I have nearly died three times.
Thankfully, this time I was in excellent hands, so “nearly died” this time is probably a tad hyperbolic, but… rule of three, etc.
The good news though, is that my tendency to be unlucky means that every so often I am reminded how lucky I am to be here.
I’ve been recovering from surgery, which was a repair of complications from the grim events of 2005, when a straightforward overnight procedure resulted in a perforation of my stomach, severe sepsis, failing organs, a lung collapse, an induced coma, my 25 year old husband with two small children being told to prepare for the possibility he would be a widower and raise those kids on his own… followed by a miraculous turnaround, a month of recovery in hospital, and several gruelling months after.
I was extremely lucky. It is still burned in my brain, waking up in the ICU with no idea what had happened. The smells, the sounds, the pain relief that barely touched the sides, the daily torture of having my back beaten like a sadistic drum roll to get the fluid out of my lungs. The nasal tubes. The no-more-than-a-few ice chips rule and begging for water after a month of nil-by-mouth, accompanied, ironically, by the feeling of drowning and gasping for air that would usually end in me violently hurling fluid out of my lungs. Being told that two weeks before I woke up to all of this, I had actually been awake for a day. I was talking and fine in the post surgical ward, only to suddenly let out such a blood curdling scream from the acid that was leaking into my organs, that I stared straight in the eyes of that same nurse, told her I was about to die, and she’d had nightmares all week… and I still, to this day, can’t remember any of it.
I remember four different surgical consultants, their faces go from grey on the day I woke up and lost my breathing tube… to laughing at my dark jokes and the colour restore to their faces once they saw I was out of the woods.
I remember calling the ICU night nurse a cunt because she told me I needed to “find a way to manage my pain better”. I remember my high school economics teacher who was now a part time PCA wheeling me to the ward. I remember swearing at the physio who would punch my back several times a day. I remember sobbing every time I heard the sound of the tea trolley, never sure if it was the tea trolley or the other horrible trolley, that contained my daily shot of heparin and blood draws that were delivered in the same spot every day for a month, whilst I begged them to stop and try somewhere else. I remember being gutted having to give my Ben Elton tickets away, but to the nurse who had the good humour and empathy to call me Starburst, and make me laugh (and then cough a lung), because she saw how humiliated I was from having diarrhoea explode all over the hospital room floor from all the antibiotics the first time I got out of bed.
I apologised to all of them. For all of it. They understood. I think they were grateful that I was here.
I remember all that… and just desperately wanting to be able to sit up, drink some water, see my babies and go outside.
In case you don’t know what started it… I had decided to get a lap band. I was struggling with my weight, and no amount of sustainable diet and exercise was helping (turns out, I had other things going on, but that’s another story). It was sold to me as straightforward. No big deal. In and out in a day and your life will be fixed. You’ll never have to worry again.
In this case, quite literally. I may never had gotten to worry again.
My life was almost taken away. Gone. Forever. Never seeing my kids again. Never living long enough to have my daughter hate me and break my heart. Never seeing my third child be born prematurely and survive and grow into a gifted guitarist and leave a pizza box behind his desk that is now forever etched in my memory as “pizza spiders”. Never going through the pain of caring for and losing my grandmother or the pain of divorce, and the messiness of life and co-parenting.
Never having had my heart break into a million pieces, fuck up, move across the country like an idiot, learn from my mistakes and then return only to meet the love of my life and actually be happy.
It could have all been gone. All of it. The good, the bad and the ugly. I could have never had to worry again.
Had I not woken up, I would never have learned about my ex-husband’s despairing Blogspot post to the internet about my situation asking for well-wishes, the outpouring of love and support from readers and friends around the world, the meals sent to him from my friends in Los Angeles and presents from the UK and Canada. Waking up to an outpouring of love from all those who had read my stories that I shared on the Internet, and made me feel such gratitude and love for the ability to know every single one of my friends in the ugly beige box.
Those who had hated me for years, flooded my comments with harassment, and hunted me in packs for sport just fell away. I just felt loved.
