My boyfriend and I had been together for about two months when my health started to get bad again. I think we had just passed six months when it all fell apart, and remained fallen apart. We had many conversations, by which I mean I sat on his bed crying while we tried to figure out how we were going to have a relationship whilst I was so seriously ill. He needed me as much as I needed him at the time, and, whilst I did my best, I wasn’t always able to give him the support he needed.
I remember telling him that he had no obligation to stay with me, just because I was ill. I wanted him to know that he could leave without feeling guilty, because I knew that he hadn’t signed up for a girlfriend who was chronically ill. Every time I mentioned it he told me to stop being silly and that he loved me, and therefore he wasn’t going to leave. And he kept promising that, when I couldn’t walk, when the seizures started and we didn’t know if they were dangerous or not, every time things began to get worse he stayed there, right in front of me, holding my hand and promising me that he wasn’t going to leave. We celebrated one year together yesterday, and he still doesn’t want to leave.
Often when you are chronically ill you don’t believe that anyone loves you. Or that anyone should love you. You lose your purpose, you lose everything you think made you ‘worth it’. You’ve been dealt the bad hand and there seems no way to change it. But what many people don’t understand is that it is even harder for the people who love you. My mum told me recently that the weeks I was seizuring with no answers were the hardest weeks of her life, and she’s gone through a lot, and yet each day she fights for me with a strength that I could only dream of having. And she fights for every single one of my siblings and friends as well. She keeps the house running, she is the glue that holds us all together. My twin has broken down on several occasions because she is exhausted and worried and feels the pain I’m in (twin things) and yet she is the first on her feet when something goes wrong, even in the middle of the night. She has trained herself to notice the smallest change in my breathing, she stays up all night to read to me when I can’t sleep. She has planned her future so that she isn’t leaving me until I have got married or moved out.
My little sisters amaze me everyday with their strength, courage and selflessness, from offering to snuggle and watch tv, to making cups of tea or offering to do my chores for me. My littlest sister bakes cakes and makes soaps and runs in baths with blue bath salts. My almost teenage sister makes jam tarts, hot chocolates and beds on the sofa. They have shown great understanding and maturity over the last three years, even when they didn’t understand what was happening to me.
My older brother is always on hand to go for a walk, or a drive or just give me hugs. He works a lot, but I know that if I need him he is just a phone call away. He is always happy to sit down and watch a rom com, but you didn’t hear that from me. He will go to the shops for me when I don’t have the energy to do is myself. He is practical and mature in the way that he deals with things, even when he is dealing with his own issues.
A couple of days ago I walked over to my dad and asked for a hug, because dad’s hugs always make everything better. I realize that the older I get, the more I need him. He is so steady and stable and secure, he drives me to every doctor’s appointment, he picks me up from hospital and he is there to fight my corner whenever I need him to. He is so incredibly wise, especially when it comes to me struggling with my mental health, and supports me in everything I do. He’s hilarious, even though you have to catch him in the right mood. He is always just a phone call away, much like my brother, and I know that he’s always got my back, no matter what happens.
And that’s my family. My wonderful, messy, supportive, loving family, who have made the last three years bearable; who made my 18th birthday fun, even though I was tired, sore and having violent seizures. My family, who pick up the loose ends of my life and tie them together into a beautiful bundle of love and happiness. My family, who have my back. My family, who I thank God for every single day. My family.
Head over to Charlotte’s blog to read more of her writing about chronic illness and pursuing a career in writing.