It’s officially the silly season for colds, flu and assorted bugs, even though these mischievious viral buggers can strike at any time. The physical symptoms are well documented (aches, tiredness, lack of appetite, sneezing and coughing…) but I’d forgotten how even the commonest of common illnesses can mess with your mind.
Thanks to some kind of mild flu-like infection, all of last week was like pushing sacks of coal uphill. I’m not any kind of macho man but I can be a stubborn sod and I wasn’t about to let a mere cold keep me from geeting my jobs done. I even did an extra day’s work, just to be contrary, even though I was collapsing into bed directly after work every day and sleeping ten and twelve hour nights through.
The aches and the tiredness are gone but I suddenly find that my already meager self-confidence seems to have dried up completely and at the same time I’ve tapped into a new wellspring of anxiety. Despite fifteen years experience working in catering I’m getting flummoxed trying to think what I should be preparing for tomorrow’s lunch. Panicking that I don’t have time to peel and chop carrots, even though my rational mind tells me it’s just an easy, ten-minute job. When it comes to writing menus and placing orders my mind is a total blank. The thought of next week’s staff Xmas lunch – 60 covers – makes me cry. I’ve been doing a lot of that over the last week – it just bubbles up along with the panic at the slightest provocation. I feel like a baby but there you are.
I’m not much better at home. It took me fifteen minutes to change my bed linen the other day. I had to stop and sit down half way through, it was just too difficult and exhausting. The lack of space in my one room studio which has seemed mostly bearable for the past few years is starting to bug me more and more. It probably sounds melodramatic to say ‘the walls are closing in’ but that’s how it feels. I’m aware that it’s mostly the walls in my mind which are doing the closing but like my mind, every little nook and shelf of my flat is cluttered with something. I’ve collected these possessions over the years and they all seemed necessary and useful at the time but now they’re all starting to wear me down with the sheer accumulated weight. Do I need 2000 CDs? I probably only listen to a couple hundred of them if that. Will I read any of those shelves of books again ever? And if I want to I can certainly pick up another used copy from a charity shop or on Amazon. Isn’t it about time I stopped getting paper bank statements: the batch I’ve just shredded date from when there were still twin towers in New York and I could still smoke twenty a day without giving a thought to my mortality.
I also, much to my chagrin, find myself thinking enviously of friends in relationships. As much as I’m inclined to make like a cat and lick my wounds in private it’d be nice on occasion to have someone else lick ’em (if you’ll pardon the expression). I’m my own worst enemy in this way, rejecting most well-meaning advances from friends and the occasional partner and damming up hurts and inconveniences until all it takes is a silly little virus to come along and put a crack in the concrete and knock me flat on my back. Dumbass!
Having a cold isn’t the root cause of anything but it’s just left me feeling low and exposed, more vulnerable than usual to the kind of thing that a mentally stronger person would take in their stride, or have the good sense to put their metaphorical hand in the air and say “hey guys, I need some help down here”.
I’ve got some help for now. I’ve got a couple days off and my doctor has prescribed me some little orange pills called Hydroxyzine which is actually an antihistamine but has sedating properties that make it useful for treating anxiety, a bug I’m a little too familiar with these days. It’s also good for Eczema which is great because that’s one of the million little things I’ve suffered from but deemed too trivial to bother getting fixed. Anxiety and eczema aren’t the end of the world but they do need fixing if life is going to be liveable and, more to the point, enjoyable.