Babette’s Beast


Sorry for the break in transmission. My gastric symptoms really took a hold, and after a hyperactive mailing list day on Friday (sorry, robots) came a very big and I suppose, very predictable mood swing yesterday: so low and tearful and afraid I can’t remember when I’ve been like this for a long time. Just trying to tread tread tread water today, so writing this will either be therapeutic or another bad anxiety trigger. I may quit and run. Oh and my pee went green. Which apparently can be caused by asparagus, which I don’t eat because I don’t like any vegetables beginning with the letter A: there’s four I can think of in British English, count them out for me. So I guess it must be some kind of vitamin/mineral overdose from my silly scoop mistake, which by now three lovely people have apologetically laughed at, quite understandably. I hope last week was all about stupidity and not illness.
I’m currently very scared and feel my leg’s being chewed off by Wolf Dread, although, actually it’s a cousin of his, called Depression, and he’s a bad, bad wolf. It’s hard to describe just how he eats away at your bones. Someone in a #depression channel yesterday, bless him, suggested I “take up some hobbies” and take my mind off it. So hard to describe how, if you haven’t felt the deathly depths that depression can really get to when you can’t even think or move an arm without intense pain, guilt and fear, that stamp-collecting really wouldn’t help. To be bitten repeatedly by the wolves of anxiety, and then when they’re having a break and chewing at a detached limb, to have their cousin wolves of depression attack just doesn’t seem fair. But the jungle’s not fair, as taught by countless David Attenborough programmes about big monkeys eating little monkeys, and sea lions nibbling at penguins; TV that should have a health warning on it, because it’s so upsetting. Human beings can only bear so much reality, and some of us can only take a tiny scoopful at a time.
And it’s so chilling how intricate the details and subtle flavours of these mood changes are. Anxiety isn’t like depression, it evokes a completely different sensation to the palate, and you can taste the change immediately. And each episode of each condition has a differently horrifying flavour, like the exquisitely laid out dishes in Babette’s Feast; like you’ve never tasted this particular dish before. So you can’t prepare for it, or defend with previously stashed letters to self, diary entries or mental reassurances, because they aren’t relevant to the particular orientation of fears, loss of self-knowledge and disintegration that surmount you.
I get upset when people say depression brings creativity. Bipolar depression may bring on rushes of activity: I can’t speak for this. But it’s a 20th/21st century romance, or consolation, that depressives are at their most creative when beaten down by depression: a coffee-table thought. It’s a sickness, and while others may enjoy the fruits of dipping into that world at leisure in an art gallery before chocolate fudge cake in the nearby cafe and a poster for the wall, if the artist was truly depressed, then they should feel nothing but sympathy. Maybe it’s an expression of the empathy that depression can bring – if you’ve seen it in yourself, you know how unrelievable it is in others – but it’s not an LSD trip. I’m sure someone who’s down for a bit gets to consider things in their life that they may not have, and this may lead to fruitful creativity: but depression itself just suffocates and kills. The little I truly understand of it is that, just when you think you’ve reached the lowest level you could be at, a hundred more levels heave into view below, and you realise you could drop one thousand more. I’m quite sure I’ve only experienced hints of the kind of terrible loss of self and pain some feel.
I’m not going to go into the details of the fears, as from experience it only turns them up to 11; they’re illusionary triggers that try to divert you from the underlying chemistry of disease. I’ll just say one from today: ear fear again. Loud noise in my left ear this morning. Feeling of more deafness – panic. At least three people now have written to me about their ear problems, and some much more frightening than mine: and they have all dealt with them, by the sounds of it, with more dignity and courage than me. I must learn.
Three days ago I received my tinnitus retraining device (a misnomer – the audiologist wants to deal with my hyperacusis first). I have to build up to 8 hours a day. It’s a slightly scary thing to put in your ear. Recently on BBC2 there’s been a program called Tribe where a man called Bruce Parry spends time living with, and being initiated into indigenous tribal cultures all over the world (although, being quite posh, he’s yet to try being initiated as a Geordie). In one episode, he’s sitting in a clearing with his new Amazonian friends in his leaf underpants, chewing grubs, and knows that they sometimes use the grubs to clear earwax (eww..). So they pop one in and start laughing at him as he squirms (apparently the best joke in the Amazonian rainforest is to put the wrong kind of grub in someone’s ear). Anyway, this tinnitus/hyperacusis device has a little antenna, and is just like that: putting a wiggly grub in your ear.
And now it’s later, what I’ve written above seems like a weak attempt to talk myself out of some terrible fear with casual language, and my heart is like a rollercoaster ride.

