“Do you think this has gotten a bit out of control?”
Half listening,I was doing the second check that the oven and hob were off by holding the knobs into position, checking a handful of times that the main fuse was switched off and saying out loud “The oven is off.”, out of control? Or just very aware that household fires could happen to anyone? He had a point though, the small quirks and checks and fears seem to magnify at the first hint of stress lately, I wasn’t quite having to turn 13 times anti clockwise before leaving a room but with each flicker of anxiety my checks and worries were beginning to snake out of the little world in my head and into the real world. Out of control? If only he knew the half of it.
Checking the straighteners are off and on a non flammable surface has always been one of my “things”, the heat proof mat, the tiled bathroom floor, the hob. The more stress I find myself under the harder it is to leave the flat of a morning without locking, unlocking the door and checking several times that they are off and in the correct place. I’ve been on the tube and at the last split second have felt such a strong, aching fear that I haven’t completed this, ritual I suppose, I’ve leapt off and raced home to check. When I’m really stressed I can’t get to the bottom of the stairs without feeling like my feet physically won’t move any further before I’ve checked a good second time.
At night time another “fire” check means leaping out of bed to avoid what feels like a finger digging into my lower ribs get up, get up and have another look. In the middle of the night when I’ve woken myself up from another bad dream where I’m chasing something or running from something else I feel a little bit safer for being completely sure I’m at least not going to set the flat alight. Living alone, sometimes I think it’s just survival instinct. Maybe.
It’s not just a flaming hell I find myself in; hours have been spent in front of the mirror, in front of friends and family convinced I've spotted a bald patch. I’d part my hair and point and demand “Does this look normal to you?” sometimes more recently emerging mouth wide open asking “NUTH NITH LOOK OBBLY OO YOU?” or, translated “Do my teeth look like they’re wobbling to you?”. Nobody is safe, if I've spoken to you for longer than five minutes then please do feel prepared to calm my various, imagined ailments next time I find a week with a busy work schedule and a nightmare client on my hands. The unholy horror that is a Google search of minor symptoms on my tense brain requires a five step process in order to talk me down from the top of the wardrobe, silly yes but I do have genuine concerns about my prostate.
I’d like to profess a complete sense of normality for those remaining weeks, months where stress does not turn me into the only loon in the village, but who am I kidding.
During a particularly long and stressful period caused by a busy office schedule and the nosiest of neighbours I found I could only sleep with a glass of wine and a spoon of Night Nurse. Nights where I decided not to turn my liver into a small, soft pate I’d lay in bed obsessing that I would never sleep again. Ever. For the large part I didn’t sleep over those pretty horrendous months but when I was feeling less tense, ignoring the knot of butterflies that just never seemed to flutter out of my stomach, I slept through the night. Like a baby.