Jenny Bathurst: "when you struggle with something it can be incredibly easy to feel isolated"

Sussex student Jenny Bathurst chronicled Covid week by week. Now she returns to share thoughts, fears and hopes.

Jenny Bathurst
Jenny Bathurst

Jenny is studying journalism at the University of Brighton.

"I try very hard to not be the person that turns an illness into their identity. I can very much easily see how it’s done, and I suspect that for many people I know who hear me rattle on about cardiologist referrals and endless symptoms it can probably seem that I am almost obsessive about my condition. And this is why writing last week’s article felt particularly ‘look-at-me-I-am-so-poorly-everyone-feel-sorry-for-me’. If you haven’t read last Saturday’s column, I described how I now, on rare occasions, use a wheelchair to aid me in situations where I would be sat up for a long period of time in order for me to recline and ease my symptoms. On first even considering the idea of using a wheelchair to help me in places such as the theatre or church I was incredibly self-conscious, so I am sure that past Jenny would have been horrified to hear that it had been published for thousands to know.

"To be honest, I didn’t expect much of a reaction at all to the piece. Of course I hope for there to be an impression left on the reader when I write my column, but I don’t necessarily expect to hear from readers and learn of their stories.

"However, hours after my column went live I began receiving messages from old acquaintances or strangers I had never met before relating to what I was saying, and the challenges of being a part-time wheelchair user. Of course we are incredibly fortunate that our bodies enable us to only need an aid on rare occasions, but each of us could relate to those awkward looks you’re bound to receive when getting up from your chair and walking away as if everything is normal.

"I don’t mean to make out that I’m a saint for being so ‘brave’ or that I have single-handedly ended self-consciousness worldwide, but to post something that I thought might bring shame or embarrassment which instead resulted in many being so understanding and feeling so seen was honestly very rewarding.

"The fact is when you struggle with something it can be incredibly easy to feel isolated. You could be suffering with something that virtually everybody experiences at some point in their lifetime like a loss of a loved one or a relationship break up and still feel as if you’re the only person on earth who feels the way you do. So although I may write my column for the reader and not for myself, I have realised that writing can sometimes be just as beneficial for the author. Maybe my journalism degree should already have taught me that."