Jenny Bathurst: “Even when I was in floods of tears, I carried on”

Sussex student Jenny Bathurst chronicled Covid week by week. Now she returns to share thoughts, fears and hopes. Jenny is studying journalism at the University of Brighton, based in Eastbourne.
Jenny BathurstJenny Bathurst
Jenny Bathurst

“This week marks one year since my battle begun with chronic illness. My best friend and I decided that after our uni lesson we would go to the cinema, get a McDonalds and then head home for the evening. The movie was dreadful, but I didn’t care, I loved life. It was my second year of university after a rocky first year due to the pandemic, and finally it felt like everything was a bit more ‘normal’. I couldn’t stand being in the house for any more than a few hours during the day - I loved going running, meeting friends, shopping and the beach. And then that evening as I was blowing out the candles I had placed next to the fireplace, my head made contact with the mantelpiece. HARD. In fact so hard that my roommate asked what the massive crash was, which, whilst in tears of laughter, I told her, was the side of my head.

“I never, ever thought in that moment how life changing that instance would be. If anything, I found it hilarious. The next morning I felt a bit unwell so called 111 who insisted they send out an ambulance but because I was so sure it was nothing I assured them that I would get a taxi and just wait in A&E. “You’ll be fine in three days”, they said, “A tiny percentage of people develop a condition called Post Concussion Syndrome, but you don’t need to worry about that.” So I booked the next three days off of work and uni and rested patiently, but it turns out I did ‘need to worry about that.’ I had no idea that months later I would still be feeling the same way. Then Covid hit me in February, and April bought me Postural Tachycardia Syndrome. (PoTS). What a year it has been. From someone who used to recover from a cold within days and consistently had 100% attendance at the end of a school year to completing my degree from home, constantly feeling as if I am behind and out of the loop. Major, major ‘FOMO’.

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“I know, get the violins out. I really hate to be the person that goes on about their illness and lets themself be consumed by it, but the exhaustion, constant pain and daily, discomfort is impossible to ignore. If Jenny one year ago knew that her struggles with chronic illness was still ongoing but with another type of sickness, she would have had a major meltdown. Not that she was in a great place anyway. I can’t even tell you how many episodes of ‘Michael McIntyre’s The Wheel’ I watched whilst simultaneously attempting to eat any food I could find that contained antioxidants, trying to distract myself from the fact that I was missing out on a year that I thought would be such a success.

“Take a moment to define ‘success.’ I think it means different things for different people. For some it is how much money they make, for others it is whether their job role aligns with their dream, and for many it is the ability to provide for themselves and their family. I don’t believe any of these answers are ‘wrong’, because it is personal. And personally, I believe this year I was successful. Yes, my body has been put through stress after stress, and no, I am not able to complete my degree with my friends and on campus as I hoped I would. But I did it. When I just wanted to give up, I didn’t. Even when I was in floods of tears mourning the loss of so many things and opportunities I cherished, I carried on. Is that gloating? Maybe? I’m not sure, but I will allow myself to recognise that this year, through God’s strength and a lot of British sitcoms and Dairy Milk, I survived.”