I have many unattractive qualities. I like eating Maltesers in bed. I have a tendency to gross untidiness. My foul language would lead to a docker high-fiving me with pride. The one unattractive quality I hate, and that has crippled me at times, is excessive worrying.
I’ve managed to mask it and build up little coping mechanisms. One is – don’t bloody tell anyone. Some of the worries are so ridiculous I don’t even give them voice. Instead they fester in my head until logic finally kicks in and I realise how stupid they are.
Another way is just get rid of them with sense. My friends are used to me disappearing for ten minutes whenever we go to a new pub or club – scoping out the toilets, the fire escapes, how busy it is. Once that’s done, I can relax a bit.
Japan was a fucking laugh and a half for worries. Number one was Earthquakes. That was numbers one through ten actually.
All my worries disappeared three months ago. Out of nowhere something I had never worried about, had never even given a second thought, malfunctioned and nearly killed us all.
I had no time for worry or panic in the immediate aftermath. All I could think about was getting to R. Once I was with R I just wanted to be calm so as not to worry her. I knew how close I had come to dying – I remember a thought in my head saying, “Get up; if you stay down, you die” – and seeing R I knew she wasn’t completely safe yet. So we sat and I kept her awake and joked about my burnt hair and to all the people watching we must have looked insane as we smiled and laughed as if this was how we spent a normal day.
And I’m thinking, Stop shaking darlin please stop shaking R that’s shock and shock’s bad. You can be shocked but don’t be in shock. Look at me darlin, look at me talk to me.
I had no time for worry and panic when the emergency services turned up. I knew for a fact that freaky screamy me would not be allowed to stay with R, and the only thing I wanted at that moment was to stay with R, so I was calm. And because I was calm I knew I had to get out of the cramped space we were in to let the paramedics in to treat her. And I knew if I went to the hospital with her it meant I was bumping a very highly trained medic. So I had to let her go to the hospital without me.
And I’m smiling and I’m promising her I’ll see her soon and she just waves and says, OK, bye mum! and the pain relief has her off her head and I’m so happy because she isn’t in pain but fucking devastated so just do as I’m told and get on the heart monitor and put on the oxygen mask and get in the ambulance and wonder when the hell they wrapped my legs in clingfilm because I can’t remember it.
I had no time for worry or panic at the hospital because I just wanted to get checked out and to get to R. So I let them do their X rays and their scans. They kept finding other things to bandage and scan and scope. A nurse said to me, “Oh dear, you’ve had a bad day, haven’t you?” and all I could say was,” No, this is the best day of our lives. We all lived.” I even surprised myself; worrier, negative, moany, me believed it with all my heart. I still do.
C came to the hospital with me but he went straight to R when we arrived at the hospital. We all met up at Xray. What a crew we must have looked. R and I covered in black soot. Our hair singed off. Both of us with our burns covered in clingfilm. C and R both on trolleys because neither could walk. All of our clothes burned, fallen, or cut off. But we were all still here.
I still haven’t had time to be anything but positive. Keep positive when R nearly lost her foot. Keep positive when they saved the foot but then thought she’d lose her leg. Relax when they saved both. Keep positive when the skin grafts failed. Keep positive when her wounds went chronic. Relax when there was a slight improvement.
To worry and panic now seems almost rude. To worry and panic keeps me away from sitting with R playing scrabble. It stops me enjoying the time spent coorying in together as she draws. It fogs my brain as I try and write down all the questions for her team of doctors (She has 8 consultants. They are all lovely and brilliant but Christ even remembering their names stretches me. And that’s the least I can do seeing as these are the people we’re relying upon to get her walking and burns manageable. Oh, and saving her life as well.)
Worry and panic would stop me remembering all her physio and pharmacological regime, and that’s what I need to remember because they won’t let me keep her at home without it. It would stop me sitting beside her, marvelling as she screams with laughter at Parks & Recreation, or the two of us lying in her hospital bed and waving our arms in the air at our midnight raves to Taylor Swift and Fall Out Boy.
The nurses complement us on how calm we all are and how we keep our heads and our sense of humour but ffs I feel like a big old fake because how do you deal with this. I’m one piece of bad news away from unravelling but maybe I’m not. Maybe I’m one of those people that’s good in a crisis but shite at normal life.
We’re still here. We’re smiling and happy and looking to the future.
R laughs at me when I push the rocking chair up against the bed as a makeshift barrier when I say goodnight to her.
“Really mum, really? You’re worried about me falling out of bed?”
I’m allowed one little worry.