I said I wouldn’t talk about Glandular Fever any more (#getoveritKate), but when I returned to the office in July after a month off sick, one of my senior managers asked how my recovery was going. Physically, I’d completely recovered, but when he asked “How about mentally?” I decided to tell the truth and say “Not all that great”.
Post-fever, I naively expected to pick up where I’d left off and go back to my old self. Instead, I spent weeks feeling like I was sat behind glass, separate from situations I would normally be engaged in. If I managed to experience a drop of emotion, it was overwhelming, and it often brought on a panic so severe that I’d feel paralysed by it. Weirdly, I hid these panics exceptionally well, so I imagine anyone who’s reading this who knows me in person will be surprised to hear I almost wept at my desk (and on the tube) on a daily basis.
I didn’t tell many people I felt this way. My sisters knew, I told a few close friends, and I wrote pages of notes in my diary about it when I couldn’t sleep at night (despite being fucking exhausted). I read the entries back recently, and it made me sad that I felt such a strong and strange need to keep my feelings a secret. That’s madder than anything I was feeling at the time.
What gave eventually gave me comfort and some perspective was that my senior had been through the exact same thing when he contracted Glandular Fever years ago. He told me that for months after his initial diagnosis and recovery, he would burst in to tears for no reason, and couldn’t regulate his emotions. Even on the worst days when I’d come back to the flat after work, wrecked internally by nerves and paranoia; the comfort in knowing I hadn’t “gone wrong” (as I put it to my flatmate Kelly) and that this state was only temporary, was immense. That’s why I’ve written about it here. It’s important to tell people if you’re struggling.
Do you know what else helps? Music. Endless amounts of it. Even when you don’t want to dance to it, cry to it, or feel to it – music is always there to distract and eventually, to motivate you back in to health. We all need something to lean on when we feel weak; and Nine Inch Nails’ desolate, raging, brutally honest lyrics have been medicine to my ears on the most toxic days. I’m also grateful to my older brother for not being mad at me for ignoring his suggestion to listen to them five years ago.
Whether you’re feeling low due to poor physical health, or just generally out of sorts; put on a record, whack your little diary out, and write until you don’t make sense anymore. Read it back when you’re feeling better, and cut yourself some slack. Life can punch you right in the tits sometimes, but if you tell someone how you feel (or write a blog about it), you’ll be surprised at just how much relief it can bring.
I can’t wait to show you what the spoils of shaking off Glandular Fever look like for me. Keep your eyes peeled for more news, and listen to this vital tune in the meantime.