Car coat, she has a quilted jacket with a hood if it rains
Big pockets for the pharmaceuticals she takes to fix her brain

Something is very bad inside and I have to stop typing now. Today I’ve had a lovely friend playing nice silly games with me online which have cheered up and made me feel more like me, and in another place, the insane breakup of a community of CFS/ME people which I’d just come to feel at home and safe in – and a new dear friend forced to leave – so much for the empathy of illness. fingers.jpg Too much stuff. The supposed detached empirical approach of my last article has become a small mountain to climb, and I expect I won’t be writing Naming II today. I’m trusting that anyone reading this who might meet me online understands that there are levels of presentation you can sustain publically for a little while which belie what lies beneath: but only for a time. But you have to maintain those levels if you possibly can to keep yourself in touch: people can only stand so much misery and illness, just like I can only stand so many David Attenborough programs.
I’m just going to have to post this now, and then hide in my tent and wait out the storm.

12 thoughts on “Babette’s Beast”

  1. Hello lovely honey! Please tell me you like Artichokes. Because you can’t have spinach artichoke dip without it, and a life without that would be sad.
    xo and a letter to come shortly

  2. Fixed ulla. Still looking for a tent so thanks – are Estonian tents comfy? I imagine them fluffy and with little snowy clouds for pillows – I think because of your pictures. I have blonde moments all the time at the moment: my only excuse.

    Laura I’m afraid it does including the dreaded Artichokes. I’m not going to list the other three… you’d be horrified how fussy I am.

    Can you get non-dairy non-sugar non-everything chocolate?

  3. Artichokes are vile. As is asparagus. I’m totally with you on those two.
    But what can the other two be? You call Eggplants “Aubergines”, don’t you? Is that one? I don’t mind ‘em, if they’re cooked well, but they can be kinda yucky.
    Alfalfa? Is that a vegetable?

  4. To my dismay, I have it on good authority that Honey’s anti-A list includes avocados. I know, I know, it’s tragic. The implications for guacamole are staggering.

  5. Chocolate

    Yes Honey, there is non everything chocolate that is 100% made of cacao and cacao butter, i got it in my kitchen if you want to try. It’s *very* bitter but possible to get used to (like with black tea and coffee you learn to like it). Start with little pieces melting in the mouth, just don’t put it on youre tongue! (only bitter and no sweet taste) and it filles the mouth with a very intense chocolate flavour.

    I’m sorry my best use for it is puting it in hot milk with a little spoon of honey…

    If you find any non-sugar, non-milk recipe for it it would be interesting to know, i like chocolate recipes.

    Well avacado is my favorite vegetable so don’t know how much help my taste is for you, and artichoces with garlic butter is near the top of the list too.

    Kram Katta

  6. Damon got number 4 – aubergine (“eggplant”, indeed). David’s got me wondering about alfalfa now… isn’t it more herby? If it helps, I’ll declare now I don’t like it either.

    Aubergine might be a fruit officially.. shh.

    Katta thank you, yes I think I tried the very bitter non-sugar chocolate… maybe I will again. Actually I think it’s just the sugar and FAT I miss.

  7. Hi Honey! I linked Fumblings at my site, so I hope you get more visitors.
    I am really sorry to hear about your funk. Would it help if I busted out and webcamed you my silliest happy dance? It might help, or it might bring on more gastric symptoms.
    I’m preparing for a big test at the end of Feb. It’s sort of owning my life right now, so I am slow with responses of all kinds (until I get my life back!). I made a note to pop in here and read your stuff – so many lit. references, and now I’m feeling very silly that I can’t remember half of what I read in my lit. classes! I’ve been a huge fan of Jeanette Winterson after I read _Written on the Body_, and I’m into some other contemporary writers, like Milan Kundera.
    Please feel better!

  8. Aw Jen, it’s so nice to hear from you, and thank you so much for the link. Webcam silly dances would be great. It’s sometimes hard to keep up with responses to comments, on your site and mine, so I hope you read this – I tried to add a “Recent Comments” link in the right hand column.
    I keep going back to yours to look for more comments after mine, but some of mine are way back in articles now.

    I hope everything’s well with your test, of you get a positive result for something, as I often pray for, so that suddenly treatment’s available. I’m not that widely-read a reader! I read very slowly. I’m so glad you came and will try and keep up with your site – I hope my contribs have been worth having. Still feel very unformed. To any of my friends reading who might be interested in gender issues, Jen runs

    If you ever want any help with your site, please just ask. And mail me anytime – link on right hand side.


  9. (((Honey)))
    Heeeeeere I am!
    Did any of the positive vibes I sent out to you get there yet?
    I’m 3 days behind in the blog material, a first for me, b/c of some hospital time. Bit of a glitch, but I’m catching up and trying to build up some extra material that will post automatically if I’m ill. I’m trying to be consistent in having material – you know how hard it can be to keep up.
    Rather than have you search through the blog for comments, if you would like me to send you an update, please let me know. If you want to send your email addy to, I’ll keep you updated.

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