quote - final mystery oneself

After The Terror.

[ Note to my friends list: you guys already know all about this, but I wanted to write this anyway - and then be able to link to it for someone I know who also has HA. Feel free to ignore. ]

I had the eye test at home.

I always do. My back condition is so severe that I have no choice. The chairs at the opticians are beyond me; they alter my results as I am in so much pain I can't concentrate.

I know my vision is worse. I am struggling to see the score in the corner of the screen while watching rugby; finding myself squinting at things that should be easy to see. I am, surprisingly, unalarmed. My myopia is severe and will continue to worsen as I age, so I see the deterioration as normal. Standard. Expected.

I welcome the optician to my home, feeling sanguine. I am scared of this process, but I'm handling it well. Being at home helps. The optician is a tall, slender Asian man in his mid-30s and when he smiles his eyes almost literally twinkle. He shakes my hand and comments on the ring I am wearing. He doesn't wear glasses. I always prefer it when opticians wear glasses. I voice this and he laughs; he is wearing contact lenses. Somehow, this is reassuring.

He begins with a health check on my eyes. I sit with him, uncomfortably close, examining my retinas. I know to ignore the squiggles, the lights, the things that dance across my vision. I know they don't mean anything; have trained myself to know it. When he finishes, I want desperately to ask him if all is okay - but I am trying to get through this as a normal person. As someone who doesn't have to babble an explanation of Health Anxiety, rambling in search to make someone else understand. It's fine, I tell myself, as we move to the vision part of the test. He would have said if it wasn't.

It isn't.

He tells me when the test is concluded. My optical discs are blurred. They should be a neat line, crisp, complete - but they are indistinct. He tells me it might just be the tools he is using. It might be because of my autoimmune condition. It might be because of my B12 deficiency. But I hear the lie in his voice and when pressed, he confirms it. Yes, the usual cause of this is intracranial pressure. What causes intracranial pressure?

Brain tumours.

It is bizarre when you hear the thing you had expected your whole life - but still never really thought would happen. The anxiety hits me, spreading ice through my veins - the feeling is physical, as my adrenal glands overreact and pump chemicals into my system. It's known as "fight or flight" but all I can think of is flight. Flight back to when I didn't know this, when the biggest concern I had was an impending deadline and how overgrown the front garden is.

My husband enters the room because I can't discuss this. I will be referred to the hospital urgently, but it may take a week. Seven days. I can't do it, I tell my husband, we'll go private. "That might be a good idea," the optician nods, and I realise this is real. This is potentially serious. This is the moment my HA has been expecting since it triggered when I was 19.

I don't know how I survive the 48 hour wait for the private appointment. My husband will later comment I handled it better than he expected, but that's more a testament to my acting skills than anything. It rushes through me in fatalistic technicolour. When I go to brush my hair, I muse on the idea of losing it. I think of a forthcoming Tigers game and it makes me think of Harry Thacker, the young player I have so admired. I think of how I have anticipated his career and then realise I might not see it. I cradle my cat between my legs, think of how much she loves me, as she sits nibbling my fingertips - and I wonder how she will cope when I am not here. She loves Paul, but I am her favourite. We bonded the moment we met. Will she be okay? Will Paul? The latter question slices through me, exposing a wound I cannot even begin to contemplate being able to close.

The morning of the consultation dawns, bright and crisp against the October gold. I am acutely aware of every item of clothing I put on. This is what I will be wearing, I think dully, the day I am told that I have a brain tumour. I don't usually wear my wedding ring; it's too loose now so I substituted it for a silver clodagh ring for everyday wear. But I go and retrieve the actual ring now, sliding the familiar metal onto my finger. I want to have the real thing when I am told the end is nigh.

Five hours later, I am told I do not have a brain tumour. The optical discs are blurred due to intense scarring on my retinas. It is substantial, but it is old. It is not a brain tumour. The death I have spent 48 hours contemplating has been stayed.

You would think I am delighted, but I'm not. I sit in the car park, waiting for my retinas to return to normal size so I can drive. My eyes still itch from the drops they put in for the examination. I feel a surge of giddiness initially; I take to social media and babble incoherently. My husband laughs at my delight, holds my hand and tells me he loves me, and I think everything will be okay.

It isn't, though. As I relay the story to friends, explaining my recent radio silence, a voice whispers at me that this is temporary. That this has been a dress rehearsal and one day, the real thing will happen.

It makes me think of a woman I met in one of my CBT courses. She was in her 60s and we were next to one another in the semi-circle of sufferers around the therapists. I was lucky with CBT. I didn't learn much that helped directly, but I liked everyone. I liked the slender blonde with the food aversion; the older man with the combover who talked with such ease about his agoraphobia; the body-builder who I would usually shy away from who turned out to be the most considerate of my back issues. But this older woman: I liked her most of all. She was always so 'done' in a way I have never managed; manicured, smart, crease-free and complete.

She'd had breast cancer. She described it as the happiest time of her life. Initially, we all stared at her in confusion. "I was free of all this," she said simply, waving her hand around her temples, in a flash of peach nail varnish. "All the shit in my head," she continued, "it vanished the moment I was diagnosed." I pause for a moment to marvel at her expletive, losing the thread. "Then they told me I was in remission and the fear started again."

We all muse on this oddity for awhile; on the incredible fact she was happier when she had cancer. We begin to understand it. Those of us with Health Anxiety spend our lives waiting - but she had been told the wait was over. In that time, she just had the moments in front of her, laid out clear, and it was the most freeing thing she had ever experienced. Then that threat - and the certainty it had brought her - was removed. The slats on the bridge forward began to tumble down and she was stepping over cracks once again.

That's how I feel over the next few days as my Health Anxiety settles back over me. There is some solace in it; I have done this enough times now to find a comfort in the dread, rather than the horror of the certainty. I find another weapon in the arsenal; the fact I had a problem and it didn't turn out to be what I feared. It joins the nagging doubt that the doctors missed something, an invisible layer that always keeps me slightly separated from the world around me.

I consider my Health Anxiety well-managed. I am more in control than I have ever been, but it's like taming a wild animal. All it takes is one moment and the true hidden beast will reveal itself once more. I am okay, but I am constantly aware of the possibility of no longer being okay. So I return to a normal routine, but a little bit more worn, the shine of life a little more dulled.

I return to waiting.
quote - final mystery oneself

Friends Locked (And Friends Cut FYI)

I've finally got around to switching all entries over to friends locked after some rather leaky locking of posts. For new adds, feel free to leave a comment :)

For others, I've also had a bit of a trimming of the ol' flist. The reasons for this are not personal to those who have been cut, but just that we don't have much to do with each other. I'm more than happy to rectify any mistakes made, so let me know if you have been cut and want to be re-added - I'm just trying to limit my flist to those I actually engage with! :)

(Also, apologies to lops06 who I have only just discovered I hadn't added back or have at some point mistakenly deleted. Fixed now!)