Upgrading the meltdown

In May 2014, I went off the rails. I walked to the nearest hire car place in my pyjamas, threw my credit card at the bewildered girl behind the counter and spent a week driving around the UK, staying in bleak Travel Lodges, passing the evenings staring at identikit wallpapers and wondering why they had plants in reception when no-one could be bothered to water them.

Almost exactly two years later, and I’m in a similar situation. Mercifully this time I have my own car, so I’m not condemned to spend my time on the road listening to the one CD I found under the passenger seat on repeat (T’Pau’s ‘China in Your Hand’, hilariously). I’m also wearing actual clothes, and can report that I’ve been nowhere near a Travel Lodge. Meltdown deluxe, if you will.

Except it’s not a meltdown. Not this time. Yes, the catalysts in both scenarios are largely the same – people disappoint you, life goes awry, you get lost – but two years ago I was trying to run away from it all. It was a pretty futile exercise, really; as goes the old saying: ‘Everywhere you go, there you are’. It didn’t matter whether I was sitting in a roadside service station in Derby or by a river in Shropshire, my stupid brain, and all the anxiety and desperation and fear slamming around in it, was along for the ride whether I liked it or not.

And so, to now. “I can’t believe I’m in this place again,” I announced to myself between heaving sighs and moments spent consciously unclenching my jaw. But as I careen aimlessly through the Welsh Valleys and English countryside I realise that to disbelieve this fact is as ludicrous as disbelieving my hand in front of my face. Specific misfortunes are not like the chicken pox, unfortunately. Enduring them once does not make you immune to them again.

But, you do build up a resilience, and so my unscheduled adventure this time is less about outrunning the gremlins licking at the corners of my consciousness and more about talking them down. Not yelling at the barking dog but feeding it, walking it, brushing its coat. It’s time consuming stuff, but it makes the barking stop.

10 really easy ways to feel a little less shit when you’re feeling phenomenally shit

Grief, heartbreak, depression… whatever your melancholic poison, most of us find ourselves up against it at some point in our lives, and despite my irreverent and 100% always cheerful demeanour on social media, I myself have been plagued by the black dog since I was a teenager. And it’s fucking rubbish.

Hyperbole

Hyperbole and a Half

The internet is awash with self-help articles endorsing self-care and self-kindness in times of emotional turmoil, and these are largely great. But the fact is, when you wake up in the morning and simply cannot fathom getting out of bed, let alone doing functional human basics such as washing yourself and eating breakfast, signing up to purifying yoga courses or making gratitude scrapbooks can feel a bit above your current pay grade. I’ve no doubt that exercise releases a whole bunch of endorphins, and that cooking a meal from scratch is relaxing and fulfilling, but they’re not realistic suggestions for someone who’s really in a hell of a funk. These are, though:

  1. Nap ON your bed, not IN your bed

You don’t have to tell me how tempting it is to crawl back into bed once you’ve overcome the seemingly gargantuan task of getting out of it on dark days. But if bed is where it’s at for you at that moment in time, make a point of straightening the duvet out and lying down on top of it (you don’t have to fuck about with hospital corners or perfectly plumped pillows or whatever). This helps draw a line between day and night time, which is good for both your psyche and your propensity to get up and amble around a bit without feeling like you can’t because you’re hunkered down for the day.

  1. Organise your washing up

If you’ve got a load of dirty plates and mugs lying around, that’s good because it means you’re eating (high five). But it’s also crap because unless you have the energy and motivation to wash it up, you gotta look at a load of mess all day. Take just a minute to organise all the dirty stuff into a pile. Stack plates atop one another and take the used mugs out of the lounge or bedroom. You don’t have to wash it up right now, but by minimising the surface area it takes up – and having a neat pile ready for when you do feel up to it – you’ll feel more in control of the mess.

  1. Go outside

Even if it’s just for a few minutes while you smoke a fag or have a cup of tea. Or even just shove your head out of the window for a second. Get some of that D on your face and fresh air in your lungs.

Loneliness

A Zillion Dollar Comics
  1. Copy/paste replies to friends

I can tell when I’m on the cusp of a wobble because suddenly every form of communication from my friends seems like a huge infringement on my time and space – simply because I feel under pressure to respond. I know, right? How hard is it to type out a few sentences of chit chat? Thanks, depression! In any case, I’m hella lucky to have lots of good friends that check in on the reg, and so if I start feeling stressed out by that – or by that one unread Whatsapp that I know I have to respond to at some point but which continues to flash up on my notifications list like a fucking Windows 10 reminder – then I take five minutes to type out a generic reply along the lines of ‘Hey, today is not the one but I’m okay. How are you?’ and then blast it to all of them. It lets them know I’m not lying face down in a bar somewhere but also that I’m not feeling super chatty. They’re my friends, they get it.

  1. Put on some clean clothes

They don’t have to be clothes-clothes, like going-outside-and-functioning-in-society clothes, but just something that’s not pyjamas. Or more specifically, not the pyjamas you’ve slept in. Just something comfortable that doesn’t smell of night sweat and tears. For me, it’s usually a questionable band t-shirt and a pair of jeggings (I always said I’d never stoop to those, but here we are, I’m leaning into it). Hardly the attire of a consummate professional, I know, but if my mind is in the bin then the simple act of getting out of pyjamas and putting on a different, clean, comfortable outfit is a significant game-changer. This is why the whole ‘loungewear’ thing is doing such a roaring trade, I’m sure of it.

