Thursday, 13 September 2007

A day in the life

At half past six my eyes creak open.

Where is it? Is it here?
Oh, yes. There it is. Waiting to greet me, waiting to welcome me to another day.

Six thirty-five: why? Why is it here? Did I not eat right yesterday? Did I not sleep properly? Did I stay on the computer too long last night? Did I do something to encourage it?

Is it my fault?

I thump the pillow in frustration, knowing I cannot sleep it away.


Seven o'clock. I need to shower. Wash my hair. Find my clothes, or I'm going to be late. Maybe just another ten minutes. Another ten minutes and I might be able to get into the shower without thinking I am about to die - or even get to the shower. Maybe something to eat first - it could be blood sugar - it drops in the night, you know. But that would involve going to the kitchen. Maybe a drink - it could be dehydration. There's water by my bed. Try that. Maybe some Rescue Remedy, maybe some milk, or maybe it's just me. Perch on the edge of my bed and rock without knowing why.


Half past seven: Fuck it. If I just stay here, I don't have to think about it. I don't have to battle through it to do all these feelings and sensations in order to do things that should come naturally. Breathe. Turn on the computer. Check emails. Check forums. Converse with people, because from behind the screen, I am strong, I am safe. Hold off for as long as possible, just in case it's gone soon.


Eight o'clock: Fuck, fuck fuck. It's eight o'clock. I'm not showered, I haven't eaten, and time is ticking by. I'm late. The thought of the responsibilities - simple things - get to work, earn a crust - set off a spark that jolts me into more panic, gnawing at my conscience like a rat nibbling an electrical wire. If I am lucky, a few tears might alleviate some of the tension, but most times, they won't come because I am numb to everything else except anxiety.


Eight thirty. I may have showered, or I may not have. I may have clean clothes on, or I may have picked up whatever is on the floor and made do, because it's easier than the trip to the wardrobe. I may have called in sick, but lets assume for a moment that I am walking to the bus stop, and that the ground is moving beneath me with every step and that inside, I am whimpering.


Nine o'clock. I am at my desk. I have camomile tea. The screen is moving in an alarming fashion and for a moment it hits me - what if it happens here? What if I have to run out, to go to the hospital, to call an ambulance in front of all these people? I could never go back. I try and concentrate on my tasks, and fail.


Twelve o'clock. Lunchtime. Walk to the canteen, or go hungry, because here feels more comfortable? I choose the walk. The floors move; I'm sure the patterned carpet doesn't help. What's on the menu today? Oh, this and that, that and this. This? No. That? No good. Don't know what's in it. Might be allergic to it, even though I'm not allergic to anything. Imagine it - throat swelling up in front of all these people, the panic, the blue lights. No. Let's not have that. Let's just have some toast instead.


Two o'clock. My face is numb down one side and while the left side of my brain knows it's an anxiety symptom the right is convinced of a stroke. Should I call someone? Call for help before it kills me? What? What do I do? Weigh it up against the potential embarrasment - that's what.


Three o'clock. Tired. Headachy. Tea will solve both. But no. The caffeine might trigger me. Then what would happen? I might die, in front of all these people.


Hometime. Get on the bus. The bus might be hot. I am afraid of being hot because hot makes me think of ill and ill makes me think of dying. Swarms of people make it ten times worse. Stand near the doors so I can get off as soon as it stops. Manage the lane back to the flat, keys and phone in hand. If I collapse in the lane that's it - nobody will find me. It's not a main road. This lane is where I might die one day.


Evening. Safe. Home. In my room. Behind my screen. Dinner? Nothing in. Takeaway? No. MSG might trigger. Got some crackers. Can't be allergic to them. They're safe, even if my legs shake from the lack of food. My head hurts. I should sleep, but stay on the computer, because here is where my mind can be distracted. Here I am near my phone, just in case. Dizzy. Sick. Need a pee, but the bathroom is too far away from the phone. Put it off until the last possible moment. Dignified.


Bedtime. Sleep? No. Afraid to shut my eyes, because what if they never open?


Fucking hell. This is fucking hell.

I have had this for close to ten years now and this is the longest sustained period that I have been unwell. It's almost a year now, every day waking like this, every day ending like that, and I am tired, I have had enough, I am beginning to understand what drives people to do it, why people listen to Wake Up In New York and nod, knowingly. I am sick of being the 'brave' person who must battle through every day to do the simple things that people take for granted. I don't want to be 'brave'; I want to be normal, to be me again. Whatever happened to me - where did I go to while all that stares back from the mirror is an empty shell, dead from the neck up? I am sick of being the person who is always too unwell to see her friends, to make it to the kitchen, to work a full week, to hold a meaningful conversation. I am sick of hiding, and of hiding this, but I don't know what to do to get well and I don't know what to do to make people understand.

