This has been a strange week. While the week before I was sleeping well, eating constantly and doing a lot of exercise, this week has been mostly appalling sleep, intermittent eating and no energy for exercise. As the week has gone on I’ve realised that I’ve been having a lot of stupid conversations with my brain. Sometimes I feel like I’m two people, me who’s rational and fairly easy-going, and my brain which is sometimes a total mess. I’m not calling this anxiety, or depression, or anything else – it’s just how it is. Maybe it’s being a Gemini – sign of the twins! But probably not.
So here are a few of the conversations I’ve been having with my brain this week. I hope I don’t sound completely insane.
Number 1. Sleeping
I’ve always had trouble sleeping, since I was quite small. I don’t have the off switch some people seem to have. If I could buy one, I absolutely would. I also tend to wake up in the night. Like a new-born baby, sleeping through the night is extremely rare for me. But this week has been especially bad.
Me: Hi brain. We haven’t slept properly the last couple of nights. Let’s think of a nice happy situation so we can drift off peacefully and not have nightmares about horses with broken legs drowning, or about spiders, or about Dave’s (my boyfriend) ex going to work on the set of Doctor Who in Scotland (wtf).
Brain: All right. (Planning secretly how to hijack the happy thoughts).
Half an hour later my brain has spoilt said daydream by reminding me about my godfather Peter, who died when I was 20 and is the only person I’ve lost in life who I miss all the time. Whenever I think about him I get incredibly sad that I won’t see or speak to him again, even though he died some seven years ago. I then can’t sleep because I’m too upset and my pillow is damp with tears.
Me: Fuck you, brain. Fine. There’s only one thing to do now.
I listen to Julie Andrews singing ‘Stay Awake’ in Mary Poppins, the greatest piece of reverse psychology ever.
Brain: Oh, you want to SLEEP?! Well why didn’t you say so.
I get to sleep, but wake up every three hours or so thanks to bizarre or unnerving dreams. My brain always wakes me up when I’m having a bad dream, which you’d think would be helpful, but actually just means a) I’m awake and b) I remember the dream very well because I wake up in the middle of it, then can’t get back to sleep.
Me: Fuck you, brain. I’m shattered. Too tired to get up and go swimming or go for a run or do any of the things that would help with sleep this evening. I hope you’re happy.
Brain: I’m tired. Do we have to go to work?
Number 2: Eating
Generally I eat a lot, or at least small amounts at frequent intervals, as I have a high metabolism and burn energy quickly (sorry, I know how annoying that is). If I don’t eat, I feel sick, then I can’t eat because I’m queasy.
Me: Brain, it’s 1pm and we’re at work and I’m not hungry yet. What’s going on?
Brain: Pffffffffft. Eating. I can’t be bothered to eat.
Me: What?! But we love eating! Eating is one of our favourite things to do! Gluttony is in our top two favourite sins! Why don’t you want to eat?
Brain: It’s just such a lot of bother. It seems such a faff. I can’t remember what anything tastes like. I don’t want anything.
Me: We have to eat, because I’m already feeling slightly sick and you know it’s only going to get worse. Let’s have the salmon and noodles we brought in for lunch.
Brain: Ugh. It looks awful. (It doesn’t, it looks very pleasant). No. I don’t want anything.
Me: Well, you don’t have a choice. But you do have a choice this evening, we’re going out for dinner, what do you want?
Brain: I have no interest in ever eating anything again.
Me: Bloody hell you’re useless. Let’s have burgers. It’s next to the theatre. We’re having burgers.
Brain: I don’t want a burger.
Me: Tough shit.
We end up having pizza at Pizza Hut, which brain accepts because it tastes the same as it did when I was twelve and apparently that’s comforting.
Brain: BURGERS BURGERS BURGERS! Why don’t we ever have burgers?!
Me: FFS. I offered you a burger yesterday. We could have had burgers.
Brain: Yeah, well. I didn’t want it then.
Me: Why do you have to act like a petulant child all the time?
Number 3: The Bus
I went home from work one day at lunchtime carrying a fairly large box holding a small portable heater. The bus was busy because the upper deck was full of children on a trip. I get a seat downstairs with the box across the aisle in the slot for pushchairs and wheelchairs, of which there are none. It wasn’t particularly crowded.
Brain: Everybody hates us.
Me: What? Why?
Brain: Because of the box. It’s in the way. Ugh, this is a disaster. People are going to ask about it and wonder whose it is. Maybe someone will steal it.
