Sick in bed, wheezy and nauseous, spluttery and querulous, achey all over, feverish. Fond of complaining to anyone who will listen. Swallowing litres of homemade chicken soup and mugs of hot tea. Craving bowls of mac ‘n cheese, toast with Bovril, custard and jelly.
Bored when I’m not too sick to be bored. Too headachey to read much. Imagination like dry toast.
Glancing at a review of Charles Fernyhough’s The Voices Within: The History and Science of How we Talk to Ourselves:
The book explores a wide range of types of voice, from the everyday, such as my own rather banal example, to the creative and the bizarre. Voices are associated in the popular mind with schizophrenia, but they are also frequent attenders on other psychiatric disorders. During the years I spent working as a psychoanalyst, I became acquainted with many kinds of inner voice: nags, down-putters, savage persecutors, prophets of doom, the siren calls of idleness, the seductive beckonings of recklessness – these and many other soundtracks afflict people who are by no means mad but nonetheless are victims of vocal inner correspondents prejudicial to their health and balance.
When you’re sick and feel guilty about work piling up on your desk, feel whiny and self-pitying and useless, it is easy to begin punishing the sick self. It is curious that I have an inner starchy headmistress and inner bossy matron who order me around when all I want to do is to sleep and get better, can’t argue back. Doris Lessing, the Zimbabwean writer, talks in her memoir about the persona she called ‘Tigger’, a bouncy, jolly hockeysticks, highly competent and relentlessly cheerful schoolgirl who made a joke of everything and spared the inner sensitive questioning Doris public exposure.
Being sick makes me feel I have failed in some way. I know it’s nonsense. I can see my tired face in the bathroom mirror, the oddness of wearing pyjamas in the middle of the day, waiting to have trays of soup brought through to me n the evening, creeping from the bathroom to the bedroom without any desire to work or go into the garden. A slow mental fog, so that the usual story-making, analysing, observing self has just fled. And at the same time the sick self is convinced it is a mild bout of flu, that I should be able to shake it off with a little shrug and some determination. Which I know too is nonsense.
The winter storms at the weekend left broken branches and pools of water all around the garden. A disconcerting crash on the roof at 2am and when we searched the next morning we couldn’t see any broken tiles or guttering. I sat and listened to the music of Prince (so missed) from the 1980s while reading something on the poet J H Prynne. From Living in History:
He wants only the patient ebb, as following the shore: that’s not honest, but where his foot prints and marks his track in the fact of the evening the path where he grabs at motion, like a moist plant or the worth, of hearing the tide come in. Walk on it, being a line, of rest and distinction, a hope now lived up to, a coast in awkward singular desires thigh-bone of the world