I would never have learned that all that writing on the Internet would be misunderstood and hurt my kids as they grew up, nor that sharing all your ‘secrets’ on the internet was a ticking time-bomb, and probably not very good for a healthy relationship. Had I not woken up in 2005 – something that was 85% likely because I found myself in the 0.1% of unlucky people – I would just be a relic, on an old abandoned website from 2005 that may or may not have made it into the Archives.
I would not have posted my first Facebook post. No Twitter. No public humiliation on Twitter. No inside out shirt on the news. None of it. I would not exist outside the minds of a couple of people who wondered whatever happened to that young woman who called everyone cunts on the Internet.
I’m just grateful to be here.
In 2018, I visited a surgeon again because I was having all sorts of stomach problems. I was again gaining weight with no answers, and being fobbed off, told to exercise and do paleo – the usual shit. But, I persisted, found a GP who would actually listen to me, and got a referral to a surgeon. I was obviously traumatised from the incidents of 2005, and so had just resigned myself to being fat and miserable forever, and nobody ever believing me, that I ate healthy and did a reasonable amount of exercise. I would land in the Emergency Department frequently with what they would call “gastritis”, but, because I was fat and had chest pain (and had had an ablation on my heart years earlier for a congenital heart problem), they always assumed it was a heart attack, put the leads on, then gave me a lignocaine/antacid combo (the “Pink Lady”), a shrug, recommend a diet that I was already on, and send me on my way.
Of course, after I finally got a referral to a bariatric surgeon to check on things, I was promptly talked into having a gastric sleeve. Which had a twofold benefit: 1) I would lose all this weight I was piling on with no explanation and 2) he would be able to repair the giant diverticulum that had burst out of my stomach and the mess in my diaphragm from the lung collapse as a result of the sepsis, that not a single Emergency Department in Sydney or Perth had bothered to check. If a single tube had gone down my throat any of the times I presented with gastritis, I would have been spared all sorts of suffering. And weight gain. And misery. And have more Superannuation. Oh, yes, I paid for it with some of my already-limited-because-I-am-self-employed-and-live-invoice-to-invoice-haha-savings retirement.
Even though I was just happy to be here, of course. I was also really pissed.
So, ten years later, that [supposedly] gets repaired. Good as new, or so I thought. I lose a chunk of weight. Yippee. I feel like shit, but who cares, right? At least I won’t get told to go on the diet I have been on since I was 18 years old.
Hey, I am just be grateful to be here.
But, nine months later, I try to die again. I develop recurrent gallstones (note: you can get gallstones even without a gall bladder with extreme weight loss). Which takes 3 visits to the Emergency Department to diagnose even though the first visit showed my liver was failing, and by the time it is, I am, yet again, within 48 hours of not being on this planet. I’m again, lucky. but find myself again part of the unlucky 1%, and the ERCP to remove the gallstones perforates my bile duct and I develop pancreatitis. The worst pain I have ever experienced (or, rather, remember experiencing… see aforementioned nightmare-inducing blood curdling screams) and months of recovery. I still live with chronic pancreatitis, but yet again, I just feel lucky and bloody grateful to be here.
I am just grateful to be here. Because if I hadn’t made it, again, I would have left this earth as just an owner of a digital agency, an influencer in the business community, a totally respectable adult, happily married and life was going great. I would have died still afraid of video, hating the sound of my voice, keeping my concerns about the shift in tech to myself, and …making money. Yay.
I would have died keeping my opinions and thoughts to myself. I would have died… respectable. Sensible. At the end of my redemption arc where I had overcome all the drama, bad luck and fuck ups of the years before, and learned from it, and was doing better. I had met and married the love of my life and had my happy ending. I had lost all that weight. I had a good business and happy kids and that would have been that.
I would have died… respectably. That moment in time was respectable, but …sanitised. A version of me that was removed from my distant past of struggle, turmoil and snark. I was loved, having made enough of a mark, and made just enough mistakes to be interesting, but I would still just be a blip in most people’s memories: that lady who once went viral for a day and whose name you need to copy and paste because you can’t figure out how to put the accent over the E. Slightly more memorable on LinkedIn. I’d be more memorable than 2005, and would at least pop up in people’s Facebook Memories every so often, alongside the handful of friends on my account that hadn’t been so lucky over the years.
