Every Life Has A Story

Every life has a story, and so do websites. This is the story of my life and website, two for the price of one. Now aren’t you a lucky person! 🙂

I promised you I would explain why I chose to call my website “Paused Life“. This was back in July when I purchased the domain name. Here I am at half past midnight on a cold 15th of November 2008, attempting one more time to explain the story behind the name.

I don’t know where to start. It would have been so much easier if I had just picked a random word to name this website with. The difficulty I’m faced with is to know how much to say and how much not to say. The title of my site, Paused Life, could have just as well been used to describe my own life. In fact it has. By me. Before I go any further, I would like you to know one thing about me: at the time of writing this, I am not unhappy.

From 2000 to 2003 one of my best friends at my high school in France was sick, and very sad with that too. As time went by I felt that sooner or later she would end up bringing me down with her. This was never intentional, it just happens when you try to stick by the side of someone who doesn’t want to be helped. It felt like it would be sooner rather than later though, and I knew that if I did tumble down I would struggle just to keep my head above water.
I’m a cheerful person by nature and always have been. But months without smiling was starting to kill me. With my parents agreement I left mid-year and stayed with a family in the United States of America for the last three months of that school year. I went to study in Virginia and had many adventures, some amazing, some scary, some difficult. But my smile had returned and so had my friend’s health. This was in 2003.

I spent that summer in Wales on a Christian activity camp there. We did a lot of team building work as well as games and more notably, physical activities.

Autumn was another difficult yet rewarding time. I had returned to an English school for the first time in ten years. Apart from those three months in the States, I had only attended French schools and that from the age of six onwards. I lodged with a family in Lincolnshire who lived near my new school. The living conditions there were not ideal and after about two months I moved out and stayed with some very good friends of my parents instead. I settled in immediately. I loved my school, my room, and my new friends too. Even the subjects I was studying were exciting. 🙂 After the standard French subjects that had suited me up until then, I was very much in need of something new. And my three subjects were just that: completely new and exciting. I had chosen the following: English Literature, Leisure and Recreation, and finally, my favourite, Psychology.

But health wise things weren’t going so well at all. All those little problems I had accumulated over the years were continuing to grow in number and severity. All that activity that year had taken it’s toll on my body and what I had coped with up until then was now becoming impossible to live with.
I dropped English Literature. Shortly afterwards Leisure and Recreation too was put aside. Walking to school was becoming so tiring, sometimes I didn’t think I would make it up to the school gates to ask for help. It was freezing cold but my face would burn from the sweat that trickled down it. What on earth was going on? Yet another bizarre symptom.
My parents suggested I invest in a bike and use it instead of walking around town and to and fro from school. A very bright pink bike was all I found. Funnily enough it wasn’t because of it’s hideous colour that I stopped using it; it had actually become too heavy for me to push.

– “Huh? What’s that you say? A woman’s bike, too heavy? You were rock climbing and canoeing just a few months ago; what are you talking about?!”
– “Well I don’t know do I! You tell me what’s happening then? … Yeah that’s what I thought, you don’t have a clue either.”

I’ve no idea who I had that conversation with; perhaps I even invented it. Who knows, my short term memory became worse than that of my own grandparents. All I remember is always forgetting.

December came and I was still heavily dependent on my little piece of paper I had made to find my way around the school. Hallways I had gone down so many times before didn’t ring a bell.

– “Were the toilets always on this side of the hall? Wow, I felt sure they were on the other side! Crazy stuff…”

Christmas 2003, my first time back in France since the end of the previous school year. I missed my parents, I missed my sister and I missed my dogs. And I think they all missed me too. Although they looked worried sick. :/
What if… Was it possible?… Do I too have what took so long to be diagnosed in my sister?
We got some tests done. I may have looked perfectly healthy on the outside but my insides were yelling to whoever was willing to listen that I was a complete mess.
So there we had it: Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) and Lyme Disease.

I returned to school in January despite my parents being opposed to it. I thought I could do it. I really believed I could just go on and cope like before… I didn’t even hold two weeks.
I packed my bags, said goodbye to teachers and friends, and the country I felt like I was just starting to rediscover. Thankfully my Dad was in England for a few days so he booked our tickets on the same aeroplane back to France. I can’t imagine how I would have coped otherwise.
I was a zombie. A sad, tired, disappointed zombie.

