The thought of the prom excited me as well as chilled me to the bone. I loved getting dressed up, putting on my make-up and doing my hair. Against all the excitement was a nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach. Two thoughts of extreme opposition played tig tag in my mind. The night could either be completely brilliant or go horribly wrong.
It had been especially hard for me as I had to stop school in 3rd year due to falling ill with P.O.T.S. I will not bore you with all the details but amongst other symptoms I suffer from debilitating fatigue. I was bedbound for a few months and since then have been more or less housebound. I can do something out of the house for an hour or so a day with rest. My heart races and I get very breathless when I'm on my feet and believe me, the five inch heels I wore to the prom did not help matters. However it wasn't being ill that bothered me the most. It was entering a room full of teenagers that all knew each other and were involved in great things together during school. I had a few friends who have stuck by me since the beginning of this illness but truthfully I feel like an outsider.
The day of the prom arrived and I planned the day ahead. I thought I had better not watch T.V. as it may use up my energy so I laid out books and magazines. I also had my I pod for audio books and music to keep myself entertained. I lay with my eyes closed and meditated for half an hour to savour every last bit of energy.
At around three o'clock the first exciting thing happened. My hairdresser, Sophie arrived. She fastened my hair into a French Roll. We chatted while sipping on fizzy juice with strawberries, served in cocktail glasses to keep it classy. So far, so good. After this I lay down whilst trying not to ruin my hair, which admittedly was a little awkward. I closed my eyes again to bank more energy. Next I applied my makeup, dressed and put on my five inch heels, blissfully unaware of the pain my feet would endure. As I was doing this I could hear the doorbell ring again and again as family and friends arrived. The noise from the kitchen was getting louder and louder. This made me smile as it reminded me of the amount of people that supported me.
I made my way downstairs and into the crowded kitchen where everyone was standing with their phones and cameras. As one camera flashed another flashed immediately, then another and another. I didn’t know where to look. It was all rather confusing. I wondered if this is what celebrities felt like. After people left I gathered myself together. My heart was beating against my chest. I sat down for a few minutes to gain control. Then I had to leave. The scariest part of the night was about to begin.
People met at the school for photographs. Mr Nicholls, the headmaster and Mrs Sangster spoke to me. This was reassuring as they were glad I could make it. As everyone walked to the buses I was driven by my mum. I couldn't decide whether to go by bus to the hotel or be driven there as I couldn't see any of my friends and I was feeling quite anxious. Eventually I just decided to go on the bus and to my relief saw Kelly, one of my friends. She offered me a seat beside her and her boyfriend. Everyone around me chatted excitedly but my energy was waning and tiredness crept in. I sat there quietly but wished I could be like the others.
Then the worst part of the night happened. The bus stopped round the corner from the hotel rather than at the front door. I felt I had just been slapped on the face. I asked my friend “Is it parking here?” She replied, “Yeah but it is only round the corner.” Only! I thought to myself. I took a deep sigh. If only life was that simple.
As I stood up letting people pass me and preparing myself for the walk I heard my friend and her boyfriend saying that they would have to rush ahead as they had speeches to prepare. A short panic shot through me as I thought I would have to walk myself. Fortunately luck hit me because I met other friends who I could walk with. We walked at a snail's pace which has to said was due to our shoes. By the time I reached the door I could feel my heart rate rising but wasn't feeling too awful until I saw the stairs. The previous slap had just turned into a whopper of a punch. “Right” I said to myself. “I can do this.” I know people will be thinking why I didn’t go in the lift but beneath all this I am still a teenager and to be honest the thought never even occurred to me. I got closer and closer. It was almost like a boxing match, me against the stairs and I was desperate to win. With each step I took I could feel my heartbeat increasing. Everyone was moving slowly upstairs until we ground to a halt due to the amount of people. This made the situation worse because I could really feel the intensity of my heartbeat, the way it was rapidly booming against my chest. My hands were sweating and my legs felt they were about to explode. I could feel tears rising in my eyes. A few more steps and I would be at the top. I was finding it hard to take a breath and my legs weren't coping. There was too much strain on them. I knew I was going to collapse. That thought made me shudder. It would definitely top my all time “cringe worthy” moments. I saw my friend Kate and said to her I need to sit down. She accompanied me to the seats which seemed so far away. More tears filled my eyes but I wouldn't let them fall. I was panicking.
As soon as I sat down everything began to slow down. I felt great relief on my legs. I could take long deep breaths. Most importantly my heartbeat returned to a normal pace almost immediately. The panic seemed to shrink into a tiny ball and disappear. The only thing I needed now was a drink. I craved fluid more than anything and without having to ask, Kate offered her juice which made me smile. I downed the juice in one gulp with great pleasure. I was relaxed.
The funny thing is, it is doubtful if anyone would be aware of the physical strain I was under. It all happens on the inside while on the outside I appear normal and healthy. With three years of this I have developed a brave poker face. It is a peculiar illness and a very stroppy and twisted one at that.
We all made our way to a very plush room. Everything looked amazing. I felt chuffed to be seated between two friends. I looked forward to the speeches and they were very interesting. At the end, tears flowed because of the good times everyone had and because they would miss school and each other. I could feel my body tensing up as it took all my strength not to cry but for different reasons. I could not attend school or be part of close relationships. I didn't feel involved in sixth year because physically I couldn't be. On reflection the speeches were brilliant. My friend Kelly put a lot of effort into her speech and did a great job.
After the speeches we had dinner. The meal was delicious and food gave me more strength. Then the D.J. cranked up the music. I watched as people filled the dance floor. I wished I could get up and dance. So I did. I got up with my friends and danced. I danced and danced. I did not allow myself to think of the consequences. I just danced. The tiny voice that said “this will make you ill, this will make you ill.” got trampled on. I fought through the pain in my legs and breathlessness from the illness and the pain in my feet from my shoes. I just wanted to be like everyone else.
Throughout the night I stopped to take seats and some drinks but by the end of the night I fell in a heap on a chair. I was breathless and panting like a dog. I looked at the time. Twelve o'clock. I had done it. I lasted the whole night. Six hours. Wow, I thought to myself. Six hours. I still have to keep telling myself this. I was out for six hours. Okay I need to stop saying it but I mean six hours!
The following three days forced me to pay the price. I felt like I had the flu and could barely move from the couch. During this time I craved to be well. The good news is it only took me three days to feel better. Now when I look back over the event I realise that the physical challenge of being at the prom dampened a good time and made me unaware of just how much people care. The support from teachers and friends was amazing. I am grateful to my friend Kate.
This experience has proved to me that I can face any challenge life throws at me or at least I can put up a good fight. I am now sitting with a pretty smug look on my face because I can say I stayed for the whole six hours. Six hours!