I was just grateful to be here.
But, to be honest, I didn’t want to die respectably. I wanted to die having contributed something meaningful. To make all my bad luck, crazy stories and borrowed time count for something. I was supposed to be on borrowed time in 2005, actually live …and I had lost my way.
So, I decided to start speaking up more. I decided to start being honest about my concerns, and fears, find that love again, tell more stories, and have more fun – even if I had to overcome fears (and I did), even if it cost me my respectability (and it did). Even if it made me a target for harassment (and it did). Even if I was shadow-banned, mass-reported, head-fucked and sidelined (and I was). Even if it made me lose everything I had worked for (and it did). Because I was here.
I want to live. I want to do more than be just a corporate blip. I desperately missed the people in the beige box and the beige box had become a sleeker and much more expensive Space Grey box and that box was now 16 hour work days and a tax deductible box of burnout.
Fast forward to over 600 hours of videos, a million still-unpublished words and easily another million unwritten ones, over three hundred thousand hours dedicated to speaking up, speaking out, researching, figuring out how best to make a difference… with very little to show for it. No money. Loads of daily stress and confusion as to why everyone is being so horrible on this thing that is supposed to promote love and connection, not misery and division. Why are you all being so horrible?
I’m just grateful to be here, guys.
Pushing through confusion, fear, never-ending harassment, mass reporting by people who aren’t as happy as I am to be here, and now, ultimately, tumbleweeds from the algofucking as I use my borrowed time to try and love the Internet back in the way that the Internet showed love to me, and should I find all of this frozen in time, I at least feel like I did something.
Fast forward to six weeks ago. I again found out that my insides were a complete mess. I was again, one of the unlucky 1%. I’d been suffering from severe reflux and stomach pain, to the point where I was regurgitating in my sleep at least once a week, and aspirated acid into my lungs on more than one occasion, for about 3 years. Unlucky me. Lucky I’m a tummy sleeper, or I might not have made it.
Phew, am I grateful to be here.
The surgeon from 2018 that had claimed to fix the diverticulum, my diaphragm and the structural issues with my stomach had actually, in fact, just given me a gastric sleeve without doing any of the repairs. He’d also inserted a mesh into my diaphragm, which temporarily made it possible to sneeze without pain, however, the adhesions around it had caused a herniation and drift, causing a stomach obstruction.
My health insurer had messed up when we switched to save some money on Premiums, so I was having to re-do our waiting period again. And, because it started from a bariatric procedure, it was not covered by the public hospital system.
It’s been an extremely expensive, debilitating few years. But, I finally got there.
I knew roughly what to expect going in, and so, yet again, I found myself on the bariatric route of having my bowel re-routed into what was remaining of my stomach, and about 8 hours of unplanned surgical repair to all the adhesions and mess. It should have been 45 minutes. I didn’t know this until the night after the surgery when my surgeon came in, in his scrubs, and said “man, you messed up my schedule today. Your insides are the worst I have ever seen”. Then he left. I laughed. I was on drugs. It was hilarious.
He was so direct, but with confidence that somehow never comes across as arrogance. And I was high, and at least it wasn’t fucking pancreatitis or a coma.
I am just grateful to be here.
And aside from the blood-curdling screams of the worst, most painful shit of all time two weeks later (that I definitely remember), I have come through pretty well. All things considered.
Anyway, In our follow up appointment two weeks ago, assuming it was all fairy routine, yet again I hear that all-too-familiar phrase: “Téa, you have no idea how incredibly lucky you are”.
“It was going well, obviously a little challenging as we discussed… nothing I haven’t seen before. But then, out of the blue, there was a wandering piece of mesh from the diaphragm. A less capable surgeon might not have seen it. It was pretty routine, but then it got very dangerous, very quickly, but thankfully you were in capable hands. Even if you messed up my schedule”.
Okay it wasn’t just me being high. He is hilarious.
