Dear Meningitis.

A red heart and ECG heartbeat on a black and white background showing a stethoscope and medical documentation.

Ten years ago, on 6th January 2011, my life changed forever: I contracted viral meningitis. I didn’t know it at the time, but many of the things I took for granted on a daily basis, I would never do again. I would be thrown into the world of chronic illness, dealing with doctors, and pharmacies, and a whole host of issues I’d never had to grapple with before. Cliché as it is to say, my life would never be the same.

In the years since, I have grieved for what I lost that day. I lost the privileges of being able-bodied, I lost people I thought were my friends and would stand by me, and I lost my naivety.

However, I have done more than grieve over the past decade. I have learned from my experience, developing personal skills to deal with disbelieving doctors and relatives, practical skills in energy conservation and pacing activity levels, and have found a hidden passion for activism.

Despite the setback meningitis presented, I somehow managed to complete my GCSEs, moving on to A-levels, a degree, and then a job. I made new friends, developed new interests, and explored my own identity and personality.

If Hollywood were to be believed, I should have spent this past decade becoming a resentful hermit. Instead, I’ve gained skills and confidence, and quite honestly if I had the ability to go back in time and prevent the meningitis from happening, I wouldn’t even need to think about it; I would let my younger self go through hell to become who I am right now.

8 thoughts on “Dear Meningitis.

  1. This speaks to me. I have said much the same about my own experiences of becoming disabled over 30 years ago. It gave me an opportunity for growth and development that I doubt anything else could have done.
    I now get quite assertive about saying that being disabled is not a bad or negative way to be, it is just different. And then I usually have to deal with all the people who tell me how brave and inspirational I am to have that attitude. You just can’t get them to understand sometimes! I do wish non-disabled people would just take the time to really listen and understand, and stop coming with their own prejudices and pre-conceived notions.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. We humans have this goofy idea that all pain and suffering is bad and we must do everything we can to avoid it. But, as you said, suffering offers a tremendous opportunity to strengthen our character. Yes, it would be nice if medical professionals and those who don’t have these struggles would take a few empathy and listening lessons, but we who are enduring will be strengthened by facing the suffering head-on.

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  3. Every time I “walked” through hell I came out stronger
    Abusive marriage became solo parenting 3 young children with all the challenges that entailed by the time my children were adults I’d learned to be stubbornly self reliant. Moving heavy furniture may have been considered a 2 person job I learned to do it safely alone. I supported my daughter through the hell of stillbirth to my granddaughter and learned the strength to put my grief aside when she needed my strength. When my health went downhill I fought to keep going. September 2016 when I was told I was losing my sight and soon thereafter was registered blind having lost most of my sight… and here I am stronger than ever… stubbornly independent and getting more saddened every time I have to educate strangers in the the street who think I’m brave or inspirational for walking around my hometown alone, catching a bus and independently (with the help of apps that let me know where I am) ringing the bell for the bus, explaining to “professionals” who are teaching me to use my brand new white cane that actually I cannot watch what they are doing 15 feet away at the top of the stairs while I’m at the bottom as I cannot see even a foot away clearly… oh I could go on.

    I must have been a rare person before losing my sight as I used to ask those I met if they needed help and if they did how best to help them.

    I try to explain that sighted 25 year old me leaving my abusive marriage and becoming a solo parent is no different to the 59 year old me who is registered blind with her residual sight steadily deteriorating and am told I’m wrong and don’t know what I’m talking about. That I can’t be happy and fulfilled because I cannot clearly read text on a screen (it looks smudged).
    I’m about to write a blog post about my reaction to someone who told me “it’s amazing that you can craft with your disability” as I shared a photo collage depicting the blur I see as I sew on a machine by feel and a picture of the resulting patchwork block. I still cannot believe that someone just a few years older than myself is still living with the values of the 1960s and 70s that disability means people can do nothing. I told her “I’m blind because of my sight loss however I’m disabled by society’s preconceived notions”.

    I saw your tweet about this blog post on Twitter after checking your Twitter page as someone I follow had retweeted another tweet… I’m glad to find your blog. Thank you for speaking out.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Cynicism has never been part of my makeup as for being scared I’ve learned to push through that. When I’ve had a bad experience out and about I regroup and push back. Having said that currently I have panic attacks walking round the block for exercise (I find it easier to hop on a bus to go to the hospital for a blood test and then walk home) so when the panic attacks keep me home I use my exercise bike.

        Liked by 1 person

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