This feature was written by freelance writer S.J. Lewis
Back in March we launched the hunt for Go Think Big’s new blogger. We wanted to find someone who could voice all the hard, infuriating and challenging parts of job hunting faced by young people, and make us laugh too. Three finalists were shortlisted from over a hundred applicants, and you, the readers of Go Think Big, selected S.J.’s blog post as your favourite. Read on for her first official post on Go Think Big…
“Not too bad? It looks like a ruddy banana…”
I failed to disguise my horror upon viewing an X-ray of my spine on my orthopaedic consultant’s PC. The 19th January 2017 will go down in my history book as the day I found out about my scoliosis. No wonder the radiologist had suddenly gone quiet; my spine looked as if it was trying to escape from the confines of my torso, and one side of my pelvis had caught wind and tagged along.
I’d spent several months visiting various medical practitioners and had received nothing but bewildered looks and incorrect diagnoses. My health deteriorated and I lost considerable muscle mass, however no-one was certain why the lower half of my body was in near-constant agony. I’d become so used to whipping my trousers off for inspection, that I had to actively prevent myself from an inappropriate Pavlovian dropping-of-trou upon seeing any spectacled man sat in a colourless office.
Upon failing to navigate the Dutch healthcare system I was forced to abandon my Masters, drag myself onto a plane, and back to reality with a heavy bump. At least that’s what happened to the head of my neighbouring passenger pre-flight, as my crutch descended from the overhead compartment and whacked her straight on the noggin, I attempted a compensatory smile.
Naively, I hoped things would inexplicably improve, there would be a pill, an injection. . . a magic stick. Instead, I have learnt to adapt to changes and new uncertainties, here’s how;
It’s taken time to acclimatise to my factory-recall body, I inhabit it differently now and I’ve had to learn what it’s capable of. For example, many chairs are off-limits as they cause significant pain, so cinemas and theatres are a no-go. Being ill has become a lifestyle and I’m required to pay close attention to how I’m feeling. Thankfully things have begun to improve, yet the feeling of doubtfulness remains. I’ve been researching the spine and retraining my body in the hope I don’t end up like Richard III (regarding his severe spinal curvature, and being found buried under a carpark).
I’m getting better at managing my medication and appointments, no longer disgruntled by indifferent doctors. If pain obstructs sleep, rather than despair I’ll do something constructive like listen to Woman’s Hour; I’m now the most exhausted yet culturally informed person in Britain. I’m yielding to accepting help when needed, and getting over the embarrassment of occasionally needing my mum to assist with donning socks.
A friend enquired whether I was relieved to be going home, and to be frank, after undertaking such an excessive schedule of studying, a small part of me was pleased to be back on my mum’s sofa; with Sky TV, central heating, and a full fridge. Everyone enjoys being ill for a few days, it’s a free-pass to indulge in doing nothing or ploughing through Prime Suspect from start to finish. But by now the novelty has worn off. In reality, I am ordinarily alone all day, sometimes incapable of leaving the house, and in constant pain.
Not having a purpose or status is disheartening, and as a natural ruminator my brain doesn’t cope well with boredom. I’ve been finding things to do to avoid cabin fever, though everyone keeps telling me to “focus on getting better” I’m yet to work out what that actually means. Moreover, anyone moving back in with their parents needs to conform to the household expectations. I’ve found that a good way of navigating this minefield is by offering to help around the house as much as possible, despite personally despising domesticity. I have become a housewife with an attitude problem.
I’ve done every naff job under the sun and I like to be kept busy. Previously I’ve worked at the Edinburgh Fringe, served Cameron Diaz in a hotel, and spent time in a school trying to prevent teenage boys from thrashing each other with copies of the Guinness Book of World Records. I’ve had multiple jobs not only due to financial necessity, but because the requirement of always having to rush somewhere means I can’t wallow on the fact that despite attaining a 1st class degree, I still haven’t achieved any approximation of my desired creative career.
I recently had an interview in an office up three flights of stairs. Upon reaching the top I smiled through the agony and pretended to be fine, I persevered through the interview despite knowing there was no way I could work there. So, I need a job where I can choose to sit or stand freely, and an employer who can see beyond my limitations, and will provide any necessary equipment. I’ve had to re-think my expectations and I’m searching for a solution.
Coming to terms with change hasn’t been easy; I’ve undergone an involuntary physical and emotional metamorphosis. Despite the set-backs I refuse to give up, I continue to push myself forward and do the best I can. And if I can do it, so can you.