Right now, I am stressed, because I am supposed to be writing an essay. I have been dumping on myself all week because for some reason I am crippled with Academic Essay Due Date Anxiety that comes from having ADHD. I am stressed out about lots of things: work, study, money, life and the meaning of what I do. Feeling useless. Feeling unappreciated. Feeling resentful that others make loads of money doing far less work. Doing work that is stressful and not appreciated. Unable to really promote myself in any meaningful way because I had to go and make myself un-respectable to pretty much everyone.
Right now, I am stressed, but I am still just… grateful to be here.
But also, it occurs to me that if I had, yet again, not made it through, this time would have been different. I was living honestly. I know what is important. I still have all my friends in the Space Grey box, even though they tell me they can’t see me anymore from all the mass reporting. Twitter and Facebook probably won’t even tell anyone I am gone. Most people might not even notice. Some may even cheer, because the Internet is still full of people who hunt in packs for sport, and who don’t like me, and that’s okay. Because even though I know what matters in life – my kids, being able to drink water, and to go outside and feel loved – I also know that I am doing something that has some chance of having an impact one day. Maybe. If I make it.
I write about some grim shit sometimes. I attack the powerful, and the powerful treat me with disdain because they have nothing I want. I just want water, to see my kids, to love and be loved, and not die respectably.
That pisses people off, and I sometimes make myself a target in all the wrong ways. But it comes from a place of wanting everything to be better. It comes from a place of wanting everyone to be better and do better, and not take their lives for granted. I want them to have what I have. To stop being so miserable, sweating the small things, being horrible to people who may not be here tomorrow, or being so crippled by alienation, fear and apathy that you may find yourself on the unlucky side of the greatest thing on earth: living a life.
I know that when I finally stop being the luckiest unlucky person on earth, at some point, everything will just …stop. All of this dumb writing and my dumb videos and stupid ideas and overthinking everything and pain and regret and fuckups… everything I do will just freeze in a moment in time and stay there. I am acutely aware that there will be a last blog post. A last Tweet. A last stream. A last kiss goodnight. People I won’t meet. People I won’t reach or inspire to do better or think more clearly or help understand that they’re actually really lucky, and should be a little more grateful to be here. People that won’t be born and, if I am really, really lucky, my kids will outlive me and have experiences and adventures I won’t get to see.
This will all move on. Everything moves on. But I am here. I am doing my best to make every moment in time, every typo and misspoken word in every moment in time, every joke, every stupid tweet or exchange with an internet dickhead… try to be something that captures who I was when I was here. Warts and all. The full story of who Téa was in the database in the sky. Because there have been so many times when that might not have been possible. There have been so many times where I have been on the receiving end of so much shit – partly due to my own mistakes (whether it be a surgery, as a parent, in friendships, on my blog, or in tweets), but partly, because I am just… alive.
I’m taking in the sun. I get to drink water (albeit with some difficulty) and be outdoors. I get to laugh with two of my kids. I get more days with the love of my life, loving deeply and being loved in return. Stressing out too much, freaking out too much, yelling, fucking up, being a dickhead, burning bridges, messing with lights far too much for someone with so few YouTube subscribers, not having a perfectly clean house, going on tangents, annoying people, attracting critics, fearing the people who will find a way to nitpick someone’s choices and blame them for it, such as choosing to have an elective surgery that has resulted in 17 years of suffering, or confusing possessiveness with love and having children with the wrong person, or struggling with my weight, or my crooked teeth, or the grey roots, or my rapidly ageing face and not being a natural performer or comfortable on camera, or speaking too much about certain topics, or being too boring, or too lippy, or insubordinate or impolite. Or being late on all my bills and uni assignments, or taking way too long to get to the point, or telling bullies and zealots to “fuck off” and that they are free to waste their time on this planet, but they don’t get to waste mine.
Because I am grateful to be here.
And I also know that those people are living their lives, the best way they know how, and they will have to live with themselves and leave this earth too, at some point, frozen in time. And I want that frozen moment to be good for their legacy too, and for them to change course and go on a redemption arc of their own. They are living their life.
And I am living mine. And I know that when it comes down to it, if you have lived a good life, and made peace with how you live and who you are… all of that fades away and you only know love.
And frankly, I am just grateful to be here. I wish more of you could be too.