Darkness. From he moment I open my eyes, to the very second I close them again. I can’t see, I’m blind to all of the beauty that’s held within the universe.
The rain is heavy on my bare shoulders, leaving droplets to run down my skin, making darker blotches on my red top. Everything is blurred, all I can make out is different coloured lights. I started shuddering from the drizzling rain that’s swept by the harsh wind of Liverpool. It’s my brothers birthday and I’m late to the restaurant, rushing down the cobbled road, bumping into people on my way; only half heartedly apologising. Where am I? After a few drinks in, we descend into the night once more, stumbling our way into more bars. My brother disappears, along with my parents, and I’m left with someone who made me feel utterly alone. ‘You don’t care.’ I whispered to him, ‘We might as well end it here, because you don’t care.’ I cried. Tears started to stream down my face, my bottom lip trembling with sadness. I walked off into the midnight, down the narrow side street that screamed danger. Why was I crying? It seemed that I was upset because of him, because I invested so much time trying to be loved by someone, that I knew would not be capable of loving me how I deserved.
‘It’s a haemorrhage, I’m going to refer you to the hospital eye specialist, they’ll be in contact with you in 24 hours.’ My optician didn’t seem fazed at the most devastating news I have ever received, it’s just another day at the office. The sound of the coffee machine grinding its beans almost made me miss the sound of my phone ringing. The typical iPhone ringtone, the one that when you’re in public, you think it’s your phone, but matter of fact it’s one of the other twenty iPhone users phones around you.
‘Jessica, if you don’t come in tomorrow you’re going to go completely blind.’ The woman’s words stung my heart like a vipers bite. Was I going to lose my eyesight forever? As I stood there with the phone pressed to my ear. I felt nothing. The kind of numbness you feel when the Novocaine is soaring through your body. Is this it? I thought to myself. ‘I have work tomorrow.’ Was my only stupid reply. Why did I care about a job that would replace me in a second? A job that had neglected, let down, and discriminated against others. He was a perfectionist, but he was not perfect by any means.
A short time had passed by me, each day grew darker than the last. Depression, my dearest. How long has it been? 6 months? How are you old friend? I hid myself away, my true self. I posted old pictures on social media, so that people would think I was okay, whilst I was swallowed whole by the black mass of depression. I placed myself on dating apps, trying to find someone to love me. To accept me for me, even when I couldn’t. And there is one important lesson I learnt whilst doing so – if you cannot love or respect yourself, you won’t find someone who will either. If you love and respect yourself, you will never accept love or behaviour, that is less than what you deserve. If you look for love, or you look for something whilst you don’t know what it is that you’re worthy of, you will be disappointed in the end. You will paint an imposter as your Prince Charming and you will blame men for being shitty, or you will blame your taste in men. I painted so many people to be something that was worth my time and my love, a love that overwhelmed me even at the best of times. I wasted my time, and not because they lied to me, because the signs where there, I just chose to ignore them. And that’s sometimes what people who want to be loved do, we accept the love we think we deserve, instead of refusing shitty love, we take it and allow it to break us further. I may of learnt the hard way, but I learnt it the right way.
The lights were bright, the long hallway that I shuffled down was dazzling white. My mother’s hand squeezed mine, with an iron grasp, and with a firm tone she said, ‘don’t run this time, everything will be fine.’ My mum was always so supportive, holding my hand when I feared life the most. I nodded to her as my gazed drifted towards the double doors that were being held open by two nurses. ‘I’ll see you on the other side.’ I said, kissing her gently on her cheek. I’ll see her again.
I always hated waiting rooms, I’ve wasted a lot of time in them over the course of my life – but this time, it felt worth it. I could feel my veins filling up with the cold liquid that the nurse had placed in my arm, and the sound of my breathing in the mask that made me sound like Darth Vader. I began counting backwards, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4…
I could hear murmurs next to me, but I couldn’t make out anything, my vision in my left eye was still lost, until I began to make out my mother’s silhouette. ‘The damage to her left eye is too much, we couldn’t save it.’ I heard the husky, familiar voice of my surgeon, words piercing me deeper than any knife could. I could feel my heart deepen inside my chest, my breath became shallow, I tried to focus on anything but the words. I began to panic. My throat felt like two heavy hands held on to it, making it hard to breathe. The anaesthetic took over my body once more…
‘Id give her my eyes if I could, if it’s an option.’ My dads voice sounded broken, like he’d been crying. My dad, ladies and gentleman; always a giver in life, because I know if it was an option, he would give me his eyes. He’s a good man, who proceeds to do good deeds for the people he holds so dearly in his life. ‘I would myself, she could have my left eye. I’m 61, I only need one eye.’ They say Mother Theresa was a special lady, and I do believe that, because I believe my mother follows her footsteps in some ways. Through difficult situations with my health my mother has always been a strong, independent woman figure in my life, even when I was an infant. I may not of been able to see, but my ears and my heart were open, and they saw the heartbreak that my parents were going through. To see their baby daughter at the age of 23, bed ridden after surgery that was a lost cause. To see their pride and joy, their youngest child, lose her sight due to a condition that they could never control. That no one can truly control. I felt their pain. I felt their heartache.
