This week was First Aid training at work, also known as the most fun I’ve ever had in North London. Three whole days later and I’m all trained up ready to be the Meredith Grey of Islington. I’m not allowed to administer drugs, diagnose anything at all, or perform surgery of any kind, but I can wear scrubs if I so wish.
When I was little I wanted to be a doctor. Or, rather, when I was little I wanted to play a doctor. I was obsessed with medical dramas and spent approximately four thousand hours a week writing television scripts in the hope the production team of Casualty would discover me and make me a star.
Just pausing to give you some time to ponder whether I had any friends.
A lot of my early teenage years were spent casting myself in different roles, researching far-fetched accident scenarios, falling in love with imaginary doctors, living and breathing hospitals, surgical theatres, ambulances, emergencies…
I had, like, two whole friends.
Much to my disappointment growing up, I’ve had very few medical dramas in my life.
Excuse me while I touch all of the wood.
On my fourteenth birthday I got run over by a motorbike in Italy. It was pretty distressing until I fell in love instantly with my paramedic, a dashingly handsome Italian with the perfect amount of stubble, a bandana, and the unforgettable ability to make fluorescence look to-die-for hot. I remember lying awake most of the night worried I had internal bleeding but realistically it was just heartache.
For a first-class worrier, one of the things that doesn’t generally bother me is the idea of accidents. In times of real spontaneous trauma and contrary to almost every other occasion, I actually behave calmly and rationally. So my biggest dilemma right now is how my fascination with the world of accident and emergency can co-exist in my head with a very real fear of being seriously ill. Over the last few years this weird little paranoia has edged its way into my life, surrounding being diagnosed with a long-term or life-threatening disease. I’m a little cringed out exposing all of this on the internet but I’m definitely past humiliation where this blog is concerned so I’m not even sorry.
I’ve been trying to figure out where it’s come from. Does it run in my family? My dad did once mention to me that he was worried he had cervical cancer… My friends and family enjoy recalling in good humour the times I would trip down the stairs panicking about a suspicious bruise after reading My Sister’s Keeper but in the last year what used to be mildly amusing health scares have evolved into something that impacts on my day-to-day life.
It makes sense that this hypochondria has deteriorated alongside my general anxiety; my habit of thinking the worse, my mind short-circuiting rational thinking and skipping straight to panic. Maybe it’s worse because I can’t necessarily get the reassurance I need immediately. When I begin to panic about something, a feeling, a pain, something I’ve read, something I’ve seen, I feel consumed by the idea of it and easily manage to convince myself something is wrong with me. When something takes me by surprise I immediately feel sick, like my head is bursting and overwhelmed with really nasty and unhelpful thoughts about my life, sickness, death, the whole shebang. It’s quite awkward.
Basically I’ve had it up to here with it all. I’ve never felt so simultaneously in tune with every single part of my body and at the same time so scared of it. It really is a nightmare trying to get by in life when you can’t stop thinking about cancer. I can joke about it. Obvs, that is my speciality. And I feel sane enough to recognise that a lot of what I’m worrying about is all in my head.
There’s not enough wood to touch in my flat. Help.
When I’m having a rational day, this is some comfort to me. But the rest of the time I’m struggling. I can’t keep a lid on it and it’s a lot to take. The other day I was reading a magazine on the tube on the way to meet a friend for dinner and there was this huge spread about all the possible symptoms of breast cancer. Whilst trying to eat I felt a bit like my mind was unravelling, couldn’t snap out of it, completely lost my appetite, all the time trying to self-examine my boobs under my napkin. Life.
Times like this are really prettttty draining and I get seriously mad at myself for wasting a good meal. So I need to work out how to stop making this a thing. I’ve been looking back for some answers and remembered my summer holiday (its sexiest parts documented HERE) and the last time my body really pissed me off.
I’m not at my most rational when I have to use communal showers in a camping ground underneath a mountain but nevertheless I lost the plot worrying about skin cancer five days in to my road trip with Ed and I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d just run me over to put me out of my misery. But that night, we talked about what I’m afraid of, how I feel, and what I could maybe do about it…
We talked about how we’re all going to die some day. No matter how many pizzas we eat and how many First Aid courses we do and how many people judge me for writing about this. We talked about how maybe it would help me to spend more time thinking about more ways to make my life really fun instead so that dying doesn’t seem quite so tragic. Ed told me that if he died the next day, he could live with that (except, you know, he couldn’t literally) and not just because we’d just eaten the most exquisite carbonara you could imagine. More for the parts of the world he’s seen, the people he has met, the opportunities he had, the happiness he’s experienced.
Now maybe he was lying. Maybe he was actually insinuating he would have been happy about dying because it would have meant he didn’t have to console me about all of my moles for another day. But really I think he meant a serious diagnosis shouldn’t be the reason to start a bucket list. I should spend every day living my life to the fullest (and every other day apologising for my shamefully cheesy mantra) and maybe then I won’t have time to worry so much and won’t have so many regrets at the end of the day.
These seem wise words to me and I really want to try. I know I should avoid NHS symptom checkers. And all magazines. I should look after myself and do something every day that makes me happy. I should maybe think about going back to therapy. I think my five sessions of CBT touched the surface of all this and it might be a little too much for me to handle by myself right now. I should also always wear a bra to first aid training. But that’s a story for another day. So I’m making that promise to myself, because I don’t want to spend my twenties worrying about when it’s all going to be over. I so desperately want to spend my time being happy and truly living, and not being held back by what’s inside my head. Wish me luck.
In the meantime, if anyone needs a First Aider, holler… LOVE X