Facing mortality

People seem to think that everything goes back to normal for you after you nearly die. They act like it’s done now, it’s in the past, you’re here and alive and so everything is good, life goes on. ‘I’m so glad you’re ok now!’ they say. Those words echo in my mind – am I ok? Of course life does go on, but everything within it is different, or more so am different. 

‘I’m so glad you’re ok now’. Those words sting right down to my core. I’m here, yes. But am I alright? Am I ok? I’m not so sure I am. 

In March it will be 1 year since I nearly died. I had an ulcer explode in my intestines, causing a huge internal bleed, my organs to nearly shut down, and me to need very sudden, lifesaving, major surgery. 

Outwardly you wouldn’t really know. Apart from a fairly large scar down my stomach hidden beneath my clothes, I suppose I am ok. But everything changed for me that night. My mortality hit me, shattered an innate feeling of comfort and safety, and a trust for my own body that I didn’t even know was within me until it broke. My body failed me, and it was completely out of my power. Or was it? I don’t think I did anything to facilitate it, although maybe I did? 

Did my my mental health cause this? My anxiety, overall heightened stress levels from a young age, is that what caused the ulcers? Should I be trying to never feel anxious?

Was it to do with misusing alcohol and drugs when I was younger? Did I not look after myself well enough? Did I eat the wrong thing, do the wrong thing somewhere down the line? 

Or was it simply that my body just failed me. 

I feel weak. I feel fragile. I feel powerless. I feel so, so tiny. I feel fucking terrified. 

I have to work hard to constantly try to push away all of those questions, my brain wants to fixate so badly on what might have caused it, or what I could do to prevent it, that instead I switch off. I dissociate from those thoughts, because it’s too much. I find myself struggling to take care of myself by doing things like eating healthily etc because somewhere inside I think I subconsciously think fuck it, maybe it is all out of my control. 

Every time I feel a twinge of pain in my stomach a fear floods my body, a fear so different to anything I’ve ever felt. I don’t just deal with questions around how it happened. I deal with the fear of it happening again, and a thousand questions around that. Some of the most difficult questions I face on a daily basis are the ones around my daughter. Horrible, awful thoughts. 

What if it happens again and I can’t move again and can’t get to her?

What if I die and she’s in the house crying with no one to go to her? 

I feel a lump in my throat and a knot in my stomach even writing that. 

What happened to me was one of those one in a million things. It shouldn’t have happened to me, the odds were so in my favour. People my age aren’t supposed to have ulcers that perforate. Statistically I’m a bit of an anomaly. Usually it happens to people who are at least 50. I was 27.

I ask doctors what the odds of it happening to me again are – and they tell me the same thing, it’s one in a million. I find myself wanting to ask healthcare professionals over and over again, searching for someone to tell me somehow that it won’t happen to me again, that there is a zero in a million chance. Because what good is it being told it’s one in a million when you’ve already been that one? 

On top of this, I have to make lifestyle changes to minimise my risk of it reccurring. One of these is not drinking alcohol. I hate to admit it but being told I can’t drink at all actually devastates me. Not being able to just have a couple of glasses of wine and get a bit giddy and giggly with a friend. Never being able to go for a night out again, let my hair down and just have fun. And to sacrifice this because if I do drink I could die? What a shit position to be put in. I feel like I’m mourning for that part of me, for the part of me that was allowed to drink or have a night out, or for the me that at least had that choice. 

My life is different. It doesn’t feel safe, it doesn’t feel comfortable anymore. It feels scary. Living feels scary when you’ve experienced how quickly it can all be taken away.

So yes, I got through it, I survived, but I am not alright. I’m trying to adapt to my new normal, one that I didn’t choose or ever see coming. I’m trying to process the trauma, and manage the fears and questions surrounding it all. Who knows how long it’ll take? I just hope that in time the fear lessens, and I feel a sense of safety again. 

Published by amberb320

A single, working Mum and aspiring writer, trying to navigate a pandemic in Bristol, UK.

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