About 48 hours into my second horrendous cold of the year, my mental health went into a death spiral.
It was Friday, the second of two days I had to take off last week – not so much because of the cold itself, although staring at a computer screen all day wouldn’t have been pleasant, but because I felt so dreadful I could barely sleep. The day before, I had managed to hallucinate an entire conversation with my boss in the hour and a half between getting up and realising work was out of the question and the office opening so I could let them know. That day, I woke up on my own sofa in the middle of the afternoon with the sunlight streaming in and no idea where I was.
On Friday morning, I was due to visit the practice nurse for an asthma check. An asthma check! I haven’t had asthma since high school, but apparently sometimes having trouble breathing when I am at the gym does not follow on from winter colds that sometimes go into my chest and cause me to wheeze and require closer scrutiny. Like, daily peak flow measurements I haven’t had to do since I was eight years old scrutiny. And while I was there, I Did A Stupid.
Context: I have felt, in recent weeks, as though my body has changed, but I couldn’t tell you exactly why or how. I feel a little more in proportion, and a little healthier, but it’s not like I could see it in my clothes or anything. So I asked, just while I was there, if I could step on the scales.
I shouldn’t have done that.
And the nurse – the same nurse who, back in November, had raised her eyes at the numbers to the point that I found myself awkwardly blurting out stuff about killing it at the gym twice a week, and making healthier choices – said all the right things, about how muscle weighs more than fat and if I wanted them to help me, I would. The NHS offers Weight Watchers now, she said, although I am not big enough to qualify and perhaps she could give me this book, it’s quite good. And I explained I had experienced triggered eating in the past, and she was good about that too.
And I know it’s all bullshit, but I went home and I cried.
I cried because I put too much lemon in my hot lemon and honey.
I cried because a whole bunch of bloggers I follow got invited to participate in a campaign that I, objectively, would have been a really good fit for, but I didn’t hear anything about it.
I cried because a friend retweeted a joke by somebody I barely knew once, and when I went in to read it I discovered that I had been blocked.
I cried because the ginseng-infused face mask I had put on to deal with my cold-related dry skin dribbled all over my bullet journal and made a mess of the pages.
I cried because, when I talked myself out of crying about all the stupid things, there was nothing left but that stomach-clenching nothingness I thought my brain had dropped in favour of anxiety. It feels like a tiny black hole in your chest, and when it hits there is nothing you can do but take a couple of painkillers and go to sleep and hope to whatever god is out there that it has passed by the morning.
On my best days, I get to forget that I am depressed. Sometimes it’s because I have made so many plans, or I’m so busy at work, that I don’t have time to remember that I’m carrying my miniature black hole around with me. Sometimes I have to distract myself: with good tunes, good lipstick, an accessory that I love and can distract myself with when I look in the mirror. But what’s clear to me now is that the forgetting, or the distracting, burns a lot of energy. And when I don’t have that energy to spare – when I’m sick, for example – there’s no getting away from the weight in my chest.
In a way, I’m glad of the reminder. It’s easy to forget, when you don’t have many projects on the go and you’re wondering what your purpose on earth is, that sometimes you are doing a pretty stand-up job just by existing.
I’m writing this on Sunday. It’s Jehane’s birthday, and she has all sorts of exciting things planned for us this afternoon: an escape room, ramen, a French language film at the Glasgow Film Festival. I’ve eaten the last of the pile of the blood oranges I got for a pound, and I haven’t sneezed all morning. I don’t know why I’m getting sick more often than usual at the moment, when I’ve invested so much into living better. But before it strikes again, I’m making as many fun plans for this week as I can:
- on Tuesday I’ll be at the premiere of Niall McCann’s documentary about Scottish music in the 90s, Lost in France, which will be followed by a gig featuring the protagonists (Nicola Meighan wrote a fab preview of it for Saturday’s Herald);
- on Wednesday I have boot camp for the first time in a week and a half, and I’m actually – whisper it – looking forward to it;
- street food wizards Chompsky begin their new residency at Broadcast on Sauchiehall St on Thursday, and while I’ve had to turn them down (I need to see my mum at some point this week!) you can pop along and enjoy a Korean fried chicken and a side on my behalf;
- on Friday I’m torn between a screening of Lipstick Under my Burkha at the film festival and the Campfires in Winter album launch at the Old Hairdressers;
- and on Saturday I have a tattoo appointment, before I head through to Edinburgh to catch up with friends and attend at least some of the Song, By Toad Granfalloon at Summerhall. I was at Meursault’s farewell show, so it seems only right I make the album launch…
Tell me something wonderful you have planned this week, friends?