I have been back in London Town for seven whole days. An outsider, or in fact, anybody who does not live inside my brain, may think that I have been overjoyed by this development in my recovery. Progress. Progress and independence. “Yes”, I have heard people say.
If I am honest, I am ambivalent to it. I see the progress, especially physically and I love being in my flat, but most things just feel flat or a pretence. Any fanfare I imagined did not happen, and the whole thing just feels like one big, fat, tormented, anticlimax. Nothing changed. I do not know why I imagined or hoped my return to be a miraculous return to form, but it is not. I feel exactly the same.
Prior to me having a date of return, I was desperate to return to my life in London. Absolutely desperate. As the date approached however, anxiety appeared in my life. And I mean real anxiety. Could I look after myself? Who would look after me if I couldn’t? How was I going to fill my days? Would anybody even notice? Would Bruce remember me? And so my internal monologue went on. Life before transplant seems quite different to the one before, and in the weeks after my transplant, I felt more and more like a forgotten treasure. The metaphor does not quite work however, because I am not sure if a treasure can have social anxiety and feel anger, fear and loneliness. That is what my transplant did for me. Do not get me wrong, I felt and feel absolute unconditional love in the lands they call the Fens, but I felt and feel disconnected from my life in London. That disconnection has only mended slightly within my current geographic proximity. I have no idea how much of this feeling is real or perceived. On Monday, my return day, my feelings were in a word, overt. Overt indeed. I had a long, and when I say long, I am talking more than two hours worth of crying. It might have been four. Four hours of snot, tears and doubt.
I opted to come back of course, in spite of the tears. I reasoned that the reality could not be as bad as my fiction. I have been saying and thinking a lot this week that I need to rip off the plaster. I need to put myself in ‘difficult’ situations to prove to myself that they are not difficult at all. Every single time I have done this, I have seen that it is not as difficult as I thought, but I do not feel like I have garnered the satisfaction I should have done from doing it.
I was very kindly reassured on my first day back that I could take care of myself. This was a correct assessment. I may have forgotten what buttons to press on my remote control in the dark and had to remind myself just how many steps it takes to get to the toilet in the dark without hitting a wall or a bike wheel, but the rest of it? I can just about do the basics.
Physically, London is doable. I have had a few close calls. Yesterday, I was in a Tesco a bus ride away from home and I genuinely thought I would not make it back. I told myself off and hopped on the 38 and then lay down for 15 minutes, in anger and with pleasure in equal measure. On Thursday, I had to get a taxi because I thought that I would not make it to the end of my street on foot, let a lone to the hospital. On Wednesday, I fell whilst asleep making soup. But then, on Tuesday, I walked for fifteen minutes by myself and did not get tired (right away). Last night, I had a bake-athon punctuated with regular rests of course, but I did it by myself.
Outside my front door is scary, I cannot escape that yet. Outside, people cough on the bus and think they are more entitled to a priority seat than I because they have grey hair. Outside, people expect me to put my smiley, happy, coping face on. Outside, I have to do the roadshow. Outside my head, people do not understand, no matter where I am. It’s just harder to hide it here.
I do not wish to mislead you. I can still laugh and converse, it just feels subdued. I am subdued. The EJJ is subdued and that continues to be an infected mosquito bite.
Now, if you excuse me, I need to go rip off another plaster.