Friday, 7 May 2010

Looking Out From Inside My Tunnel

I've been thinking about tunnels today.  Which is the best way to describe something that happens to me very rarely, but very acutely when it presents itself, and that has just happened again.

When I go into a tunnel it's my mind and body's way of protecting me from overwhelming emotions.  But now that it's happened in a situation that wasn't stressful or hostile, I think it's also when I feel attacked, so instead of getting angry, I become emotional and then shut down.

The first time I was aware of it was back in 2008 when we found ourselves in front of a panel of bureaucrats and doctors at the Royal Free Hospital.  I've never written about this because the whole process, although necessary to go through, has always seemed like a betrayal.

Back in my pregnancy we found ourselves being concerning at our 12 week scan and having to have a CVS to see if the nuchal fold measurement was right in looking a bit dodgy.  Cutting a long story short, the first result was ok, the second was really really not, so then we had an amnio, then a long wait, then it seemed ok.  Fast forward through problematic rest of pregnancy, constantly in and out of hospital from weeks 25 to 39 when I was finally induced.  I never saw the same doctor or nurse, had to constantly repeat myself and never saw my named consultant, despite the abnormal start to the pregnancy and the fluid leaking from me for the whole of the last trimester.

Fast forward again after the birth and through a lonely time with a sick baby and everyone thinking I was neurotic all the way to our diagnosis when he was 9 months.  We then had to track back and found that a test hadn't been done on the amnio and they had missed it.  We then paid to get my medical notes and found that there was paperwork mentioning chromosome 18 and referrals suggested, and none of it had been passed to us.

Fast forward through huge trauma for me at a time when I was on the edge mentally and emotionally with financial pressure building.  So we talked to a lawyer. They said we had a case.  The case would be built on a wrongful birth.  I feel sick just typing that and how wrong it feels and indeed felt back then.  Facing an abyss and possible huge medical costs for all the unknowns we had, the least we decided to do was write to the hospital with our complaint and they suggested a round table meeting.  I've blocked out most of it, but facing 10 or so people, including my absent consultant, I felt bullied, patronised and not listened to.  After getting emotional and clamping down on my tongue to stop it coming out, I felt myself shrink into my chair.  Disappearing before their very eyes.  The mood in the room changed and I think they saw what was happening to me.  I can't remember much more about it, but that was definitely my first entry into the protection tunnel.

The second time it happened was during my appeal for J's school.  The subject of the first post on this blog.  I had done so much preparation and been so monumentally dismissed by the clerk once in there, that I spoke, got emotional and did that shutting down thing.  This time I managed to say more and be more effective and again, the mood in the room changed and I managed to give back some of the crap that I had been given.  Again I went into a tunnel afterwards and can't really tell you much more than that about the appeal.  In the 24 hours following it, I could barely tell you anything at all.

So that brings me to today.  I've had a busy week, nothing out of the ordinary but lots of different things requiring different bits of my brain and all of them full and total concentration.  It was a week where work, home, nursery, personal creative things and of course the ever present Statement paperwork that I haven't done, all came in line together.

The day my head got woolliest was yesterday when I finally wrote my to do lists and found myself overwhelmed at the thought of it all.  One of the big things I hadn't even added to my list was my role in the kindergarten fundraising event that needs to happen in the summer and that the kindergarten is, most gloriously kindly, sharing its funds with us and the C18 cause.

I've been trying with the other wonderful busy mums who are also not running from this, to find people to join in and even take over so it wasn't all resting on me and us.  I must have been biting my tongue for a while in order not to react to the "I'm too busy" comments, or indeed the complete ignoring from people who signed up to help at the start of the year.

I think i just tipped over the edge when at a general meeting, in response to the plans that four of us had no choice but to go ahead and make, there was a cacophony of "no's" and criticisms, with, at first, no offers to help with finding a new way forward.  I honestly can't remember what I did or said, but I know it involved a bit of crying and then clamming up.  Then everyone spurred on by our formidable head teacher came up with a great solution and another Mum went on to explain the C18 part of it, perhaps to help excuse my emotional reaction.  So then I think I talked and cried again and then everyone went home - except for a few happy helpful few who in 10 minutes helped us to plan the replacement event and that was that.

I have spent the rest of the day struggling to be healthy headed.  I've managed to read the scripts I needed to,  email the writers and edit and rewrite the treatment I've been working on, but it's been a huge struggle.

I even managed to pick up my boys, have a little play, ship them off for a sleepover at wonderful Aunt C's, before sitting down, laptop in hand, work done, house quiet, writing this and letting the fog take over.

Inside my tunnel it's numb and quiet, foggy and dark, but not unpleasant.  I'm learning to come out of it quicker and so grateful to my mind and consciousness for allowing me a safe place when all around me becomes a bit too much.

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