“Coping is the process of turning shit into sunshine”

My wonderful nan- Dorothy used to say, “put can’t in your pocket and pull out try”. As a child, I didn’t pay much attention to this as I hopelessly declared, “I can’t draw that/write that/spell that/read that/eat that”. But had I known how important Nan’s words would be in helping me cope when my life gracefully skidded off the tracks, I would have thanked her there and then.

As I grew into a nervous, doubt-filled young lady, my ‘cants’ became more varied and adventurous: “I can’t run a half marathon, I can’t bake a cake, I can’t be trusted to deliver radiation, I most certainly can’t survive 4 lots of brain surgery and I categorically CANNOT cope with the catastrophe that was to come”. Well thank you Nan, it was your words I thought of as I encountered each of these hurdles, I did put can’t in my pocket and pull out try and turns out, I can cope! 

So how do we do it? How do we cope when life puts a great big can’t in our way? Over here at fits & giggles, I strongly believe that the power of humour, with more than a hint of naive positivity usually does the trick.

My default mode as I’m being scrambled into the back of an ambulance is, “I’m fine” and if I keep repeating this, everything will be ok and people will marvel at how well I deal with difficult situations. Ironically, at these moments I’m not even trying to be humourous…I genuinely believe that I’m fine, I blame the drugs! My friends have told me that owing to the fact that my favourite saying immediately post-seizure is “I’ll be back to work on Monday”, they are going to have these words engraved on my headstone!!

There’s a lot of choice

Usually, my bravado/arrogance lasts about 3 days before some poor nurse has to sit with me whilst I cry hysterically about the state of my hair/my lack of clean pants after unexpectedly ending up on a 7 day vacation that I haven’t packed for/the indignity of being handed an iPad displaying various consistencies of poo and asked to select which most closely resembles your latest movement…side note: this is actually very stressful, imagine at the opticians where you have to pick the clearer one- A or B. This is a lot like that, except if you pick the wrong one you’ll end up with an enema! 

But I’m very well aware that it isn’t just me who has to cope with these moments of madness, it is my long-suffering friends and family too.

Some friends coped with my theatrics by insisting on bringing me in copious amounts of sugary snacks (which I am certainly not complaining about, but for future reference, if I’m going to stand any chance of selecting the most healthy poo on the iPad, I’m going to need fruit, not carbs!!). Others by sending lovely cards, gifts and messages (which always touches me deeply- so please don’t stop!). Some crease up laughing and re-tell their version of the story so we can all sit around and have a good old laugh at Hayley’s latest calamity. But by far, my absolute favourite coping mechanism, comes from my infamous sister, Natalie. Her answer to all problems whatever they may be, is ‘google it’. Approximately 5 minutes after telling her I’d been in hospital and diagnosed with epilepsy, I receive a message….”I’m sorry to hear that, but I’ve just been googling ‘celebrities with epilepsy’….Prince, Elton John, Martin Kemp, Lil’Wayne”, OK great, seems the old over-excited brain cell trend is rife among musicians….could be another avenue for me to explore!! 

Me and The Boys: 5 epi’s, The Tonic-Clonics, The Rolling Eyes, any more ideas on a postcard to me please!!!

At the time, I wondered how the hell this great nugget of knowledge, courtesy of Google and Natalie was going to be of any use to me. Perhaps I’ll one day end up in a quiz where the tie-breaker is, “name 4 celebrities with epilepsy”, the rest of the team: “we can’t possibly know that”, me: “guys, put that can’t straight back in your pocket. In the great words of Dorothy Edwards, oh yes we can….”. Hypothetical Pub quiz aside, this little gem has done me very well, because now I know that laughter really is by far the best medicine, every time I hear purple rain and I have a little giggle to myself, I know that coping is about seeing the good or funny in situations where you can and  allowing yourself to have a little laugh (at your own expense if needs be)!

The fun times didn’t end with Prince. I can look back on a lot of things that have happened over the last 4 years and laugh, and here are just a few….. 

The time when I arrived at A&E with my friend and headed straight for the toilet (assisted of course). My friend was approached by a bunch of concerned looking, over zealous Doctors who insisted she rolled her sleeve up for routine observations. That was until I stumbled into the room like a toddler on roller skates, and they realised my poor sleep deprived friend wasn’t the patient. 

Or the time when I demanded my sister come in and straighten my hair. I felt like a million dollars and marked the special occasion by insisting my friends and I used the family room to get a dominoes delivery and party the night away (the plan was thwarted by the fact that I couldn’t tell the delivery man where I was!). 

Or the time when an unfortunate misunderstanding had me waiting almost an hour for a follow-up appointment, only to realise that the receptionist directing me had thought I’d said “urology”, not “neurology”….I had wondered why the waiting room was full of 70+ year old men and leaflets about catheters and incontinence! 

Or the time when my friend brought me in some clothes and in my excitement, I packed up toiletries, some underwear, towels and a dress and practically ran to the shower room. It wasn’t until I’d finished showering that I realised the ‘dress’ was actually a top. Seeing no alternative, I had to shamefully walk past the hoard of doctors gathered around the reception for morning handover, with my bottom half completely on show. But hey, at least I had fresh pants.

I could go on, but if I tell you all my funniest stories now I fear I’ll have none left. Actually, who am I kidding, the unreal, crazy, circus-resembling chaos that is my life will never run out (I hope)!

I think the point I am trying to raise in this post is the issue of ‘coping’. There have been times in my life when I thought, “I can’t cope with this”, or, “how am I going to cope with the fact that I’ve lost my freedom and independence/I am unable to do the parts of my job that I love/I am scared to leave my house/I am reliant on total strangers/I don’t want to be left alone with my nieces and nephews? We all go through things we think at the time we cannot manage. Yet, here we all are, not just coping, but nailing it! Whether your tried and tested method is coffee drinking, inappropriate humour, googling ‘celebrities with epilepsy’, crying until your tear ducts go on strike or simply insisting, “I’m fine and will be back to work tomorrow” despite a limb hanging off or scoring 8 or less on the Glasgow Coma Scale (google it), if it works for you, that’s OK! 

Our lovely nan

And as I finish up, I have a story of another time where I put can’t in my pocket and pulled out try and coped with something I never thought I could. It’s a tribute to the wonderful Dorothy, my amazing nan….

I was sat between my sisters as we said a sad good bye to nan. Between the 3 of us, we’d written a speech highlighting an entire lifetime of some of the most amazing childhood memories spent with her. But as we were about to go up to read it out to all her family and friends, I was suddenly hit with fear….”I can’t do it”. Then I heard her words and I reached into my pocket for try. 10 minutes later, Natalie, Kirsty and I are stood at the front of the church recalling story after story of the hilarious life of our nan. Like the time she tried to order a prawn jacket potato from Dominoes Pizza because she didn’t like ‘foreign food’, or how she collected every issue of the ‘Trade-It’ newspaper from her local Asda- not because she was looking for a new car but because she thought they were free and would be handy for wrapping up her food left-overs. She discovered they are not free when after about 10 years, she was stopped by a security guard for shoplifting! Within a few minutes, the whole church is laughing hysterically and it was at that moment I learnt a lesson that I didn’t know needed learning. That is that humour makes the unbearable bearable.

It has also just occured to me as I’m writing this post, that I now know exactly where my hazardous and calamitous nature comes from….THANK YOU NAN!!

Lots of Love,

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