself was physically and emotionally exhausting so I really had no control about being late to school or not turning up at all.

    I was in hospital 3 times in the one year and many times I wished I was dead instead of having to go through this ill health rollercoaster.
    To put it bluntly, the dialysis unit where I live wasn’t the most appropriate environment for a child around other adults who were sicker than I was and often died from other illnesses.

    Anyway, 5 years out of a second kidney transplant and I couldn’t be more healthy.
    Life is good and I barely complain.

    Kyle.

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