A valuable lesson: stress and a ginger cat


“I think I’m ill.”

I felt humiliated. Defeated. A statistic.

I could no longer bear noise, no TV, radio; I couldn’t leave the house without crying and all I wanted was sleep. My mind had shattered like a Jackson Pollock, spilling out. Finally visible.

The people, tables and faces in that service station café came in to sharper focus after I’d said it. I felt human, no longer a straining cog in the mortgage / work / relationship wheel. I had handed over the responsibility just for now.

My parents looked back, eyes wide. I was giving myself up, to Cornwall, the family home, a fat ginger cat. I could no longer do it on my own.

Something somewhere had broken inside of me; I had been poisoned by a daily diet of adrenalin and anxiety. Six weeks off work had been the final push to leaving the city. I waved my long term boyfriend goodbye in a Tesco car park from a car rammed with suitcases, resigned from a single sex private school in a leafy suburb of Bristol and put my house on the market.

Back home, I slept, saw doctors and a cranial osteopath, walked the dog and ate home cooked food. I thought of times when I had been happiest and most content; somewhere between university and the illness, I had betrayed myself.

My creativity had been shut away and repressed by the rigid educational system that I had been through myself and was now forcing others to undergo.

I’d given up art, music and drama at school, thinking that none of these things would make me money or buy a house. A previously neglected voice had started to speak again, a small tapping that had become a hammering of wings, beating to get out. I knew I had to scribble to paint to scream to make it stop: to get better. I began to write.

I returned to school to explain my deterioration and a seemingly sympathetic middle management nodded back without understanding. They had a school to run, I could be replaced, when could I be back? What actually had caused all of this?

“Eat cake. Have a facial, go on holiday to Ibiza for two weeks.”

This was the first medical verdict. It made me angry. I was being patronised and betrayed by a female doctor.

“I’ve been accused of ruining someone’s career for giving them too much time off work,” she replied, as I looked back confused, “… so I’m being honest with you.”

I’d already turned down such a holiday at 18 and had no intention of embarking on some misguided tour of youth at 33.

Her voice was filled with something like resentment as her palms struck the table, or was it envy? Was she too on the edge, wanting nothing more then to put on a bikini and disappear to Ibiza, anywhere, so that she didn’t have to listen to more people like me?

She signed the note for two weeks and I left, knowing I would not be back for some time.

“I could give you some pills”, was the second response.

A male doctor this time.

“My wife takes St John’s Wort.”

It seemed my journey was revealing as much about others as it was about me.

I took the St John’s Wort. And luckily it worked. Not necessarily the medication, but a willingness to accept defeat as a step forward to recovery.

My body and soul had spoken, a concept I would previously have ridiculed and had ignored with grave consequences to my health. Maintaining a balance of sorts in my life is a new priority, no one else can do it for you. And just for the record, the world doesn’t stop just because you need to.

I now permanently live in Cornwall where my parents and a big, fat ginger cat (as well as my husband and son) are never too far away. I teach part-time and write as much as I can.





6 thoughts on “A valuable lesson: stress and a ginger cat

  1. Glad you’ve found that balance. Since arriving here a few months ago I’m finding stress is an increasingly redundant word. Apart from in the tiny lanes. I’ve yet to find my reversing gene ….

    And thanks for this blog – one of the first I found down here 🙂


  2. Interesting article thanks for sharing. We have just move to Cornwall 4 weeks ago, best thing we did, yes a little scary but what an adventure. Dont know anyone, new business, but I am just throwing myself into everything. Though think my nickname will be #PastyPete, note to my self – Surf More…


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