  1. Keep face wipes by your bed

I’m quite fastidious when it comes to my skincare regime, having spent the equivalent of a small country’s GDP on various Clarins serums. But on days when I just don’t give a shit and the faff of cleansing, toning and moisturising seems so utterly pointless in the grand scheme of things, I’ll haphazardly smush a cleansing wipe around my face before beginning my nightly routine of sighing forever into a pillow. Dr Jart would be horrified, I know, but a partially-cleansed face is better than one laden with the dirt of a day’s difficult existence (and more importantly, it helps you feel like you’re still in control of personal grooming basics).

Depression

Optipess
  1. Stretch

For someone with such an otherwise horrendously unhealthy lifestyle, I sure do like yoga a whole lot, and I think there’s a great deal of stock in the idea that we carry our emotions physically, particularly in times of acute suffering. Grief, sadness and anger can harden around us, especially if we spend hours on end curled up in the foetal position. Stand up, stretch it out. Just move to the other side of the sofa, even. Don’t let the blues get into your bones.

  1. Have some fruit

Eat a banana, dribble an orange into your mouth, mix your vodka with pear juice, whatever – anything to remind your body that it’s a living organism and not a grunting trash receptacle for bread dipped in anything runnier than bread.

  1. Have a glass of water

All of those tears have gotta come from somewhere, right? And even if you’re not physically crying yourself into a raisin, being dehydrated makes you crabby and sleepless and headachey, which is just a whole bunch of nope considering everything else you’ve got going on. Get your hands on a water bottle if you can – that way you can have it in bed with you / on the sofa / rolling around the floor of your kitchen as you lie face down under the counter.

  1. Download this app (or something like it)

For some people, sleep cannot come soon enough at the end of a difficult day. For others – like me – it’s an elusive fucker camouflaged by icky thoughts and unpleasant feelings that spring into action the minute my head hits the pillow. So out comes the phone and endless hours of scrolling in a bid to distract myself. I KNOW. This ain’t the healthiest way of dealing with things and yes, there’s no end of evidence to show that playing with your phone before bed is a guaranteed ticket to insomnia city, BUT, you gotta do what you’ve gotta do to get by, right? So, if you are going to dick about with your phone until exhaustion finally overwhelms you, some kind of blue light-inhibiting app will help take the edge off your already wired and overwrought brain.

 

Can we discuss the infidelity narrative around Lemonade for a second?

Lemonade

I’m not the biggest fan of Beyonce’s music. There, I said it. Send over the angry mob.

It seems that I never really grew out of my tortured alt-kid phase, so even now at the grand age of 31, times of emotional turmoil are more likely to see me lying face down on the floor listening to Placebo or Ill Nino than the heartfelt and empowering lyrics of Queen Bey. It’s just personal taste.

Nonetheless, I recognise that Beyonce is a fucking phenomenal woman, and an absolutely critical role model for all women during these dark times – few will take such a central place in the cultural history books than she, and her recent surprise visual album drop is testament to that.

Did Jay-Z cheat on her? No-one can say for sure, but the themes running throughout Lemonade – and of course the unrelenting media speculation – would suggest something was up. And she owned it. She took all the pain, anger, sadness and desperation of infidelity and turned it into a defiant masterpiece from which others can derive strength and comfort (which is unquestionably more important than the musical offerings of white boys whinging about their high school girlfriends). When life gives you lemons, make lemonade AND THROW IT IN LIFE’S EYES, right?

So this is the dominant social narrative to come from Lemonade thus far. But there’s another line of thought simmering away among the noise – one voiced by young women in particular.

“If Beyonce gets cheated on, what hope is there for me?”

A jokey, throwaway remark designed to get a few RTs, right? Maybe, but its underlying context nonetheless is that in order to be worthy of love and fidelity, you need to be rich, ultra-talented and gorgeous. That you always have to be your very best you (and then some) in order to enjoy some pretty basic relationship fundamentals, such as trust and respect. Come up short against these exhausting and relentless requirements and, oh well, what did you expect?

The focus of Jay-Z’s alleged infidelity has been put on her: She’s so hot and talented, what could she have done that would mean he cheated on her? And this is total, utter bullshit. His infidelity has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with him and his alarming lack of morals and yet the internet is awash with jokes about him being caught out – when really, he needs to be held to account – and, worse, commentary from young men applauding his ability to bed a number of hot women at once. There aren’t nearly as many bloody lemon emojis plastered over his social media accounts than there are on Rachel Roy’s (or Rachel Ray’s for that matter – idiots), but that’s an entirely separate – and equally problematic – issue.

Lemonade is Beyonce’s battle cry in the face of one of the worst betrayals the human heart can bear, and it’s vital that we shape its infidelity narrative (and all infidelity narratives) around the shortcomings of the cheater, not the cheated. Listen to the album. Listen to the lyrics. This is the message Queen Bey is pushing here, and one that even I, with my predisposition to whiny, introspective guitar bands, can derive great strength from.