Passion killer

My moods can be deadly...

Published by: Emily Retter and Amy Thompson
Published on: 7th July 2010

Sinking into a hot bubble bath, I counted to 10, taking deep breaths. One… breathe… two… breathe… Gritting my teeth, I willed myself to relax. But it wasn’t working. Nothing ever did when I was this wound up.
After another petty argument with my boyfriend Mark, 25, I needed to at least try to calm down though. Three… breathe…four… But the more I thought about controlling my temper, the more worked up I got.
My mind played over our fight, Mark’s angry face when I’d moaned that he spent more time with his mates than with me.
I could feel my blood boiling again as I remembered how he’d refused to talk to me until I’d calmed down. Men! They could be so annoying sometimes.
Then, suddenly everything went black… Spluttering on the bathroom floor, I woke up to see Mark kneeling beside me, cradling my head gently in one hand, eyes wide with worry. ‘Thank God,’ he gasped, helping me sit up. ‘What the hell were you doing in the bath? You know you shouldn’t have one when you’re angry…’
Okay, it might sound weird, but he was right. Because ever since I was 14, if I experienced any heightened emotion, I’d have a seizure. Over the years, I’d had loads of hospital tests and had finally been diagnosed as having non-epileptic fits.
‘We think it’s a psychological thing,’ my doctor had explained. ‘There’s nothing physically wrong with you, but whenever you’re too happy, excited or angry, your body doesn’t know how to handle it, and shuts down.’
‘So what am I supposed to do?’ I’d asked, stunned. ‘Not have any emotions?’
‘You just need to try to keep them in check,’ he’d sighed. ‘We’ll send you for counselling, too, to see if we can get to the root of the problem.’
Try as they might, though,
there was nothing anyone could do to help me. Even with the counselling, I still had the fits at least three times a week. And, as I’d just proved, even a relaxing bath could go one of two ways –
it could save my life, or end it!
‘Sorry,’ I mumbled weakly as Mark wrapped a towel around me. ‘I was just trying to wind down.’
He nodded, hugging me. ‘Don’t do it again,’ he sighed. ‘You nearly gave me a heart attack.’
While I got dried and dressed, Mark sloped off to another room.
Our arguments always ended this way, with him avoiding me. I knew it was because he didn’t want to upset me in case I had another fit. But that annoyed me even more – we could never resolve anything. Most girls hate rowing with their blokes. I just wished I could get my point across without collapsing halfway through an argument.
At first, things had been perfect with Mark. He’d seen me collapse at a party the second time we’d met and been fantastic, making sure everyone gave me plenty of room and keeping me safe.
I’d expected him to run a mile when he found out about my condition, but he’d just flashed me a cheeky grin. ‘I’d better stay on your good side then,’ he’d winked, taking my number.
After three years together, though, we were bound to bicker. And that wasn’t the only problem.
The first time me and Mark slept together, I got so carried away I had another fit! Waking up, I couldn’t even remember what had happened. ‘Erm… so, was it good for you?’ he’d asked sheepishly once he knew I was okay.
I’d just stared at him blankly, and bit my lip. ‘Wow,’ he’d chuckled awkwardly. ‘Talk about an ego boost.’
I felt awful, but even then I had to stop myself getting too upset.
So, a few weeks after the bath incident, it wasn’t a total shock when me and Mark split up. We’d started arguing more since I’d lost my job as a credit controller because of my fits. I’d dreamed of being an accountant one day, now I’d finally admitted defeat.
Who was I kidding, thinking I could live a normal life?
Because of my condition, I couldn’t drive, couldn’t hold down a job no matter how hard I worked when I was conscious, couldn’t have a normal relationship. And to top it all, I couldn’t even get mad about it!
‘I don’t blame him for not wanting to be with me,’ I told my sister, Emma, 18, who’d given up work to become my full-time carer.
At any point I could have a fit – while crossing the road, in the bath – and she had to be there ultimately to save my life if it came to it, drag me out of the path of a speeding car, or rescue me from drowning.
It was a lot of responsibility.
‘You’ll meet someone who can handle it,’ she soothed.
‘That’s the problem,’ I shook my head. ‘Mark never wanted to upset me and he put up with my fits for three years. I’m the one who can’t handle it.’
I’d waited five years for my condition to get better. I wouldn’t be able to get on with a normal life until I’d gone two years without having a fit. But as each year passed, I’d faced fresh disappointment. I was lucky if I went two days without a seizure!
Six months rolled by, and I committed myself to trying to cut off my emotions. If I could just go a week without feeling anything…
But how do you stop yourself from feeling? If a weepy advert popped up on telly, or I watched a comedy that made me laugh too hard, or even a scary movie – they all had the same effect. Just when I was about to give up on everything, though, I got a call from Mark.
‘I’ve really missed you,’ he said. ‘Do you fancy going for a drink?’
I had to swallow my excitement so I could answer. ‘Sure,’ I replied.
When we met up, my emotions came flooding back. And when Mark asked if we could get back together, it took all my strength not to crash to the floor with joy. ‘Yes,’ I nodded happily. ‘But we need to do things differently this time…’
In the months we’d been apart, I’d realised no matter how hard I tried, I’d never stop myself from having feelings. I’m only human.
But I’d been dealing with it all wrong. ‘We could never be honest with each other before because you didn’t want to upset me,’ I said. ‘But I can’t live my life having everyone treading on eggshells. It just winds me up even more.’
‘What are you saying?’ he asked.
‘Don’t hold back,’ I smiled. ‘If you think I’m wrong, say it. If we want to shout at each other, let’s just do it. I’m going to have fits regardless, so I might as well live life how I want to.’
‘Deal,’ Mark grinned. We’ve been back together almost six months now and things are great. We still argue now and then, but we get things resolved – even if I have to pass out a few times first.
I’m still hoping for a cure, and I’m considering trying hypnosis. But after years of trying to control my emotions, I’ve realised you can’t live without love. And I’d rather have a thousand fits a day, than cut that out of my life.
Mary-Ann Cully, 20, Watton, Norfolk