Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs
Updated: Feb 20
I am tired.
I am tired of living the social media dream. I really didn't ever think I was, but I hear from people that it looks like I am doing really well, or I look really happy and carefree.
When people ask how I am I usually deflect and fob them off with some comment about being fine.
When people gesture towards my head and ask how my health is these days I always fob them off and say I'm fine.
So I've decided to make a list of the reasons I am not fine post brain surgery, and why I should never have tried to deny or cover it up in the hope to look like I am not only coping, but flourishing. It appears that I have managed to fool even those I consider to be closest to me, as they ask when I plan to go back into full time teaching, not considering that I struggle to 'leave the house', in my case van, in the mornings and that I detest social interaction.
Kelly post brain surgery:
I have hypersensitivity. This means I am hypersensitive within my sensory system. This does not mean that I wear sunglasses on cloudy days to be dramatic, or that I wear ear defenders when driving my van just to look ridiculous - every part of my sensory system is now much much more heightened than it ever was before. Certain smells make me want to puke - certain cleaning products, foods, perfumes. Certain sounds make me want to puke - the sound of people chewing (my god, this is VERY hard to deal with, especially when people don't take it seriously and continue munching whilst showing me their tonsils), the sound of several conversations happening in a public place (eg a pub or coffee shop) the sound of someone talking over music, or two types of music being played at once.
I understand that lots of people are irritated by many of these things, but please try to imagine if someone came and switched that irritation up to high definition and made you experience it bigger, brigter and louder, every day for the rest of your life. That is my experience, and everyone else who has had brain surgery.
I suffer when I over exert, or when the weather is overcast.
These episodes are slightly ambiguous. They present to a 'normal' person as a migraine, I understand that the way I have described the experience I now have with light and sound is also something that people with migraines experience, but please don't tell me that your migraine feels the same as this. I have migraines too, I get the intense headache and fuzzy lines in my eyes, these episodes are not migraines. These are the way my body reacts to having lumps of metal in my brain, and when I 'do too much' or if the air pressure is low, I suffer with the worst nausea, dizziness, sickness, pain in the left of my head (where my aneurysm was) that runs down my left arm and the left of my chest, it makes me feel as though my heart might stop, or my head might explode. The left side of my body goes numb and my face goes numb on my left side. It terrifies me that I am having a stroke. Especially considering the fact my Mum had a stroke and 28 and I and I have experienced this every 4-6 weeks, for a week at a time aged 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29, and still continuing. If I sleep on the left of my head it sometimes wakes me up and I am sick.
I have had to reduce my working hours to the minimum I can survive on, I work 2 mornings a week and luckily the episodes seem to be settling down. If I do more than this I suffer.
I have PTSD.
On an almost daily basis I have visual flashes of dying. They usually involve me being hit by a car or something hitting me on the head. They happen more often when I am stressed. They happen in parallel with real time and I experience it in real time, and it takes my breath away. Sometimes I have to stop and sit down, and sometimes I cry because it is so real and vivid.
When you ask me how I am or how my health is, it feels ridiculous to me that I still experience all of this, so I put it in a box and I smile, and I tell you that I am fine, I am okay and I have the odd side effect, but life goes on. In all honesty, life seems to have stopped inside me, and my outer being has kept running alongside reality to keep up. Sometimes I wish that I had not had the surgery, and that the aneurysm had burst and killed me quickly, because at least then I would not suffer these post traumatic effects everyday. As a result of every aspect of this I have inherited the worst anxiety, and it makes it very difficult to take any positive from my experience.
I did not want to be seen as weak or lose myself through the experience of my brain surgery, and so I jumped back into my own shoes very quickly. I have survived in everyway that I have known how. This includes getting ill from overworking and having to give up my flat. It seemed very easy to romanticise the idea of living in a van. I have spent 2 years being asked if it scares me, and I have always answered no.
I change my mind. Yes, I am scared.
The most important thing that I took from my teaching experience was the concept of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. I understood that without my students' basic needs being met, they would not be able to flourish and grow into wonderful young people, but would be stuck not knowing how to look after themselves. It was really important to me to know that my students were okay and in a position to learn and grow.
This I now realise makes me a hypocrite.
Up until this past week I have been kidding myself that I am fine and dandy. That 'borrowing' showers and letting friends wash my clothes was okay and that those things weren't necessary in my daily happiness and mental wellbeing. Well I'm a bloody idiot.
On a daily basis I don't know if I will have the opportunity to wash, to eat, wash my clothes or to take a poo. These are all things that I used to take for granted, and most people do. I have relied on a handful of people to make those things possible for me while I have had 'no fixed abode'. I have fed myself this rubbish that it is okay to focus on anything except these things and hope that it works out every day.
It has recently cost me a friendship and broken my heart. After having the opportunity to reflect, I realised that this is no fault of anyone but me, because I lent too hard on one family. They didn't ask for it and I should not have taken it for granted. That made me reflect on the fact that I should have those things in my daily life anyway, as my basic human right.
I wear my jeans for 2/3 weeks at a time, and I am grateful for 1 shower a week. I waste money eating out so I can use their toilet facilities to have a poo and brush my teeth. This leaves me skint. I am finally in a position to accept that my lifestyle is unsustainable. I am not living the dream of #vanlife, I am a homeless person who is lucky enought to have a metal box to sleep in. I have spent a lot of time crying about this for the past 3 or 4 weeks.
The amazing root of these thoughts come from my dog. I put a lot of effort everyday into meeting his basic needs, ensuring he has water, food, somewhere warm to sleep and access to loo/exercise. I do this because I love him and he deserves it, and I am now in a position to see myself through this perspective too.