It was the day after the surgery, there I stood in the bathroom mirror, looking at the mess I had created. My hair was tied back in a low bun, whisks of baby hair stood up. My skin was inflamed, oil embedded itself in my pores, creating an outbreak of spots. And there it was, my left eye covered with a patch, the stitches that sat in my eye itched, I wanted so desperately to pull them out. I felt something warm drip onto my chest, and then another. For the last time of that day, I looked into the mirror, tears dancing their way down my gaunt face.
I’d been asked by my surgeon that I understood that the surgery failed, I was given a decision to make. This decision would change my life forever, changing the identity of me, from how I see myself. To register being partially sighted or not. And I know what you’re thinking – why is that a big deal, right? Well I’ll tell you.
My heart started racing, beating so hard in my chest that it over powered the sound of the beeping cars around me. Everything was in slow motion, the pedestrians facial expressions next to me only showed terror. Multiple cars moving past my face, and a bright green light right above my head. I didn’t see the cars, I couldn’t see the green light that stood to my left. My right eye continuously strained itself to make up for the lack of vision in my left eye. Excruciating pain in my head made my ears ring, blurring my vision again. ‘Hey! Watch where you’re going!’ A man yelled from a taxi, at least I think it was a taxi. I could only really see the yellow neon sign that sat above the moving vehicle as it whizzed past my face. I stepped off the curb too soon, I’m sorry, I fell off the curb too soon. Did you know that you need both your eyes for depth perception? Because I didn’t. It’s become a whirlwind, I couldn’t cross the road without danger, danger to myself and to others.
A lady from the RNIB stood at my from door, and for all of those that don’t know who that is, it is the Royal National Institute of Blind. She was small, she wore a pale pink cardigan that complimented her fair skin. Her hair was white, short and very well maintained. She dominated the conversation, telling me how long she had been working with the blind, telling me tricks to deal with the loss of sight. She cared, she had devoted her life to helping the blind, I knew I could trust her. A few appointments had gone by, and the last was most certainly the hardest. She had walked me through my home, changing things in the kitchen to help me be independent. She placed neon orange dots on my microwave, so that I knew where the numbers were, and she done the same for the oven. She taught me how to peel a potato, how to feel the skin that I had missed. She taught me how to read a letter, how I must hold the paper and the best lighting to help me see the words. She helped.
I held it in my hand. It was half the length of my body, sturdy and white. Yes, it was a kane. She taught me how to use it, how I must hold the stick to help me cross the road, how the symbolisation of the stick will comfort me in a public place, but she was wrong. I sent photographs of the kane to my friends, making light of the situation, trying not to allow my heavy heart break once more. I was afraid, terrified in fact, that I would never amount to anything in my life, as I believed I would burden everyone I was in contact and would be in contact with in the future. My kane fell from my right hand, along with my bag from my right shoulder. I scurried to pick it up from the floor, my hands grasping it tightly, not allowing it to be removed from my grip again. How it fell you asked? Remember when I told you I couldn’t see the light to my left? The same thing happened this time. I couldn’t see the people that approached me from my left, and they didn’t care. They walked straight into me, telling me to ‘watch where you’re fucking going.’ Great, I would if I could. I had escaped my room, the four bare walls that trapped my body and my mind in slumber, but I had realised that the walls of my room did not trap me, they protected me. Protected me from the cruel world that I was still too vulnerable to face. I sat down in the middle of Liverpool One, under the shade of an architectural structure that stood there for the summer, which was home to a mount of books. I gripped one in my two hands, the green cover was bedimmed, making no first impression at all. I turned to the first page of the book, only to see lined of black blotched lines. I couldn’t read the book. My right eye could not gain the information that stood on the pages. I looked at the cream pages again, noticing that there were water marks on the pages, but it wasn’t raining – matter of fact, the sun and the heat was at its highest for the summer. I hadn’t noticed that the water marks were from the tears that ran down my face. Silently crying in the middle of a busy city, classy eh?
