How did this become my life?
September 5th, 2014 was the worst day of my professional life, throwing the rest of my life into complete chaos. My husband, Paul, has been a rock throughout as I worked tirelessly to fix what was happening – but I just couldn’t hold it together. A UK political move shut down 74 businesses in our industry, the company I had built over the last 5 years like a child being one of them.
If I had done something wrong, if my business model had failed. If I had been what they accused us of, if I had faltered in some way – I could understand. I could accept it. I could move forward and learn from it. But what is there to learn when you have been literally persecuted? That you are not welcome, that your contributions are meaningless. Your achievements hold no value.
I had responsibilities. I couldn’t walk away – though everyone else has done. Of all those affected, only a handful still stood to brace after the shock and dutifully clean up the debris. My life was thrown into taking care of everyone and everything. Where others had bolted their doors and abandoned their students and staff, we stayed. I stayed. I spent weeks arriving at the office and holding my breath on the street outside of the door, pulling up resilience from the ground around me to walk in and fix everything for everyone. I didn’t turn away a single student, a single client, a single staff or colleague that needed my advice, directions, instructions, support or reassurance.
But what they didn’t see was that I was weak. I didn’t have all the answers – though I did everything I could to find them. I even made answers, moving mountains to pull together the seemingly impossible to try to save even one, even just a few, from the fallout that the government had imposed upon these hundreds of innocent people. And I couldn’t say anything. There was no remedy – there was no justice. There was nothing to rally for or rail against. It was blind, crushing acceptance that everything I had worked for, everything I had come to the United Kingdom for, was over in one fell swoop that had absolutely nothing to do with me or what I had built from nothing.
And so I threw myself into a headlong rush to fix everyone. My door stayed open, though nobody knew how much I had to force myself into the building each morning, and how hard it was to force myself to leave each night as there was still so much to do, so much to fix. I was finding my staff new jobs, new positions, new companies – I wanted to leave no one abandoned and on their own. I felt like I was trying to re-home cats outside a Walmart at some points with my staff and students, wondering why this all had fallen to me, and how I could still keep any ounce of pride in having failed all of them.
I had taken care of everyone and everything – but I hadn’t taken care of me.
It was nearly over, all of the arrangements had been made and the final steps were all fully in place. It was done.
It was then, last week, that I hit my breaking point – and I tried to walk away. For the first time in my life, I tried to walk away from a 13 year career that I lived for.
And then I fell.
I woke up on Wednesday morning with an all-too familiar excruciating pain on the right side of my face. It was a ripping, electric sensation of my face and neck being torn open. I was disorientated and couldn’t raise myself up out of bed, even to help my girls with their hair. I didn’t realize the extent of my returned Bell’s Palsy until I tried to eat the cereal that Paul had brought up for me in bed – which ended nicely for the dog as he got to clean up my sheets.
But I didn’t listen to my husband, who knows me and my condition so much better than I do. I insisted on going to work – there was still so much to do, and that morning held a critical meeting that meant the stability of my remaining employees for the remaining month that they needed. And so he drove me to Central London while I cried and clutched a bag of frozen peas to my face – though I appeased him by calling the hospital infusion clinic to tell them what was happening.
They told me to come in as soon as I could, and I promised to do so after my meeting. It would be a 2 hour steroid infusion, max. Nothing to worry about.
But I arrived at the infusion clinic on Wednesday afternoon, and I’ve been here ever since. It’s now Saturday – and my best friend in the world arrives tomorrow morning for 3 days. And I am stuck here. The doctors won’t let me go. Paul won’t let me go. My friends won’t let me go. See, along with the Bells Palsy that won’t heal, I’ve developed a new symptom – a feeling that I am shaking and vibrating. Like tremors that nobody else can feel. The doctor tells me that it is a sign that further neurological damage is occurring, and they need to keep me to determine if this is the start or the end of the flare. They don’t even know what to do as I’ve already been pumped full of the max dose of steroids to treat this.
I have to admit, my denial is starting to falter.
I don’t even know why I’m writing this – this isn’t my style. This is a bit too raw for me. It’s like a part of me is feeling that if I accept why this happened that I could then hit a turning point and heal from it.
At least, I want that to happen.
But yet despite whatever landed me in here, I’m still me. I still attract disaster and I still want to get the hell out of here so I can get on with my life. It’s like a forced vacation in here but with a roommate that craps herself, is terribly racist and keeps telling me she thinks I look like I have cancer. So I’ve been keeping myself busy making a rap video (The Bells Palsy Rap), which actually takes freaking HOURS to do and is not easy – as I was told off by a nurse for being too loud and had to whisper through it from behind closed curtains. I even brought my laptop into the bathroom to film in there for a scene but it just came out looking too weird and inappropriate.
So I resorted to the usual ways I amuse myself during hospital stays. I played the ‘how long can I hold my pee’ game. I brushed my teeth with great bravado, playing the ‘how many public sinks on the ward can I brush my teeth in until the nurses catch on’ game (12). I had full conversations with one of my insane roommates about how I look like I probably have cancer, and that even though she can see how painful, terrifying and debilitating my condition is, at least I don’t have a thyroid condition – because her sister had one and it was awful.
And yet despite all that I have been through and written about in hospital over the last 3 years, I find myself staring up at the ceiling from my hospital bed, surrounded by blue paper curtains and wondering. The nurse presses her lips together in concentration as she places electric receptors at my ankles, wrists and chest – hooking me up to an EKG. The hundredth EKG of my life since that first lightning strike so long ago. Light breaks through the paper curtains, a second nurse arrives for more tests. Once afraid and questioning, I continue to stare blankly ahead as he takes my hand, sanitizes my finger and roughly pricks it to bleed for a sugar reading. Until I felt the sharp strike I didn’t even know what test it was going to be. I didn’t care. It didn’t go deep enough, and the other hand had to be used a second time. I barely register what is happening, like it’s all happening to someone else.
And yet despite all of this familiarity, I stare at the ceiling and cannot help but wonder….
When did this become my life?
With all the finger pricks I’m also now wondering what Paul can do to get the blood off my laptop keyboard.