The first time I visited the GP, I still wasn’t sure why I was going.
I genuinely felt like a melodramatic wanker.
I explained my symptoms – and then she explained to me why I wasn’t a melodramatic wanker.
She said the symptoms – the neck pain, the head feeling like it was on fire, that weird rash I’d dismissed – sounded a lot like Meningitis.
I remember laughing.
Firstly, because I have a tendency to laugh when things are really bad. Ask Jasmine, Tamsin, B, anyone – if I’m given really bad news, I have a tendency to laugh before I cry. It happens almost every time, and the more I’m aware of it, the worse it becomes.
I’m not going to lie. That was definitely part of why I laughed.
But the truth is, that first laugh was the only real laugh. Whenever I told people after, including my housemate, I laughed, because I was so shocked. I understood exactly what meningitis was, because that killed people.
I actually thought she was just trying to scare me, you know, ‘This is what can happen. Stop dismissing things because you don’t think they’re serious.’
I didn’t realise she wasn’t joking or trying to scare me.
She meant it.
Because it seemed likely that, due to me not currently being dead, the virus had made its way out of my system, and she was as shocked as I was.
I remember asking how it was possible, that I didn’t understand, and she said that sometimes it happens that way.
I had to wait longer than normal for test results, and had to complete different tests, because things work differently if you stayed at home while really sick and then came to the doctor, as opposed to just going to the doctor.
I was still sick – and struggling – when I received those results three weeks later. I remember, by that stage, I was desperate to hear anything. I didn’t know what was wrong, but whatever it was, work was making it worse.
I remember the night before I got my results, Scott was over, and I’d gotten really snappy, which is abnormal for me. I mean, I’ll snap and put you in your place if you deserve it, but I’m not a snappy person. I’m sassy, definitely, I often say whatever I think before I consider it too much, I can be extremely blunt, but I’m not usually snappy. If I’m snappy, it’s either accidental – you know the type, you’re too tired or stressed and whatever you planned to say comes out far more sharply than you intended and you’re somewhat horrified because you’re like, Where did that come from?, or me being shirty for a reason, I remember snapping at him for a stupid reason. I honestly can’t even remember what it was.
I just remember the pounding in my head being so intense, that everything was so hard to deal with, to remember, to think, to focus. I was so exhausted that every single second of energy I had that I used to keep me awake caused me physical agony.
I remember crying to him, for hours, apologising, because it wasn’t me, and he told me I was being silly, because everyone snaps sometimes and it didn’t require getting hysterical over it, especially when we both knew that it wasn’t common, so it wasn’t like, ‘Hey, I get you’re tired, but you can’t keep taking your shit out on me’ thing, it was a literally rare thing. In fact, I can’t honestly remember snapping properly at him – I mean, when he hadn’t done something to piss me off – before that, and he did a lot of shit that warranted a fuck-ton of snapping.
Seriously, I’ll digress for a moment so I can explain why this was significant before I get back to the point. By this time in our relationship – not stuff that would come after, just literally by this time (and this is just some of the highlights, I don’t want anyone shitting on Scott, because that’s not the point):
- He would regularly cancel plans on me. Often, Scott and I would have made plans – dinner plans, date plans, movie plans, whatever plans – and he’d ‘forget’. He would also frequently – sometimes within less than an hour – agree to something with me, then he’d have a friend who’d ask him to do something else, and he’d cancel in front of me.
- His friends, as we’ve established were very charming and loved me immensely (I said sarcastic), whenever he’d cancel or say he couldn’t go out with him, would then turn to me and hound me as to why ‘I was forcing Scott to cancel his plans’. I would tell Scott this, and he said he told his friends, but I’d always get blamed by one his friends for him not going out, and one of them would always question me as to why – sometimes they’d target me alone, and sometimes they’d just ask in front of everyone.
