Saturday 25 February 2012

Invisible snow

The events of Sunday 5th February 2012.

An ethereal glow of whiteness found its way through the slim gap at the top of the bedroom curtains, which had not closed fully the night before for hope that the light would gently wake her. As she remembered that snow had begun to fall the previous evening, which excited her as ever it does, she knew that day she would be restricted, unable to feed the birds, build a miniature snowman or snowcat, take macro photographs of the snow crystals and frozen plants. Sleep had been annoyingly truncated, not helped by the not-unusual company - invariably on her legs or feet - of Pieman, one of her cats. The night-times with Pieman are occasionally a love/oh-get-off-my-back-I-can't-breathe affair. She could, very easily, shut the bedroom door to prevent him joining he but he and she would be all alone for the night and, besides, she enjoys his company.

Between doses of dihydrocodeine and dozes from it on Saturday evening, she had caught sight of what have been a blizzard without its full share of might. The flakes were small but the depth grew at a satisfying rate. The grooves in the corrugated roofs disappeared, the hard lines of the kerbs softened, the foxes taking cover in their dens. Weather forecasters had informed the nation that there would be a significant amount of snow to wake up to on that Sunday morning. And they were precise in their skill of reading clouds and atmospheric conditions, which continues to intrigue her. She would, she was sure, like to learn it all one day. One day. At least five inches of the white wonder stuff fell during Saturday evening, through the night and early the following morning. She was awoken by the distressingly familiar dragging heaviness that was period pain caused by endometriosis. As is usual when the inner fury arrives in its fiercest manner, she awoke before her alarm sounded. Before the pain violently strangled her insides fully, she was able to wrench herself out of bed and to the window where she looked out and gazed at the marvellous view before her. The fluffy surface of the snow was untouched but for footprints made by early rising foxes prowling through the front garden.

She could feel the cool air from the window and the walls and soon shivered, before she hurriedly pulled her dressing gown around her bare shoulders. She struggled to cover her feet with the thick socks she had placed within easy reach the night before, followed by her sparkly slippers, which she then awkwardly and slowly fitted on her feet. She had learned, through immeasurable agonies, that so much of what's important about knowing the effects of one's imminent and routine illness is the simple act of planning. It's about ensuring the appropriate rituals are ready to be carried out: cushions and blankets arranged and in position; heat pad plugged in and placed on the cushions; hot water bottle by the kettle; tablets placed on the table by the sofa-made-bed; walking stick by the sofa-made-bed.

Somehow, as always, she clumsily hobbled down the stairs without falling face-first in to the front door. Stumbling, still frowning deeply, and by now breathing like she was in labour, she narrowly and apparently miraculously avoided spilling boiling water over her hands wile filling her hot water bottle. With her drink poured and her hot water bottle tied to her belly with the belt of her dressing gown, she staggered, in typical her-style, in a superbly ungainly fashion along the hall and leaned on the wall and sideboard to support her increasingly weak and shaky body. She became, in seconds, heavy and at any moment would be sure to sink to the floor, helpless to defend herself against the furious fire within her if she didn't make it to the sofa. The sight of the sofa is always a welcome one, as it always is at those times and, as she arrived at her temporary day-bed, she turned on the heat pad which she had left against the cushions the night before, when she had first felt the intense pains begin. All the while, the curious other-worldy radiance from outside lit the house with wondrous luminosity but it all meant nothing to her, the girl who could live a month in snow for the silly reason of thinking it impossibly pretty.

The first task - after making it so heroically downstairs - was to take an antacid capsule, Omeprazole, to prevent her stomach bleeding as a result of the interaction between the anti-depressant, Citalopram, and the yet-to-be-swallowed anti-inflammatory, dexketoprofen (as known as Keral). The second task is the worst: the waiting. She could feel her insides burning and tearing, and she was unable to take any kind of pain relief for thirty minutes. The antacid must be given that time to work but in that time, the endometriosis is doing its own work and she could feel it. Swollen, searing, stabbing. She was altogether helpless, and desperately needed someone to help her. But she could not speak. She could barely breathe or move her eyes, and she fell inelegantly on to the sofa with the cushions she had arranged the night before this frightening morning. Seconds stretched themselves so that minutes became hours, the monotonous tick tock of the mantle clock slowed down, and she was frozen by the fear of what her own body and what it was doing. She was involuntarily silenced by her own self and there as not a thing she could do to change it.