Me: You are utterly ridiculous. It isn’t in the way. If anybody asks we say it’s ours. Nobody will steal it because it’s literally a foot away.
Brain: No, this is awful, everybody’s looking at it and us thinking how selfish we are.
Me: Don’t be silly, it’s well out of people’s way. Anyway, what do you want me to do? I can hardly balance it on my head can I?
Brain: Don’t get snarky with me. What if someone in a wheelchair gets on? AND someone with a pushchair? We should get off now just in case.
Me: Sod that, I’m not carrying that box the 45 minute walk home. If worst comes to the worst we’ll get out and get the next bus.
Brain: I am so uncomfortable.
Me: Get over it. Oh look, there’s a spare seat where we can have the goddamn box in front of our feet. (I move). Better?
Brain: Oh this is lovely. How peaceful. And there’s nobody at all between us and the door, we won’t have to ask anyone to move or risk falling down the stairs like we nearly did the other day. Do you remember? You slammed into the wall and hurt your thumb, of all things.
Me: Yes I remember. It wasn’t great.
Brain: Better than the time at the weekend when you walked into the glass door of Tiger thinking it was open and it wasn’t.
Me: Yes well thank you brain, I think that’s enough reliving past humiliations thank you.
Brain: Or that time in high school –
Me: What? Shut up!
Brain: – when everyone had to throw the ball against the wall and catch it ten times and then shout out how many times they’d caught it, and everyone else it was 9 or 10 and you’d only caught it once. Do you remember?
Me: Of course, you keep reminding me about it.
Brain: Well it was awful, wasn’t it?
Me: Ugh. Yes.
Brain: Why were you so bad at that? It didn’t look difficult.
Me: Because you’d convinced me before I’d started that I was going to be useless at it. Like you did with most of P.E. at school.
Brain: Well, you were useless at most of it.
Me: Well maybe I wouldn’t have been if you weren’t so hell bent on telling me I’d be crap every time.
Brain: Ha. I doubt it.
Me: No. Well, maybe not.
Number 4: Text messages
Me: What is it now? (I am irritable after three nights of poor sleep in a row).
Brain: He didn’t say I love you back.
Me: Oh yes. Well I shouldn’t worry about it, he said it in person about an hour ago.
Brain: Perhaps he’s changed his mind.
Me: Shut up and be quiet. You’re the flipping worst.
Brain: Maybe he’s still offended because we woke him up to ask him to turn over last night.
Me: Well that’s hardly likely, he said he didn’t care, and he was elbowing me in the side and keeping me awake so it was justified. It wasn’t like we woke him up for a laugh.
Brain: I suppose. (Frets over it in the background for the rest of the day)
Me: Will you stop it. This is completely unbelievable.
Number 5: Evening
Me: Brain, I feel panicky and queasy. What’s going on?
Brain: SOMETHING IS WRONG. I DON’T LIKE IT.
Me: Oh for crying out loud. There is literally nothing to worry about. All we’re doing tonight is calling Dave, while drinking sleepy tea, then reading the end of Mansfield Park, and going to bed early. It’s idyllic.
Brain: ARGH NO I’M VERY WORRIED.
Brain: I don’t know. You know what will make me feel better? Throwing up. I think that will help a lot. (I infrequently get panic attacks which make me nauseous and, very occasionally, make me vomit).
Me: No. I flatly refuse to be sick. There is absolutely nothing to be upset about.
Brain: ARGHHHHHHHHHHH NO SOMETHING IS VERY VERY WORRYING
After the phone call and after half an hour or so of reading Mansfield Park, I no longer feel sick.
Me: You see? There was nothing to worry about.
Brain: Yes okay. Sorry. I don’t know what happened there. I’m just a mess.
Number 6: Work
By Thursday I’d had four nights in a row of very little sleep.
Me: Come on brain, look alive. We need to write this email.
Brain: Words words words what do all the words mean why don’t the words make any sense
Me: Maybe because SOMEBODY hasn’t felt like sleeping for the last four nights, and instead has been thinking nonsense and having stupid bloody dreams? I’ve been doing my bit, you’ve been totally useless.
(On lunch break)
Me: What does ‘Gathered Leaves excision’ mean?
Me: Exhibition. We’re looking for the Gathered Leaves EXHIBITION.
Brain: ARGH IT’S ALL JUST TOO DIFFICULT
Me: Well why don’t you let me sleep tonight, yes?
Brain: Maybe. Unless I think of something awful to worry about.
Me: Fuck you, brain.