- He promised me we would go to Europe. I’d always wanted to go. Every time I’d tried to set up something a friend, it hadn’t worked out. I was overjoyed. I started saving money. After he’d gone out with his friends for the day (I couldn’t because I had a kidney infection, which you might remember as part of a bigger story: I’d gone out for a friend’s birthday to celebrate on a kidney infection. Scott was going to ‘take me home’ and ‘take care of me’, but then decided five minutes after making that declaration he wanted to go out drinking, and as I write this, all I can think is, Wow, you people really wanted me to the bad guy, didn’t you? Anyway, despite this promise, while out – after he’d spent the day drinking with friends and then took me out to dinner to make up for it (still had the kidney infection the next day, people), he told me that – and this is almost a direct quote: ‘I know I promised that I’d take you to Europe. But name has started planning this Europe’s boy’s trip, and it’s my birthday, so it’s what I want to do, and you can’t say otherwise.’
- While I mentioned not discovering Scott’s affair until after we were married, I was suspicious of someone at this time. Scott was aware. Let’s just say I was right and leave it at that.
- He had a habit of disappearing with women I didn’t really know into his bedroom for 40+ mins at a time while his friends were over on regular occasions at the beginning of the relationship. In fact, it was so early in, it was at his first Emerald house, I think. That meant I was surrounded by people I didn’t know, and my boyfriend would go into his bedroom with a woman I wouldn’t know (not judging, or slut-shaming anyone, if that’s what you’re thinking I’m getting at), and I wouldn’t know what I was meant to do. His friends wouldn’t comment, so I had no reason to be suspicious (and I think, even if you think that sounds dodgy, it seems a bit extreme if he was cheating, and no, he wasn’t), which is super awkward when you don’t really even know the guy you’re dating that well at that point. I have no problems with being friendly, and I was because everyone was nice, but I’m just saying when you’re starting to date someone, you usually aren’t hanging out for nights with that person’s friends.
- One of his closest friends back then actually used to look out for me more than he did. I remember, after suffering a massive panic attack from running into my abusive ex’s best friend, his friend comforted me. Scott went to a strip joint and then lied about it.
- I had an asthma attack so extreme that everyone in that group bar my boyfriend was concerned. It was only after another friend’s girlfriend said that was going to spend the night with me that someone asked Scott why ‘He wasn’t going with me’ before it occurred to Scott what had already occurred to everyone else.
- Some of Scott’s girl friends literally hated me. It wasn’t just me – they hated my housemates (including the Bridesmaid) and basically anyone that took away the boys’ attention – to the point that the first time that this person actually addressed me, she told me I lying about being a coeliac. She told me such a thing didn’t exist, and I told her she was welcome to examine my next lot of shits I took if I ate gluten, and then someone else changed the subject. I’m pretty sure it was Scott’s housemate I can’t remember the name of, who moved out like a week later. The next time she spoke to me, she called me a slut. I’m just saying, before you go ‘Ahh, could be conjecture’, are you sure? Because she only targeted single women who she deemed pretty, and she was very nice to everyone who was with a guy she hadn’t called dibs on. Hell, I knew more about that woman’s sex life – false or not – than I do my own, because she was supposedly known as the type of woman who’d do that. That being said, one of those people that suggested it was the infamous K, so you can make what you want with that.
- He then forgot me so much again that I said if it didn’t immediately change – and I pointed out that he would cancel or forget me, on average, 1.5 times per week, and despite the fact that I would double-check our dates with him, I’d get to work and hear from K that they would be having a boys night, and I’d be like, ‘Are you sure? We have a date. I double checked – I’m even getting my hair done.’ And she’d be like, ‘Yeah, definitely, but I can tell (my husband) not to go.’ I would always brush it off, because I always thought it was sweet of her to offer, but my problem wasn’t that he wanted to be out with friends. My problem was that I mattered so little that it wouldn’t matter how many times I’d try and make the date something – I started getting my hair down regularly so that I hoped it’d at least remind him not to cancel or forget me – it was that Scott didn’t care enough to do anything about it, and I was his least priority.
- He also told me I was fat, would prefer it if I were skinnier, and the first time I went to tell him I loved him, he told me he would never love me.
