I have spent a lot of time in the house over the last week and it’s utterly fucked me up.
I’m a doer, by nature. I adore walking and fresh air and being busy and going out and seeing people. I get ants in my pants if I sit in the same place for too long, I can’t sleep if I haven’t burnt off a certain amount of energy in my waking hours, I become a bit obsessed with walking a certain number of steps a day. I really enjoy getting shit done.
But then a few of weeks ago my life went a bit wobbly, everything was thrown out of kilter and it’s now Sunday 4th March and I realise I haven’t left the house for a week – aside from a quick mini-break to the hospital on Wednesday (hardly the ideal getaway destination to kick start your creative juices).
In early February my brother was involved in accident (which is why I suddenly disappeared from the internet without any warning) and although he will be absolutely fine and has been very very lucky, he’s got a whopper of a road ahead of him in terms of rehabilitation and recovery.
Whilst this has been going on I moved back to my mum’s house, at first so we could all be together and closer to the hospital and more recently so that we could all hang out with him whilst he gets better.
And, at the risk of making his accident all about me, I’ve gotta say this last week has done a total number on me. I literally haven’t left the house and that has caused me to turn into a person that I hardly recognise at all.
I’m grumpy, I’m rude, bad-tempered, permanently tired (even though I’m hardly doing anything), I’m snappy, frustrated, annoyed and emotional. All the fucking time. It’s driving me absolutely bloody mad. And it’s not just a mental thing either; my skin, normally OK, is absurdly dry and dull, my hair is getting greasy at a disgraceful speed and the rash that I sometimes get on my arm but haven’t had for a while is back in a big way. I’m also having one of the longest and most boring IBS flare-ups of my life, I’m consistently bloated and outrageously gassy.
You could argue that a lot of these symptoms have occurred as a result of the stress of the last few weeks, if I were still in denial of the fact that it’s now a week(!!!) since I left the house, I’d be inclined to agree with you. You could also say that my mood is this way because I am currently giving up the ciggies (to support my brother because I AM THE BEST SISTER EVER), this one I would agree with you on, but I know it’s not the root-cause of the bad mood.
I know, in my heart-of-hearts, that the reason I feel like an actual and literal pile of steaming dog sick, is because I am suffering with cabin fever. An actual problem that I need to fix as soon as humanly possible.
According to Wikipedia,’Cabin fever is an idiomatic term for a claustrophobic reaction that takes place when a person or group ends up in an isolated or solitary location, or stuck indoors in confined quarters for an extended period. Cabin fever describes the extreme irritability and restlessness a person may feel in these situations.’
I would not normally encourage you to believe something taken straight from a Wikipedia page, but I can vouch for this one’s accuracy 110%.
Although my mum’s house is hardly a shoe-box, much bigger than my little London flat, I have come to the conclusion that you can only spend so long in a certain place (no matter the size) before you go mad.
The feeling of claustrophobia was only intensified by the arrival of Storm Emma (the Beast From The East, if you will), the huge dump of snow that landed on our house and the surrounding roads meant that by Thursday morning we were officially trapped here. Although I had nowhere to go, no plans and no one to see, within five of minutes of knowing that I couldn’t leave even if I wanted to, I felt a pressure on my chest that is yet to ease.
Having lived full time in London for the last six years, and having spent a lot of time there before that, this is a feeling that is totally alien to me.
Even when I feel utterly shit; whether it be with the hangover of the century or with an ailment that I didn’t give to myself, it’s really hard not to leave your house. I don’t think I’ve ever not done it. In part that’s because I have a dog and she HAS to be walked (unless I want to spend the rest of my life cleaning up dog wee) and in part it’s because after a few hours I feel the pressure forming on my chest that I know will only be cured by a trip outside.
I also don’t want to starve to death and without my mum around, I’m forced to go to the co-op daily (because I’m not sure I’ll ever be a good enough grownup to plan my meals days in advance).
It’s easy to feel claustrophobic in London (thanks to the disgraceful amount of pollution and overwhelming lack of open space) but it’s very hard to get cabin fever, at least in my experience. It feels like an active city and it suits my active nature – there is always somewhere to go, something to try, to buy, to get. There’s always a reason to go out.
This probably has a lot to do with how expensive it is to live in actually, no one can afford a space big enough not to go mad in.
There was research done a few years ago into the connection between inactivity and depression, it was called the ‘Inactivity Trap’ and unsurprisingly, the findings showed that the two things feed each other. Although I’m lucky enough not to battle with depression, I have come to see how easy it is to fall into a trap of depressive tendencies.
I’ve lost all faith in myself this week (you might have noticed if you read my last blog post: ‘the pep talk you might need to hear right now‘), I have very a pathetically small amount of confidence, I have little to no energy and I’m really overthinking everything.
My mum always says: if you want something done, give it to a busy person to do.
Never have I appreciated that expression more than I have this week. With absolutely fuck all to do, everything I have done has taken about six hours to complete – most of it is still hanging out on my mental to-do list, destined, at this rate, never to be done.
This afternoon I am going for a walk (anxiety be damned) and tomorrow morning I am making a change. Whilst family circumstances mean I’ve still got a bit of out-of-London chilling to be getting on with, I will never, ever let myself fall into the trap of contracting cabin fever again.
I didn’t realise how much I loved myself and my life until I started to lose it, and fuck I really, really did start to see myself go this week.
And so if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go now, because there are currently five canine faces staring up at me, waiting me for take them on a walk. A walk that I need much more than they do, although they don’t know that. Tomorrow I’m going out for a coffee. And then every day after that I’ll find somewhere to be.
Before I go though, I’m going to drop a little nugget of wisdom on ya: if you are feeling anything like this, if it’s been a couple of days since you last went anywhere, if you’re feeling a tightness in your chest, if you’re in a bad mood that you can’t seem to shake or if you’re experiencing poor mental health that you think is being made worse by your environment, I implore you to find somewhere to go.
Don’t fall into my trap, look after yourself – get out there. Even if there is just the corner shop.