“I don’t know; I just feel weird”
All you want to be as a teenager is like everyone else (although, at the time I swore blind that I didn’t). I was determined to be special and unique - I made my own clothes, I work a shit-tonne of eyeliner, I wrote songs about the Iraq war (I wish that was a lie). But whilst I didn’t want to fall in line with every other 15-year-old, my health was one aspect of my life where I was desperate to be just like everyone else. The truth is that nobody wants to be truly different, to be whispered about too loudly in corridors, to have rumours spread, to have invites not extended, to be alone on a Saturday night. That is not a kind of different that anyone aspires to be in Year 9.
I was mostly lucky, and had good friends who cared about me, worried about me and sympathised with what I was going through - after all, we all had some shit going onewhether that was problems with boys, family dramas or worrying about what we ate. But there were times when being ill made me feel incredibly isolated, and there were people who couldn’t deal with it. I once explained that I had been off school because I was so devastatingly tired, and was laughed at and called a princess. I felt weak and pathetic.
Being undiagnosed made things more difficult because I couldn’t even articulate what was going on. After nearly collapsing just 15 minutes after arriving at school one day I asked the nurse to send me home. I was told I couldn’t possibly be sent home at 8:45 and to go back to my lessons. I pleaded with her to call my mum, to explain to her the way I was feeling and that she would happily come and get me. I was asked sternly “Well what’s wrong with you?!” to which I broke down into sobs and told her I didn’t know. I felt like a fraud.
I barely made a full week of school between year 10 and 11; between blood tests, GP appointments, hospital referrals and days where symptoms were just too much to bear. I had to avoid drinking, bail on parties, leave early, and get my mum to pick me up, none of which are guaranteed to endear you to your pears. School felt like a battle, which was a shame because I LOVED school. I was determined to read English at Oxford (I didn’t) and spending my twenties devouring books and maybe even writing them (also no). Instead, school felt like something I could be great at, but that was slipping through my fingers whilst I sat in a room that smelt of antiseptic and explained to an old man that I thought I was going insane.
So, to those few friends who dipped out, who fucked off, who gave up. I get it. You were out with new friends, better friends, friends who didn’t have some made up bullshit illness. These friends didn’t cry when they thought nobody was looking, these friends weren’t likely to ruin your evening by fainting, these friends were normal. These friends didn’t make you “her friend”. These friends didn’t make you different.