Breathe: Chapter…sometime later on

Monday seems to come round insanely quickly considering what a full weekend I’ve had. I wake up as I usually do, roused from unconsciousness but the soft rising melody of my alarm, I turn it off and lay in bed for a while looking blankly at the ceiling.

There’s a knot in my stomach, a flutter in my chest, a pressure weighting me down to my bed like so many iron hands clamping me in place, hard and unrelenting . I don’t know how else to explain it but sometimes for no apparent reason, sometimes when things build and build, sometimes in response to a situation, I will wake-up and be completely immobile. I don’t mean I’m physically paralysed, I do have physical symptoms but the motivelessness is like my mind’s way of holding my body hostage. I know I need to get up and go to work, I know how to get up, I know I need to just do it and stop thinking about it, but I can’t.

The more I think about how I should get up the harder it becomes, I know that if I get up in five minutes I will still have time for a shower, if I get up in five minutes more I will still have time for breakfast, five minutes more and I can still be on time if I do my make-up on the train. When these small markers fails, I tell myself I will get up when I have counted all of the cracks on my ceiling. There are three large cracks and twenty-two smaller ones, a patch of mould and five cobwebs. I tell myself I will get up when I have remembered the rhyme for the days of Christmas, Christmas is more like seventy days away than twelve but there isn’t a rhyme for that many days. Five more minutes and I can still make the last train that gets me into work on time (if I run and I hate to run). All the while the knot tightens pulling my insides into a hard ball of agony in the pit of my stomach, the flutter turns to a pounding radiating in my chest and in my head and roars out through my eardrums, the panic threatens to rise like hot, bitter, burning bile in my throat. Somehow, I manage to haul myself up into a sitting position.

I take a deep breath and swallow the panic like lumpy porridge. I swing my legs round and stand up, my body wobbles and the dizzying feeing of complete and utter exhaustion pulls at the back of my mind, like the quiet voice of a bad Jiminy Cricket, the tiny marionette master pulling my strings, small but all powerful and all consuming. I shake my head and take another breath to dislodge the vicious spell-like feeling that is trying again and again to take over my whole being. I stand and stare hopelessly at my clothes, shirts, trousers, skirts, jumpers, willing something will jumps out and say “wear me, wear me and feel better”, but nothing does. I decide to dress in opposition of my heavy mood, a last ditch attempt to pull myself out of the fog, I shuffle into my jade green wide leg trousers and button up my red bird-covered shirt. As usual you pile my hair up in an easy bun and ignore the thousand and four wisps of baby hair that break free the instant I have smoothed it back into shape, I wipe my face with my cucumber scented wipes, moisturise and opt for minimalist make-up, concealer for my bags, light mascara and pink stained lips for the extra confidence boost I need to get me through the door. I don my coat and grab my bag, staring at the front door, the last and final barrier between me and the outside world, I can do this, I think to myself. ‘You can’t do this’ the bad Jiminy Cricket voice says. I’ve got this far, one step at a time I think, I open the door and step outside.

Everything is harder, the short walk makes me breathless and sore and tired within twenty paces, every jolt or push or squeeze on the tube makes me jump, my deep and uneven breaths the only thing keeping me present in the moment but my brain feels heavy in my head like a sack of flour and my eyes feel swollen, sore and exhausted and prominent on my face. I continue to take deep breaths and play classical music on my iPhone, the swoop of the violin drawing out the mille-second of calming oxygen as it fills my tight chest, the double bass counting the painful second of airlessness as I breathe out the bad air.

I make to work in time, but only just. Being so close to the late mark makes me feel terrified, sweat is coating my top lip, my back is cold with it and my chest is on fire, my hands vibrating in fear but I don’t know why, it’s not like David cares or takes note when people are actually late. I sit down at my desk and remove my outer layers, I desperately want a drink but now I have made it to my seat, standing up again seems to hard, I keep my headphones in and try to focus on my work, step by step. Computer on, password in, emails open. Minutes feel like hours, I feel hyper aware of my body, like its a clumsy puffed up balloon flailing in the breeze, like I’m totally alone in the room but also like everyone is looking at me, judging me, glaring at me and my stupidity, they know that I am struggling and I feel so embarrassed.

“Hey Soph!” I hear Mandy’s muffled voice through my earphones and jump an inch from my seat.

“Hi” I sat as I remove my ear buds, the low buzz of talking in the office crashing into me like a wall of sound.

“So did you find her?” I’m so out of it it takes me a moment to understand her words, then I am both confused at her perfectly normal tone, how can she be so normal when I am such a mess, and reminded that Ally going ‘missing’ was only the day before last.

“Oh, yes. Sorry about that, I’m so embarrassed for calling so late and…”

“Shh, don’t be silly! I am glad you felt you could, and you absolutely can, anytime!” She beams at me. She isn’t judging me, if she can see that anything is out of sorts she doesn’t say or even hint at it. A warmth starts to take route in my roiling stomach, spreading through my body like the fresh air of a summer morning, gently blowing away the cobwebs. She likes me and she considers me a friend. I made a friend.

“Anyway, best get some work done, see you for lunch as per?” She carries on as if she hasn’t helped dispel the riot going on inside my body. I smile at her gratefully but she is already trotting away toward the kitchen.

These days are the hardest, they can go either way, I am pleased that today it’s taken an upward turn, I made it out and I made it through, it’s not always this way. I hate feeling like this, so out of control, like I am an imposter in my own life, like there are two people living inside my head, the me who I want to be and who wants to grow and thrive and learn and the me that is a black smudge on the face of the earth, hopeless and flailing and failing, unable to cope with a raindrop even on a sunny day.

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