Last month a terrible thing happened.
I fainted in the early hours of the morning in my bedroom, cracking my head on a cast-iron radiator as I swooned and splitting my ear open. I laid unconscious on the floor for about ten seconds with eyes wide open, much to the horror of my husband.
An ambulance was hastily summoned and five hours and an ECG, a CT scan, a blood pressure check and a painful ear-glue later I was discharged from hospital; mildly concussed, painfully sore and very weepy. I had nasty gashes on my ear and head and pronounced radiator impressions across my back, framed by violet bruises.
Thankfully, I'm still here to tell the tale. I'll spare you the gory images, it sure isn't pretty, but the photos remain dormant in my iPhone, capturing the horror of an accident that made realise the hard way I MUST slow down.
So, if you're still with me, this is a dramatic plea to ask you to do the same.
Life moves at an alarming pace doesn't it. Can you believe it's July? Can someone please tell me where the heck June disappeared to, and by the way did May actually happen? Everyone I speak to is hyper-busy with work demands, family commitments, interest-on-the-side projects. Weekends packed with kid’s parties, weddings, errands, birthday drinks, seeing the family; all the lovely things that make life worth living of course, but with a distinct lack of downtime. I get the sense we’re all trying to catch up on ourselves.
Fixing up a date to meet mates has become an impossible feat of diary organisation.
Can you do 17 September?’
'Argh no, we’re at a wedding’.
‘How about 26 November?’
'Hmm, could meet for breakfast?'
'Ok, erm, Christmas drinks?!’.
I bumped into an old school friend recently (both in a dash, barely time for a hug) and she recounted her busy life; balancing an exciting but demanding career with marriage and bringing up a young son and too often ‘over-committing’. A concept I'm sure we all get.
So, to the morning of radiator-gate - a Sunday, but first some context before you think I'm nothing more than a clumsy fool. We'd set the alarm early to move furniture back in place after a house move, before an afternoon of fun plans. Saturday had passed in a blur of errands, meeting friends and the obligatory post-week catch up. The weekend before I'd ran the Hackney half-marathon in memory of our dear friend John and was still a bit tender. Work had been busy as standard and the last few weekends had been full on, not really at home. Plus I'd been lucky enough to secure some new writing work which was very exciting and brought new but interesting deadlines.
After lugging sofas about we headed off to Broadway Market to meet mates on one of those luminous, cheerful London weekend afternoons when everyone is out to play. At 3pm, we sat down to lunch and the veggie option, a quinoa salad, was nice enough but definitely not substantial fare. I guzzled a couple of glasses of fizz and vowed to eat something huge when I got in later. DISCLAIMER: I imbibed a couple more drinks throughout the day, but excessive amounts of booze were not consumed and I also glugged pints of water and walked a lot. A terrific day was had.
When I got home, I felt unnaturally tipsy, but not in a good way you know? I barely remember saying bye to the guys in the cab. I attempted a hunk of toast, and that's when it started to go downhill a bit. Spinny room and being sick before flopping on my bed in a heap. I woke up at 2am fully clothed and tried to get myself together. The last thing I remember was standing up facing my chest of drawers and scrambling around for some PJs. Thankfully the scrambling woke Alex up who sprung into action as he witnessed me fall like a dead weight and meet the radiator head on.
It was all quite horrific. I regained consciousness as Alex was giving my details to emergency services, sheer panic in his voice. There was blood on the carpet and on my face as it oozed from my ear and head. I felt nauseous and achy, unable to decipher if I was in pain or in shock. The hospital team (Whipps Cross, Leytonstone) were incredible. The doctor said I probably fainted due to dehydration, and standing up too quickly which dropped my blood pressure dramatically. He asked if I had been overdoing it. I whispered 'yes, I have been a bit busy'. He pacified my fear of being perceived as a bit of a boozer and reminded me some days our bodies can take a glass of wine or two, other days it just can’t, when we are weak and tired and have over-done it. This time, it just couldn’t.
He prescribed total rest. I panicked. I yelped as my ear was glued back together. I gave in. I got discharged.
So in the days to follow I took a period of quiescence. I went to bed at 10pm every night. I ate well and frequently, scared of passing out again and mindful of nourishing my mind as well as my body. I limited online time - instead of responding to WhatsApps and emails on the tube or walking along the road, I read my book quietly. I did not allow my brain to over fizz. I went straight home after work - mostly unheard of and went to bed. I started to feel a little better. After a week, I could wash all of my hair instead of half a head, and stand up without feeling wobbly.
I’m so sorry to put this on you, I know it’s a bit of a drama. It’s just that writing about the accident is cathartic. Keeping the memory of it trapped inside my head caused little jolts of memory to surface, which were unpleasant and left me a bit tearful. The anamnesis would creep up on me from nowhere. I'd be reading, working, drifting off when all of a sudden CLUNK. I'm laying on the floor and Alex is terrified and I'm bleeding and trying to getting up.
So, being a natural reflector, I'm cogitating this terrible episode and considering what changes to make for the good. I'm also sending a plea to the busy, frantic, bloody exhausted lot of you to do the same.
My part of the deal is that I'm going to slow down. I'm going to look after myself. I’m realising that it’s actually OK to wait until tomorrow to finish ONE MORE THING. In the battle of drinks vs. dinner, sometimes dinner will win. I'm chucking early nights into the weekly mix to balance the busy and recharge my batteries. Apparently, turning in early is good for our minds, bodies and careers and 9pm to 5am is a good sleep pattern. I am going to read and write, and read and write some more. It will be OK if days are amorphous and open rather than crammed with plans.
I'm very fortunate to have such amazing friends and family, and (maybe unluckily) an overactive brain that demands to be entertained. But, I realise finally I can't do it all, and it pains me to say it, but I'm going to have to start saying no every now and then. My good friend Max said the problem with loving live and not being millionaires is there’s not enough time to do all the fun stuff, and that is true. (Please don't give up on me though, I still want to see you).
I'm nearly back to normal and heading off to cover a festival weekend, and I can't wait. But I've made myself a promise. Every now and then, when things get busy or I feel myself over committing or squishing everything in, or putting myself under too much pressure or having Prosecco for dinner, I will make myself peek at those God-awful photos and take stock.
I have some battle wounds after my fight with the radiator. My ear is still wonky and has a permanent dent in it (bleurgh) but it's ok. I'm still standing. The traumatic memories are evanescent.
So I leave you with my parting shot. Whatever you are doing now, late at night, early in the morning, squished between something else, it can wait people, IT CAN WAIT. Do it tomorrow. Deactivate your email. Sacrifice a night out on the sauce if your body is saying bed and Netflix. Nothing is more important than health, nothing.
Oh, and steer clear from radiators.