I was a clumsy kid; some things don’t change. I’ve lost count of the fractures I accumulated in my early years, but it never bothered me. At that age you attained almost celebrity status once that magical cast was set over your damaged limb. Suddenly people you never knew couldn’t wait to pen their name on you with a Bic as though they were the next Banksy.
Call me presumptuous, but I think most of us approach injuries as if appearing on a game show. We want something to show for our pain; no one wants to leave empty handed. Something we can perhaps model or at the very least point to generating a few sympathetic ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’.
We want the NHS bells and whistles so to state the obvious when someone enquires as to what’s wrong; but what happens when you need more than a bandage or steri strips? When what afflicts you can’t be summed up neatly in a quick sentence.
When I prepared for motherhood I did what all expectant parents do, I panicked, bought things that never left their neat cellophane wrapping and subscribed to over-priced magazines that failed to equip me for what was to come.
Rather naively, it was breastfeeding that concerned me more than the prospect of giving birth. Before labour the only person that got near my fun bags was myself, the other half and my GP. The idea of it niggled at me, I heard stories of kids with teeth and imagined a miniature Dr Lecter latching onto my breast!
I won’t provide the explicit 18 rating version of my daughter’s birth; let’s just say it was up there with what is referred to as the infamous Red Wedding in Game of Thrones, or as Danny Dyer might poetically conclude; claret was spilled.
We’ve all seen One Born Every Minute, or at the very least caught a glimpse whilst skimming through the channels. I didn’t expect the delivery to be a joy train but neither did I prepare for the consultant to stitch me back together as if making a half assed attempt at crochet!
When you’re young you have this notion of invincibility, that any indignities to befall you will be confined to old age and so aren’t worthy of your current contemplation. It therefore came as a low blow to spend the first months of motherhood sat aloft a Spiderman inflatable ring which, being sized for children, couldn’t cope with my swollen derriere and so I had to formulate a rotation system for my cheeks.
Motherhood wasn’t what I had imagined. Our home was an explosion of wet wipes and baby grows. At the time our tiny flat didn’t have enough room to house the cards let alone the visitors, yet inside I was sinking, semi-present in conversations, my mind retreated farther away as though with each hour my body was eroding, slowly committing itself to the earth.
There was an exhaustive parade of appointments and examinations. Some were done under anaesthetic, others aided by a clipboard and tick list, each equally unnerving. The timeline of events is still hazy as my body was maintained by regular instalments of painkillers and antidepressants.
I had physical afflictions, pelvic floor spasms, thinning of the internal sphincter (which had me convinced I was a pharaoh in a past life), fissures and tears in places that would make you wince – basically I was only ever one cough away from an ‘oops’ moment and on top of that winning combination I was diagnosed with post-natal depression.
Say what you will about mental illness but for me it isn’t invisible. It doesn’t formulate out of thin air, coaxed with showmanship from a magician’s hat; it’s a virus of sorts, one which similar to the common cold, won’t respond to a course of banana flavoured amoxicillin, spreading from the incredible organic tissue of your brain with stealth that would provoke envy in the most skilled ninja.
People seem to prefer to attach provenance to the physical rather than psychological; so frequently we place validation upon the tangible, yet all too often the two are inevitably entwined. Both attract a prescribed treatment plan, it just happens that where one medical complaint might be treated with antibiotics or regular physiotherapy, other symptoms require manipulation by specific chemistry and alternative remedies.
The gradient of a wound isn’t a true inclination of its depth. Whenever a questioning eyebrow is directed toward my place in queue at the chemist, I remember the line from my favourite melodic peppers:
Scar tissue that I wish you saw