So many people don't know, and generally the ones who do look on me with disdain. My flatmate knows nothing; I need to tell her, lest she think I'm the weird girl who sits in her room all the time. Which, of course, I am. I am afraid to tell her; afraid of trying to explain, afraid of the brief look of pity I will see flash across her features before she packs her bags and leaves.

And I met someone. Someone great. How do I explain it, when the time comes to meet? I don't want it to be ruined, even if I am.


Tonight even my room feels unsafe. My head has been hurting for four days. The agitation is unbelievable, like insects crawling through my intestines. I do not know what to do to make it stop, except cry, and that won't come, and what's going through my head right now is "My parents would be so disappointed" - but still I want my father to take me in his arms and stroke my hair and kiss my forehead and tell me it'll all be over soon. But my father, at nearly eighty, would be crushed by the weight of this.

I also want a magic pill. I want the equivalent of insulin to a diabetic, thyroxine for someone hypothyroid.

There isn't one, at least not one without a bitter aftertaste.

I don't know what to do.

Is this what desperation feels like?


An Unreliable Witness said...

There is so much one could say here that words kind of - no, not even kind of, just do - feel utterly inadequate, especially in the face of such raw, powerful and above all brutally honest words.

So I won't say any of that.

Instead, I'll say that whilst you told us from behind the safety of your computer screen, at your keyboard, in your room, and whilst that is undoubtedly easier (and I speak as one who knows that all too well) ... if you told us, then you can, I believe, tell your flatmate. You can tell the great new person you've met. And if you do so with even a tenth of the eloquence and passion you've shown here, they will understand.

Migraineur said...

Please, please hang in there! I am worried about you.

bohémienne said...

No disdain here.

You seem to take on so much guilt over something that is a condition, not something you have chosen or caused. Some people will understand, most will, and some won't. You are a person with so much depth and intelligence. Please take that chance and explain to them what is happening with you. The worst that can happen is that they disappoint you as much as you expect them to... and that's their problem. The possible payoff is two more people who understand and are on your side. Once, I became an online friend to someone who was afraid to tell me about an "issue", afraid that I would reject him ... and when he did tell me, instead it brought us closer together. Most people do want that connection, and will do what it takes to have it.

And please... you've said this is the longest bout of this you've had to deal with... which implies, to me, that it will ease again one day. Hold on tight.

SwissToni said...

Congratulations, you're Post of the Week.

Richly deserved.


SwissToni said...

As a winner, you're hereby invited to take part in the judging process for next week as a Guest Judge. If you want to, that is. You don't have to.

See here for details.


(sorry, couldn't find an email address. Congratulations again)

Miss Vertigo said...

Thanks, ST!

Details duly sent.


seahorse said...

What an incredible post. More than anything, I'll echo An Unreliable Witness. You can find the words, you just did.
I know it's harder explaining in person. Is it the prospect of even trying to explain, with panic and emotions getting in the way? Draw strength from the support you have online, and know that you can do it. I love your writing. I know I would like the person behind it. A lot of people who have already met you probably already like you :) and some of them will like you and love you enough to listen.

Anonymous said...

I am someone and I am glad you shared that day with me.

Clare said...

I used to suffer from this, just like you, 24 hours per day, and I managed to make myself well. I don't get it any more. It took a few months, but I made myself well.

I'll email you.

Clare said...

Ah, no email address. Can I persuade you to email me? I'm not going to offer you any magic wands, just potentially useful tips from a fellow sufferer who managed to beat it. And it's not all or nothing, either. Some days are better than others, and the better days are worth having and can be made better by you, even if there are sometimes worse days, too.

The guilt is one of the killers, though. While I was suffering, but also while I was getting better, whenever I had a bad moment or a bad day or a bad week I blamed myself for being rubbish and failing to make myself better, and that of course only made it worse.

Anyway, yes. Email me. I have no idea who you are and even if I did I wouldn't judge you, cos I've been there and I know what it's like. It's just bad luck, that's all. Bad luck and a good imagination and a million other things. Not that you're imagining what's happening, you're not - it's very real.

Anyway. Yes. Will stop burbling now. Email me (mrsgordon AT morsgordon DOT co DOT uk).