Born a rhesus baby my mother’s blood trying to kill me. I Survived despite there being no transfusion in those days. I am born however with an enquiring mind and a quick brain and a God given gift inherited from my father: I can draw. But don’t mistake me it is not relaxing as some people think. It is deadly serious. But nobody wants true art. Age seven I contract bronchitis and nearly die of dehydration this turns into lifelong chronic asthma. At Grammar school I am expected to play wing in hockey. I miss lots of school because of the asthma. I have difficulty getting to school. I held onto the wall all the way once as I couldn’t breathe. My mother would throw me out the door. My father would bring me back in his Bedford van. I do very badly in exams because of all the missed time. My father dies and my mother gets remarried to a man who doesn’t want me and my two sisters. I have depression but don’t realise. He makes me go out to work there I meet a man I think I’m in love. He makes me pregnant. He doesn’t want me but I keep my child. My old headteacher helps me get into teacher training school. I meet my husband there. I have two more children despite my backwards facing cervix. When the youngest is seven I get a job teaching. I work very hard for twelve years. Things go wrong at the school through no fault of mine. I stop drinking and eating. I have a nervous breakdown and resign. I sleep for three weeks and suffer sleep paralysis. There’s not much help from the NHS.
The children grow up go to university leave home, marry have their own children. And then I become jaundiced several times. The doctors take all sorts of blood tests it takes four years ( I thought it was a few months- this is what the steroids do to you- give you brain fog) to diagnose Autoimmune Hepatitis. My own body trying to destroy my liver. I don’t drink or smoke. The steroids are amazing in practically curing this disease but leave a terrible toll on the body. Crumbling bones , brain fog, aching joints and in my case because I had been depressed psychosis and a spell in mental institution. Again I stop eating until I realise that I’m going to die if I don’t. Tailing off the steroid as you are supposed to has made me feel thoroughly ill. And now after collapsing with two pulmonary embolisms I do have to wonder what next. The will to live has been stronger than the urge to kill myself.
First my Dad died over fifty years ago and I’ve only just got over it. Then my Mum died in 2016 from Alzheimer’s. I was unable to be with her as I was ill with jaundice. Then I was diagnosed with Autoimmune Hepatitis. Now in 2017 I have just come home from hospital after being rushed there by ambulance as I had collapsed. They found two pulmonary embolisms, an irregular heartbeat, one side of my heart is enlarged and I’ve possibly had a heart attack. I do believe you can die of a broken heart.
I have had hundreds of blood tests. I have been hooked up to drips. I have had umpteen tests some very painful. I have encountered cruelty and kindness. I have cried and laughed. I have met new people and made transitory friends and others who didn’t like me. I have understood things and misunderstood things. I nearly lost my life at least twice. Steroids are wonderful and awful. I am not my Autoimmune Hepatitis, but it is me now. Most likely I will have it for the rest of my life. I am pragmatic and at 66 realise that my life may not last much longer. Everyday I feel ill and extremely tired. I spend a lot of time in or on the bed, I have to. I do what I can, which, isn’t much. Some people with AIH go running. Some people work there’s no way I could. We are all different. With my asthma I’ve never been able to run. I will not be forced into anything I don’t want to do ever again.
Since then I have, metaphorically speaking, slithered upon my belly in the mud. Clawed my way up mountains and fallen back down into the smallest claustrophobic potholes. I have dwelt in a dark tower and am presently clinging to the sheerest mountain face you can imagine. Amongst the deep depression and anxiety there have been events that have caused me to surface. Lately I have found out that it’s true what they say that whatever affects you mentally affects you physically.
Before “things” went wrong I used to think I was strong. I wasn’t, I was numb and in denial. I didn’t recognise it and I could not let out my feelings, being afraid of my feelings and what they might do. My “strength” was total pretence. I had I thought self-esteem that I had built myself, I thought I was a grown up. I couldn’t understand one of my colleagues who was either boasting or seeking reassurance. I do now. I wasn’t a grown up I was a child. I still am at aged 64. I didn’t know why I couldn’t be stronger …..
My world imploded in 1996. Everything went horribly wrong at the school where I was teaching. OFSTED were due to come in and an audit took place. The Head went off sick and it was discovered that the deficit we were in was twice as much as had been thought. I was left in charge for a while, a big mistake for me. I was ambitious, my children were getting older and I thought would soon leave the nest and I believed a career would fill the hole that was already opening in my heart. A big mistake as I was actually sacrificing my relationship with my children. My son was ill and I had been offered compassionate leave. I should have taken this, but no I had stubbornly carried on, going home at lunch times to check he was alright. The school was not far away. He was not alright because there is very little that can be done for M.E. I was conscientious with my work often staying up until midnight, but I neglected myself and my health. By the time the inspection came round I was fit for nothing. This sounds like an excuse it isn’t meant to be it is a matter of fact. I cannot say too much because it’s on,”pink paper.” Suffice it to say OFSTED made a few of us scapegoats and the school was put into Special Measures. It received a P.I.G. That is a Post Inspection Grant. A few months before I had attended a course by the Inspection Team where they had said, “Don’t be afraid to experiment and try something new.” In my naivety I did and it was a disaster. I like to think my P.E. lesson was pretty good though, but because it looked perfect and went very smoothly I was accused of showing the children nothing new. These were pupils aged four to five, well behaved, compliant and no accidents happened- my main concern whilst working in the gym! I believe I was teaching them something important – how to land properly.
Being part of the management team I was involved in writing the improvement plan this involved long meetings with Governors of which I was one. Working until 11 at night during the week and also having to write extensive lesson plans at weekends and then teaching in the day. I started to seriously neglect myself and was not even taking a break at break times, not having a drink and very little to eat. Perhaps punishing myself. I was even involved in the board who interviewed for a new Head. I felt ill during the interviewing and had a “funny” turn and told no one. Everyone was re- inspected. HMI came in. Then County- they left me until last I became more and more anxious. My job description became longer and longer. I didn’t feel I could actually teach properly because I was too tired. I had been too tired during OFSTED in all truth. As it was I had always suffered from a migraine on the first day back of every term. I began to get panic attacks, I’d had a few before and became very depressed, although I didn’t really know that’s what it was. I went to see the mental health nurse I told her that at times I would be happy not to wake up in the morning. Her reply was, ” You don’t need to see a professional.”
In 1996 I had to have a minor surgical procedure. I had a bit of time off, I then felt worse and worse. My mother and her husband had moved nearby and she would walk her dog passed my window. I would hide because I didn’t want her to know. I didn’t know why. I went to see my doctor and got some more time off. Then some more. The new Head didn’t like it, why would they? Less than six months later I resigned. There was something I didn’t understand why was it that most of my colleagues were able to continue, but I had fallen to pieces?
More to follow…..
I decided to change the cover of my first poetry collection Scattered Fragments By Clare Collins. I used cover creator through Kdp Publishing, which is Amazon’s own Indie publishing facility. I think it looks far more professional and it’s free. Anyone can publish to Kindle through kdp publishing or CreateSpace.com another Amazon company. CreateSpace can print your book, it can be free if you go through the process yourself or you can pay for their services. Indie publishing can take up a lot of time when you go through the process without help, but if you need to do things on a shoe string this is the way to go. The only thing is I have discovered after being in print
for over a year publicity is the key to selling your book (s) and this is what I shall be looking at next. Particularly as poetry is something of a niche market. I will let you know how I get on!
Free for five days my fourth collection of poems on Kindle Shades of Love: A Book of Erotic, Passionate Poems and Odes by Clare Collins