From that point onwards, my health continued to deteriorate. It felt like my body was finally catching up with all the things I had done and it was all coming crashing down on me. My sister who had already gone through many years of this herself now had to watch her little sister go through the same.
We were already close but we became good friends too at this point. We still had the odd huge screaming sibling fight of course, wouldn’t want to miss out on the fun, would you?! lol I mean c’mon, I am a little sister after all. It’s my job! But that didn’t last long either, we became too tired to fight so we’d just hug instead. Kind of seems so simple now. Why don’t we just get two grumpy and tired Presidents together in a room, lock all exits, and tell them they have to hug. You know, a real hug. No pretending here guys! You can’t come out, eat or use the toilet until you’ve really hugged each other!

Na, I didn’t think that would resolve wars either. Was worth a try though.

Anyway, back to my thrilling story. You must be wondering when it’s supposed to become boring. Ha ha! Yeah, right, if only! In fact, as it turned out, both my parents were struggling with the same illnesses too. Yeeha… Great. Dog walks, shopping, paper work, even having a discussion became difficult. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to talk to three people with brain fog and severe short term memory loss, on top of yourself. Well I have and we must have looked pretty hilarious now I think of it.

So after all this activity, moving around, meeting different people from different cultures, and a few nut cases here and there, I end up back at my parents house, with all four of us disabled and incapable of pretty much everything you’d expect a normal person to be able to do. Reaching up your arm to grab a bowl, opening the stupid screw top on milk bottles, bending down to put your underwear on.. Now this was what I call serious humiliation. That was it, I was handicapped and after a few months I become housebound too! Sh*t!
It was like someone switched off the “Play” button on my life and pressed “Pause” instead. “Hey! You pressed da wrong button you idiot!”

The idiot never heard though, otherwise I wouldn’t still be stuck in my room, unable to go down the five flights of stairs that lead to the outside world, fours years later. And everything stopped for me. The days I went horse-riding were long gone. The times I had friends over were long gone too. I just couldn’t. A single visit of an hour or two from someone would leave me weeks and weeks in a constant state of exhaustion, unable to feed myself properly or even wash without assistance. Then it would take months after that to slowly and painfully work back up to the same level of health I had before the visit. And that’s when I went “Thank God for this marvelous invention that is the Internet!”.

Friends could email me and even if I couldn’t always reply, they were patient and caring and stayed faithful all this time. But it was still hard. After all, I heard all about them graduating high school, their first apartment, their new university courses, their first serious boyfriend. But wait it gets worse. No, seriously! Their weddings! Ha ha! Oh my gosh and I missed every single one of those wedding receptions. Arrrgh! lol Well guess who went and had a baby in October WITHOUT ASKING ME IF I WOULD BE FIT ENOUGH TO VISIT BY THE TIME IT POPS OUT? Yep, my good friend and her husband randomly decided they wanted a baby without including in their planning the years of pacing and resting I would need to visit them. So there ya go. Way to ruin it for me.

October 2008 came, so did the kid, and I sure as hell didn’t set foot in their house. I wasn’t ready yet! Ugh. The next friend who has a baby without consulting me first is so being crossed off my “Best Friends For Life” list. You-hou! I’m handicapped! You’re supposed to slow down your life pace to follow mine. … Right? 😛

Na, I’m really very thankful for the news I hear from these special people. They have continually made the effort of including me in their life, even though I have nothing to give them in return. And I’m extremely thankful for everything they have done for me.
None the less, I’m 21 now, I have no diploma other than the Brevet de Collège that you have to pass in France, aged 15 or so, to continue onto high school (12 to 15 year old’s go to Collège and 16 to 19 year old’s go to Lycée). I can’t work, I can’t think, I can’t walk my own dog. And I can’t even make decent jokes! :C

My life has been on pause now since February 2004. No one can tell me when the idiot will come back and put his greasy finger on that play button again. Until then, every day is a challenge and a fight between pacing and spending the little energy I have saved up.
The internet is my door onto the world, my only way of “getting out there” and meeting people, keeping in touch with old friends, and keeping my brain active.

There was a point when I wished for one thing and that was to be in a coma. My thinking was that I didn’t want to die but that I wasn’t exactly alive anymore either. If only I could just sleep for a few years, then perhaps my body would be able to repair itself and I would naturally wake up when it was ready, just like the few people who have woken up from a deep coma. Or who were kissed by their Prince Charming. But I couldn’t see myself managing that trick; there must be another solution. And that’s when I started a website and invested in the companionship of my own dog, a Havanese Bichon mix called Ginger Biscuit (Gingin, or Monkey Butt for short. Thanks Granny for that second name there… >_>).
And that’s what my life has looked like and will look like for quite some time to come: Subeta.net and Teahouse MB, PausedLife.com, and Ginger.

Welcome to my life, the one that was put on pause.

xx Joanna