It was a Wednesday night, the streets were quiet, the moon was bright in the sky. I hugged my arms to my chest, pulling the hood on my jacket over my head. I sat in silence in my back garden, listening to the sound of the odd car race up and down the roads, but most of the time it was quiet; very peaceful. I heard the sound of the alarm on the front door bleep, hearing my intoxicated mother walk through the door, trying her best to be quiet so she did not wake me. My mother stood there in front of me as I walked through the back door into the kitchen, her tiny stature was slumped, her hair was not in its usual full bodied and shiny self. Her eyes were tired. ‘Mum, are you okay? I know you’re going to tell me you’re fine like you always do, but I’m here to help the best I can if you want to talk.’ My voice was meek, I hadn’t expected to come out so weak and frail. My mother looked at me with utter despair, her face that once shone brighter than the stars, was dull. Lifeless. ‘It’s not fair. Why is life so unfair? All the shit you’re going through, you’ve done nothing wrong. I’m so sorry Jess, I’m so sorry.’ My mother sobbed. I stood there, shocked. I had never seen my mother in such a state, I had never seen my mother cry in such a way. She was broken, she had gave her life for me, for all of her children as a mother does. She had held me, fed me, loved me and cherished me all of my life, even when things got difficult with the ‘disease’ that I carried.
She sat at the kitchen table, her shoulders crouched over, she held her face in her hands. My mother’s heart had broken and it was my fault. ‘Mum, you don’t need to apologise. You have done nothing wrong. Things in life come to test us, as unfortunate as the circumstances are, hopefully this will open my eyes in a metaphorical way obviously.’ I joked with her, trying to make that beautiful smile appear on her face, but I had no luck. She’s a strong woman my mother, she is an independent woman who has raised five respectful, ambitious and caring children, and we all owe her for that.
It’s been weeks, and I sat in my bed, refusing to see anyone, unable to eat solid foods for the past seven months. I refused to shower. I refused to leave my bed. I refused to talk to people. My best friend sat by my side every night, bringing me soup, making me watch Love Island. She would sit by my side and hold my hand on my darkest days, she would wipe my tears when they escaped my eyes. She held me when I sobbed into her arms, she stroked my hair when I laid in bed sick. She forced me from my room, and introduced me back into society, she was never embarrassed to be seen with me with my cut up and stitched up eye, even when I was ashamed of myself. She took the piss out of me, and helped me to laugh at myself again. I had isolated myself from the people that cared the most about me, because I was angry at the world, but I was actually angry at myself. I hated myself. I hated what i allowed my life to become. I hated how I allowed myself to wallow in my own self pity, drowning in my own misery.
Days, weeks, months went by; I had laser surgery every other month to stop the blood vessels bleeding into my eye, my eye specialist doing everything in his power to save my right eye. I was grateful. Matter of fact, I was truly grateful. His consistent level of care for me, his harsh truths and supportiveness helped me pick myself back up, and pushed me to get my shit together.
Have you ever had someone discriminate against you? To hold something that you cannot control, against you? To blame you? To make you feel guilty for even being alive? I started a new job, a job that was infested with people who only cared about themselves. People who claimed to have your back, and then refused to acknowledge your struggles. My boss was equivalent to the Wicked Witch of the West, so let me place this in a short story for you. ‘Once upon a time, there stood a dark, monstrous castle that sat in the middle of a beautiful city. The sun tried shine bright through the windows of the castle, but no sunlight was able to get past the large metal shutters that contained the stained glass windows. A loud chuckle erupted from the castle, the Wicked Witch of the West appeared with her group flying monkeys. The wicked witch was childish, scheming with her flying monkeys, deceiving and manipulating the King of the castle. The King, the first of his name, was a clever man. He was a King for the people, especially for the people that worked for him, allowing love and laughter within the dark castle. The King was mighty, but he confided in the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz. And what a great friendship that it bloomed to be. Dorothy entered the castle, taken under the wing of the King, but misfortune was bestowed upon the King. His health began to deteriorate, leaving young Dorothy in the grasps of the Wicked Witch of the West. The Great Oz and Dorothy had a strong bond with one another, a bond that was bound by blood red shoes. The Wicked Witch schemed again, using Dorothy as a punishment for the Great Oz. Spells and potions were used on poor Dorothy, her health began to deteriorate just like the Kings. But scarecrow would not allow Dorothy to face the Wicked Witch alone, he stood by her side and fought along side The Great and Powerful Oz, Dorothy, Tin Man and The Lion. Reports of the Kings death erupted riots in the castle, fear travelled throughout the families that worked for the King. The Wicked Witch used her dark magic to turn one of her most trusted flying monkeys into a King, for 3 days. Her scheme was dark, deceitful and malicious. Dorothy confided in the Great Oz, exclaiming her fear for her life due to the Wicked Witches nasty ways. The Great Oz proclaimed his love for Dorothy, promising that the Wicked Witch would no more. On the second day, the new King stood tall, his hair was tatted and grey, the potion was starting to wear off. The King spoke with demand, a tone which no one who ever question his authority. A deal he offered Dorothy. To kill, or be killed. She must take her own life, or her life will be taken from her. A black potion bottle and a long, golden dagger we’re both placed in front of Dorothy. She had a choice on how she would die, but no choice on dying.’
