My body called up one morning.
“Hiyaa! Just wanted to see if you were free for a chat? I know you’re busy, so don’t worry if not, but I just really think we need to have a think about how you’re doing?”
I was really busy at the time – I was working more shifts at the cinema, about four or five times a week, and I had people to catch up with outside of that. I said I’d call it back.
A couple of weeks later, it rang again.
“Hey gurrrrrl, how ya doing? Free for that chat yet?”
Oh my GOD. No, no I wasn’t free! I was up to my eyeballs in a film project which meant I was getting four hours’ sleep a night and having a daily freak out about what had inevitably been forgotten or hadn’t been done, and all I could do was keep myself standing with a potent combination of instant coffee and Ritz biscuits.
“Okay ladyfriend, I get it, I understand. Just, uh… just let me know when you’re about. Look after yourself.”
I found a missed call from it a couple of weeks later, but no message. The film project was done, so I was back at work, and volunteering in an art gallery, and catching up with everyone I’d had to ignore during filming – so I was going out every night I wasn’t working past 9pm, whether with close friends or vague acquaintances. Yeah, I was tired, but I’d take it slowly next weekend, or stay in with my parents, or something.
And one day, when I had had yet another night with four hours’ sleep, after getting drunk with my family, I took the bizarre and extreme decision to begin my day with 100 squats before getting into a cold shower. That’s when my body really lost it.
“Holy f*cking sh*te!!! What are you trying to do to me?! What did I do to deserve this, you sadistic freak?! What in the hell is wrong with you?!”
Turns out, you can only put off these things for so long, and I had the novel experience of a seizure that morning.
We’re in the habit now of ignoring our bodies. They’re fleshy and embarrassing. They’re cumbersome. They’re pretty much the opposite of all Apple products. But we’re depriving ourselves of sleep, we’re depriving ourselves of food, and we’re working ourselves into the ground. When we can be up for work and for play 24/7 thanks to the almighty Internet, and the fact that no one is allowed to actually turn their phones off anymore (when did this happen?), it means sleep is kind of a weekly treat. This is especially the case for twenty- and thirty-somethings, who are now expected to balance early career efforts, with looking for partners, with going out, with exercise, with working on Project Self.
In all of this, the body becomes a hindrance. It’s already too fat or thin or weirdly-shaped, so it’s normally either problem or a suffix to the word “bikini”. But then it makes these boring demands of you to feed it plants and protein and carbs (you can’t actually go without those). It wants to be left alone, to do nothing, for 33.33% of your life. Think of all the TV you could watch in that time!
After my seizure, I chilled out for two weeks, got a bitch of a cold, and then more or less went back to normal, going to follow up brain scans and appointments around shifts at work, often in my uniform. But clearly, I still am not quite okay, because last week I was told by my neurologist in no uncertain terms that unless I make a real effort to get the amount of sleep and consume the amount of drinks that a normal human should, or I will get another visit from the Seizure Fairy. In short – I have to listen to my body.
Because really, even if you can ignore it for however long, it does know best. It tells you when you’re hungry and thirsty and hurt and horny. Your body knows, and tells you in your own language, not your friend’s body, or your mum’s body, or the freaky digital body on WebMD.
It’s not like your phone – it has to be switched off at nighttime. But you do have to listen to it when it rings.