At last! At last. Those tortuous thirty minutes had passed. At last. Now, she could take the anti-inflammatory, dexketoprofen. Now the pain relief can begin. But that only helps so much. And now another wretched thirty minutes were ahead of her before she could take the once-powerful dihydrocodeine. The anti-inflammatory swallowed, she resumed her awkward slumped position on the sofa unable to move her hot water bottle, which was by now burning the skin on her stomach causing it to glow an unhealthy red - she hadn't arranged her pyjama trousers and dressing gown adequately to prevent yet another reoccurrence of the scorching. Her skin was raw and itchy and needed to be relieved of the intense heat but she couldn't move. The pain continued to engulf her in waves of familiar terror, and the fleeting moments of respite she had were spent trying to breathe more normally, while recovering from the inner rage which enveloped her whole being with overbearing cruelty. Just like before, the time slowed to an unbearable pace and the lock louder than was acceptable. The cats wondered what on Earth she was doing, again, why she was groaning, why she stared through them, willing the dexketoprofen to hurry up and magic the pains away. Magic, of course, does not exist. The second round of silently celebrating the passing of the minutes was short-lived, as she fumbled to break the pesky blister packs to release the painkillers. Knowing these were her wonder drugs, she hastily consumed them, then ate two biscuits she had to eat because when taking them, eating is what's required of dihydrocodeine.

The hot water bottle still burned the light from outside was still eerily bright for so early in the morning, and nausea had its ever-unwelcome return. Her dishevelled hair had fallen over her face, and she peered through the blurry gaps to gaze out of the window from her sofa-bed. She could see plants heavy with ice crystals, cars unrecognisable under the smooth white drifts, and heard not one voice. Silence everywhere.

By half past ten, she had been awake for a little over two hours, but it had felt as though she had been awake all night without rest. Her mother had made her a cup of tea and, being in a semi-conscious and almost totally dependent state from the pain and medication, had to take almost all of her daughter's weight to help her sit up enough to drink. She ached deeply all over, and the wretched pain within had been dulled significantly but not completely. She still winced and flinched in response to the sudden and needle sharp pains - dihydrocodeine is good but not that good.

When, after another hour, she needed to get to the toilet, her mother again wrapped her arms around her daughter and helped her to her feet, slowly and gently. With her walking stick, she made her way to the brilliantly placed downstairs toilet when she was waylaid by the sight she beheld through the kitchen window: a breath-taking vision of clean, pristine snow and a chaffinch and sparrow in the tree in the garden. Shortly after retaking her familiar place on the sofa, the usual Sunday smells permeated the house. Roast chicken, potatoes, vegetables cooking beautifully in the nearby kitchen. The small window in the kitchen was open to clear the air. From the smell of one bird to the sounds of another: the resident robin sung mellifluously, its metallic melody breaking the stillness outside. He and his two feathered friends were hungry, as the seed feeder and suet balls had been frozen, and she felt so guilty at being unable to get outside to help them. Her poor birds! So cold and so in need of food, which she knew would be available elsewhere but she didn't want to let them down. They were sitting in her garden and been left without food.

All too soon, the pains returned and the need to take the dihydrocodeine had arrived again. Once more, she groaned and became immobile, and once more she feared her body and the agonies it was providing. More tablets, more biscuits, more sleeping on the sofa with the cushions, hot water bottle, heat pad and blanket. The day dragged on and on, the minutes again became hours of miserable attempts to rest and not tense up all over with the apparent punches in the gut. That Sunday night was made of broken hours and exhaustion, and the next day was the same as the previous one.

And so it goes. This "story" is what will happen in about a week's time, albeit without the snow. The days between periods are less horrendous but still painful. Not everything can be fixed, not every pain and twinge and niggle can be mended by a tablet or some positive words or people thinking you're OK because you look "OK". This is my truth. And it devastates me every time. It causes depression, insomnia, codeine addiction, migraines, and more. And it won't get better. This is what happens to me. Every time. And I dread and loathe what is to come in the next week or so.