You see, my boss used my diabetes, my depression and my loss of vision against me. They disregarded all notes from professionals, they disregarded all human emotions, not caring how they would make me feel. I had lost all of my confidence that I had gained back over the past several months, I built myself up just to be torn back down. I had done nothing wrong, but my bosses personal vendetta had clouded all judgement. A vendetta against not me, but my sister. A pawn in a game of chess, trying to be protected by the Queen, but having all corners exposed. I didn’t know what to do, I wasn’t hurt. I felt something beyond such pain. My life had been used and played as a mockery, I felt as if my existence was a waste of clean air.
My room was warm, water trickled down from my freshly washed hair. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…39, 40. I injected myself with 40 units of insulin, which would cause my blood sugar levels to drop, leaving me to slowly endorse myself into a coma. A note. A suicide note lay by my bare feet, expressing my apologies to whoever found me, but announcing my love to my family and friends. It was the most difficult thing I had ever had to write, but I believe that they deserved an answer, to know the real reason why I had chosen to take my own life. My eyes grew heavier, my body started to shake, my heart was beating so fast, I thought it was going to beat out of my chest. My breathing slowed, becoming more shallow and less frequent…
‘Jessica?! Hey, Jessica! Can you hear me?’ It was a woman’s voice, loud and high pitched. Bleeping came from the right side of me, as something sharp pierced my right arm, allowing cold liquid to course through. I opened my eyes to three nurses standing over me. As I made eye contact with each nurse, they smiled, followed shortly with a sigh of relief. ‘Jessica, were so glad you’re okay’ the nurse said, she was wearing all navy blue scrubs, her long brown hair tied back off her face, her tired eyes covered by her thick black glasses. I didn’t feel okay. I felt like shit. I felt like a failure all over again. I was hallow. As I lay there on the hospital bed, the conversation between my boss and myself kept replaying in my head. Discrimination. You’re not good enough. You are not worthy. You’re a waste of air. Negative thoughts began to swarm my mind. ‘Jessica. Your family and friends are outside, would you like me to bring them in?’ The same nurse appeared by my side again. My family. My friends. They’re here. I hadn’t thought about how this would of affected them, to see me bed ridden, on the brink of death once more. No. I wouldn’t see them. I felt guilty. ‘Can you please send in Katie’ I asked. As the nurse walked out of the room, I got lost in my mind again, thinking of all the things I could of done better, hating myself for all of the complications that led me to this stage in my life. I turned my head to the left to see Katie standing there, her dark denim jeans hugged her body, whilst she wore her long mustard coat open. Her eyes were red and puffy. She took my hand in hers, caressing it gently so that the cannula wasn’t disturbed. I could see the devastation in her face, but the love in her eyes. ‘I know why you done what you done, and I don’t blame you. I’m just so happy and grateful that you’re still with us, we all love you so much’ Katie’s voice started to break, her last words caught in her throat. Her right hand held mine tighter, as she scooped the tears from her left eye. I’d hurt her. My friend sat in front of me, hurt and overwhelmed with sadness because she almost lost me. My heart hurt, seeing the pain that I had caused someone that I love.
‘Why? Why would you that to me?’ My mother was stood by the curtain that enclosed me inside the cubicle. Her voice broken, tears streaming down her face, as my sister, my dad and my best friend stood by her side. She rushed to my side, hugging and kissing my face. Her words, the tone of her voice, it was like I could see the wound that blood weeped out of, and I was the bastard who had stabbed her.
And here I am now. I’m currently in therapy after six months of home care visits, numerous hospital appointments and antidepressants. Yet, I’m still standing strong. I have been torn down more times than I can count, but I have rebuilt myself more time than I have fallen. I have found where I belong in life, where I am accepted, my creativity and my individuality is cherished and never destroyed. Where my disease/disability is viewed as what it is, not as a problem. Where my dark days are showered with love, care and support. I am joined with my friend, with whom i am beginning the journey to create an empire with. To create a place with comfort to be yourself, support for problems that you will never have to face alone and a fair, justified place; where no one will ever be treated unfairly for as long as we have our say. This vision will be pure, it will be beautiful, and it will blow everyone’s mind. This story is to allow people to recognise, not everyone has their shit together. No one is perfect, as much as they paint it out to be on social media. No matter how beautiful and authentic looking their smile may look, we all have our problems. People deal with their problems in their own way, but we must never, ever forget, to stand back up. Whether you have been dragged down, beaten black and blue – you have the power to change yourself, no one else can do it for you. Find love that is deserving of you – I have.