Friday, 18 August 2017

An Elementary School Memory | Journal 365

Welcome, friends!

To day 5 of my morning scribing journal journey...

Click here to see the original August Journal Prompts list. Note - it's from 2016 but hey what's a year between friends? ;-)

18th August Prompt: Write a memory from elementary school

Firstly, I had to Google 'Elementary School' - I know it's an American term but I was confusing it with Kindergarten! Turns out it's what we call 'Primary School' in Scotland - for those at neither end of the world, it's basically junior school - where you go between the ages of five - twelve.

With that cleared up, here we go!...

Note: this post contains info about bodily functions - if that's not for you then it's probably best to read a different post.

I loved Primary School and the first two years of it were two of the best years of my life - I was fit, I was healthy, I had tons of energy and I had a super bunch of friends (many of whom I'm still friends with to this day). I couldn't wait to attend each morning to play with my pals! But things changed in Primary three (when I was about seven) and worsened in Primary four.

Back in the late 1980s/early 1990s, endocrine and coeliac issues were barely known about. With regards to thyroid disease, it was thought to be an old woman's problem and coeliac often went untreated - many people were treated for IBS. It was even worse if you were a kid because NOTHING should be wrong with you as a kid - stop annoying the Doctors precious time and get back to school! 

Out of nowhere, from one day to the next, I started with terrible stomach aches. I went from being a fit and healthy kid to being hunched up and writhed around my bed in agony. I didn't know it at that time, but now I could totally compare it to birth contractions. My stools were so large (width and length) that they blocked the toilet and they were often a pale clay colour. I felt nauseous, occasionally I vomited and I was sporadically covered in an odd rash - a bit like a heat rash. I was lethargic and I no longer wanted to go to school, who the heck would?!

These symptoms occurred almost daily and of course, my mother took me to the Doctors and he diagnosed me with constipation. He gave me the vilest orange drink to consume (the name/brand of it escapes me now) but it did nothing to help me, in fact, it made me worse. (With my nursing training behind me I now know that concoction would have stretched my stomach lining making things worse in the years to come). My mother considered that it might be allergies but they weren't really interested in hearing what she had to say. Every time we went into the Doctors office, he sat there poised with his pen and paper ready to write out a prescription and only ever did the most basic of examinations. At no point was he interested in investigating anything further. We tried different Doctors but they were all like that, and living in a small island, there was no point trying anywhere else because there was literally nowhere else to go.

The school was just as bad - because the Doctor said that there wasn't really anything wrong with me the school took his word as gospel. Doctors in those days were still at a point in time where everyone put them on a pedestal (along with ministers and such like). Thank the Lord that times have changed! My mother spent most of her time writing letters and arguing with the education and health care authorities. Looking back, it was ridiculous as it was something so simple and glaringly obvious - even with my nurse training I could guess the diagnosis at this point in time, but like I say, times have thankfully changed.

So, I was forced to go to school every day feeling like absolute crap (pardon the pun) and it was awful. I never told my friends (what seven - twelve year old would even want to discuss that?) and I spent a LOT of time in the toilet!

The whole thing didn't get sorted out until I was seventeen and I met a more modern, functional Doctor (the newbie in town) who concluded it was Coeliac disease and I stopped eating gluten. Hall-e-friggin-lujah! He diagnosed me with myxoedema and coeliac all in the course of three months AND he came to our house to see me, something that Doctors no longer tend to do (well not at my end of the world anyway) but he was so concerned that something was drastically wrong with me as a young person who was so incapacitated (I was on the verge of slipping into a coma with undiagnosed thyroid disease at that point). I love that man, I really do. I literally owe him my life.

Having worked in correlation with the schools in my last job, I can say that they are more on the button these days with children who are unwell, and much more considerate. But back in the 1980s/early 1990s, they still had a way to go. A couple more examples: I was forced to drink milk (I hated milk) and write with my right hand (when I was left handed) - I still have that green torture rubber that they made me use to write with and a big bump on the middle finger of my right hand to this day!

You know what made my Primary school years fun? My friends. Oh, and Miss Barclay - who was my primary three teacher. She was so nice and used to let me sit on her lap and gave me hugs - bless her heart! (With a seven-year-old of my own now and looking back I think she could simply see that something wasn't quite right but that we weren't getting anywhere and she probably felt for me as I was just a little girl). Which concludes that whatever you're going through, and when the people in authority can't 'sort you out', one of the things that you need the most is LOVE. And humour, because who doesn't like to laugh?

What about you? What are your memories of junior school with chronic illness?

#selfcareisnotselfish #balanceiskey

D x

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