Like the vaccine, a small nervous breakdown will be made available to everyone in the pandemic, it’s just a matter of when.
I was lucky. After a week of being kept awake by the little voice – the one that appears when you need it least, to tell you all your flaws – I was due to exercise with a friend. I cancelled, telling her honestly I couldn’t get out of bed.
“You need a big cry,” she said. “Take a couple of days, and get it all out.”
This was not easy advice to take. I don’t like crying. I recognise it is healthy and good for other people, but it’s not for me. I easily fall into that familiar pattern of womanhood where it is our job to make sure everyone else is happy (and I imagine that the sight of me crying into the kitten, the red, waxy casings of the mini Babybels I have comfort-eaten scattered around like petals at a shrine, is not a happy-making one.)
My friend gave me a valuable tip: “Try saying your feelings out loud – that pushes me into tears. Or watch It’s A Sin.” Both worked. After that, it was easy to cry, and to keep crying.
She was right. A study found that when we cry we remove the chemicals that contain stress hormones, like we do with dust that irritates our eyes: we wash it away with our tears. When people say “let it out”, it is a literal, physical act they are describing.
So I tell myself to no longer push the sorrow down. Bring it up as soon as possible – put the pain in the wash instead of leaving it there to stain. Next time the little voice arrives, I’ll know just what to say. “Hello old friend. It’s time for a bath.”