- I really could keep going, but my point should be clear, and I don’t like ending on even numbers so here we are: I didn’t snap in any one of this situations. After he told me about Europe, I remember calling up one of my so-called friends crying, because by this time I was head-over-heels in love with Scott, and it was one thing to be forgotten occasionally. I was okay with being flexible with last minute changes, especially when he had a weird roster. However, when he told me, he acknowledged that he knew it would hurt me but didn’t care because a boy’s trip sounded better, so while it’s understandable anyone would be pissed as fuck over this, to me it implied he didn’t care about me. And the sad part is, there is some truth to that, if you really think about it. We always say actions are stronger than words. His words AND his actions were literally saying, “I know this is what you wanted, but I don’t care because I got a better offer.” I even suggested a compromise: Fine, but can I come? You’ve acknowledged that it was what I wanted, is it just a boy’s trip? (The answer was a no that even if it seemed like I might mention Europe – I remember one time cleaning up after a party I threw for my housemate – I mentioned something about the others being excited for the Europe trip (Scott had already planned not to go, but I wouldn’t find out for months later – I was literally cornered by a friend who was like, ‘Why isn’t Scott going to Europe? He says it’s to do with money but I don’t believe him.’ And all I could remember thinking was Scott isn’t going to Europe? I did the Good Girl thing and covered for him and made it seem like I knew exactly what his friend was going on about, but I didn’t, because Scott hadn’t told me he wasn’t going. At that time, I actually thought he was still going to Europe.
Anyway, my point is that I never got snappy in any one of those situations, and I’m pretty sure ya’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I’d be pissed as fuck’, but that’s my point: I didn’t. (This is important, because part of my mindfulness is about listening to how you feel and what your body is telling you. I’m not writing this to hate on my husband – it’s already shit you know, nothing new, but it’s to point out sometimes we know something is wrong, before a doctor can diagnose you. Listen to your body. That’s the point.)
Even when he hurt me, I calmly told him why I was so upset, how it made me feel, I relayed the words he used to me to explain why I felt like this was bigger than just a trip, and I talked about all the times he’d forgotten or cancelled on me. I then said that if he was looking for fun, that was fine, but I wasn’t, and if he wasn’t willing to sometimes make me a priority after half a year of dating, I wasn’t willing to be patient and understanding anymore.
I wasn’t, ever, snappy. And if you don’t believe me, feel free to ask Scott. Honestly. Leave your question – or if you know him, message him – and I’ll see if he’ll respond to you. He knows I’m writing this, so the fucks I give if you don’t believe me are literally zero. And, if you did ask him and he did respond to you, he’d tell you what every relationship psychologist has ever told us: I’m being kind and Scott is fucking lucky I’m understanding. Even his therapist’s told him to the cut the bullshit more than once and own his shit, so I’m pretty comfortable where I stand.
After I snapped, I started crying. I told him I knew something wasn’t well, I wasn’t getting better, I was so tired it hurt and I didn’t understand. By this time in our relationship, he’d already dramatically started changing – which is why I’m obviously still with him; like I’ve said before, by the time I fell sick, he was a very different person – so he just held me and listened.
I’d booked into the GP to get my results that morning, and because there was a free period, I’d requested it off so that if the GP was late, I’d still have time to get back.
The GP would confirm that yes, I had contracted meningitis – but worse still, I also had glandular fever. She told me that I had to take three months off, to not go to work and call them immediately, and told me to rest, because my body would need it.
I didn’t know it then, but that that was the beginning of the end.
The Takeaway: Things don’t have to make sense for you to know they’re wrong. Behavioural changes, like sudden or unusual irritability, can sometimes mean something more sinister. Today, if you can, put on some music, lay down somewhere with a timer, and just close your eyes and listen to the music, even if it’s just for five minutes. Let your mind and body relax, and just focus only the music, and then let your mind naturally wander.
What is your mind telling you? What is your body telling you? What do you need? What do you want?
You don’t have to feel sick for this to matter. Just try it and see.