“You know, we’ve spent every day together for a month now. Are you bored of me yet?”
It was said in jest – I still refuse to be clingy with S – but, as always, there was a nugget of truth in my words; a small fear I covered up with a nervous giggle. Since S and I first discussed the possibility of moving in together over a year ago, I’ve worried that spending so much time in each others pockets will cause some sort of breakdown between us – we’re both so used to our own space – but so far it seems to be working. I don’t want to question why it’s going so well, in case I somehow jinx it, and going well it is. I’m still in some sort of weird denial; I keep expecting to wake up tomorrow in the little white bed in my old bedroom, with the sheets covered in loose tobacco and ash, my head fuzzy from co-codamol overdoses. All that feels so far away now, yet too close for comfort. Life doesn’t work this way for me, it never has. It’s never been so good. I don’t think I can be blamed for worrying, can I?
We’re still living in chaos, but it’s a strange, enjoyable sort of chaos. The large hallway of the flat is filled with boxes, as is the living room and temporary bedroom, and the kitchen and bathroom still have no floor coverings. It’s a bit of an awkward situation; we’re renting the flat from a friend’s mother, who lost her father a few months ago. Her mother is in a nursing home with dementia and arthritis. I don’t think she was quite ready for us to move in, or maybe she forgot when we were supposed to be taking over the flat, but the bedroom is still filled with their belongings – paintings, books, old clothes – which is starting to cause a problem. Perhaps I’m overreacting as usual, but it’s frustrating that we can’t move in ‘properly’. I want to unpack, I want to see our belongings together so it all feels real. I want to sleep in the bedroom with the big bay window and built-in wardrobes, instead of a small room which the bed can just about fit in. I want to be able to make this our home. We’ve been here a month, and the bills haven’t even been sorted out yet.
I’m probably the only person in the world who wants to pay bills.
On the whole though, it’s wonderful. I always imagined I’d end up on my own in a cheap bedsit, living off cigarettes and peanut butter from the jar. If I’d stayed in school long enough to have a yearbook – if we even had yearbooks in the UK – under my picture it would have said “most likely to end up alone, eaten by cockroaches”. Honestly, I never believed that life would throw me the lifeline it has. That it would change so dramatically.
On the subject of change, everything has been shaken up on the medical side of things. I saw my GP on the 9th, determined to finally make my point about the way I’ve been treated; or not treated, rather. Moving out has given me the motivation to stand up for myself, if only because I don’t want to burden S with all my problems. Now we live together – I can’t stop repeating that we live together, it’s still so unreal – I can no longer hide all those freak-outs and breakdowns from him, and the last thing I want to do is make him feel like my carer rather than my boyfriend. Living with J taught me just how difficult it is to be constantly bombarded by mental illness, and S doesn’t need my craziness hanging over him. Neither do I.
So I sat, and explained to my GP just how difficult things have been.
“This is probably going to take longer than usual“; and take longer it did. He listened though, and made all the right noises; nodding when I explained how let down I feel by the treatment I’ve received from the specialists I’ve seen recently.
“Physio has been worse than useless, referring me to the Biomechanics Clinic, then when the appointment finally came ’round after being cancelled once and pushed months ahead, they referred me back to physio. Told me to keep doing the exercises on my foot, regardless of how painful it is. Told me there was nothing really wrong except for a bit of tendonitis. I can’t walk. I can’t sleep. It’s the worst pain I’ve ever felt, and I’ve had gallstones. I don’t think I can take the constant backwards and forwarding anymore. I can’t take the tiredness, the lying awake at night wanting to cut my foot off. I’m sick of it all”.
He looked at me. Put his head to the side, and leaned forwards.
“Has the anxiety and depression become worse?“
So it all came flooding out. How I simply can’t cope anymore; with the pain, with the panic attacks, with the hospital visits and disappointment. I can’t pretend that things have been rosy over the past few months; the combination of medical let-downs and moving house has sent me somewhat over the edge. Not enough to truly worry anybody; just enough for me to know that things aren’t working properly. My brain… it had become tired. Cynical. I think I’d given up in many ways.
And I didn’t want that, not when I have this chance to assert my independence and live the way I’ve always needed to. For the first time since I can remember, I have a little potential. Not much, just enough to reassure myself that I do have a place in the world.
“And the fibromyalgia? Joint pain? We need to deal with that too. I’m going to put you on Cymbalta; it’s an antidepressant and works for anxiety much like Cipralex did, but it’s also licensed for nerve pain. Cipralex just doesn’t seem to be working for you anymore. You need to stop taking it, wait two days, then start the Cymbalta. That way there shouldn’t be too much of a gap where you’re without some form of medication for the depression and panic attacks. I’m also giving you Arcoxia, which should be more effective than Celebrex at controlling the pain. Finally, I know you’re tired of referrals but I think you should see orthopedics. I’d have referred you sooner but with your history I thought rheumatology would be more suitable. We’ll do some blood tests, to check for RA again, and see where we go from there. See me again in a month, and we’ll look at how you’re doing on the new tablets.”
I left the surgery with a prescription, an appointment with orthopedics for the end of the month, and a small sense of hope. Of course, it’s not the first time I’ve felt that hope and been let down, so I refuse to get too excited by the possibility of finally seeing some improvement.
I’ve been taking the new meds for six days now. Yesterday I began to feel the real effects of Cymbalta; fuzzy head, dry mouth, misplaced energy, and bizarre dreams. However, I haven’t panicked, and the dark mood has lifted a little. Taking a new antidepressant after years of Cipralex working perfectly is a little scary – I’ve relied on it for so long – but so far everything seems okay. Nausea, but no vomiting. Stomach pains, but not unbearable. Most importantly, the pain has decreased dramatically, to the point where I can now walk without a stick. I’m still stiff, and I still stumble, but I can walk to the shops; a massive improvement.
Living with S is everything I had hoped for, and more. We cook together. He brings me cups of coffee and rolls cigarettes for me when I’m tired. We have a huge leather sofa with a chaise longue. A low Ikea double bed with new sheets and a king-size duvet. A communal garden – currently waterlogged – and neighbours who say hello when I bump into them. We live in a village now; still in the same town, but nicer somehow. Slower. Less stressful. There’s a grocers. A butcher and a fish shop. Spar. A hairdressers and a shop which sells frozen yoghurt with fruit in.
I know we won’t be here forever. Renting is probably our only option for the rest of our lives – we simply can’t afford a house and probably never will – but for the time being, I’m in my own little paradise. A place I can be myself, without pressure to perform and be ‘normal’. Somewhere I can exist without feeling I should always be doing more to be like everyone else. Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that I’m getting on well with my mother. We speak regularly on the phone, and I visit at least once a week. She now agrees that we needed to be apart. That I needed my freedom.
I have freedom.
You don’t know how amazing that feels.