Brain smog

Jun 28, 2022

Exhaustion has struck me down.

It's a funny thing. Last night, at 9pm when the library closed, I found myself standing in the locker area completely and utterly lost and confused. It felt like a dream where nothing connected and everything I did melted away the moment I turned my head. I was walking in circles, having lost my locker key. It transpired that I'd left it on the counter at the start of the day, not noticing for six hours. Some kind soul has handed it in to reception. I took the key from the receptionist with great gratitude, laughing at my own hopeless memory. Walking less than five yards back to the counter I realised I had no idea what I'd done with the key. It wasn't in my pocket. It wasn't at reception still. It wasn't on the counter or in my bag or in my hand or sitting atop my head. Eventually I realised that I had opened my locker with it then deposited it inside an empty box of antihistamines. Even now I have absolutely no memory of doing such a thing, and though it's amusing, it's also deeply troubling to me. Yet that wasn't all. I then proceeded to my bag and couldn't find my laptop, realising it was already in the locker. I returned to the locker and realised the key was now gone from the door and again, not in my pockets. It was in my bag this time. I took the key to the locker and realised the laptop was now back on the counter. Fetching my laptop, trying not to cry, I carried it with great concentration to the locker, only to find that I'd left the key in my bag so I had to return to fetch it. I did so, finally locking my laptop before returning to the counter, only to realise that I had left my ear buds, phone, house key and wallet with my laptop in the locker...I could continue, but I think you get the picture. This after two weeks of losing all sorts of personal possessions all over London, much to my husband’s patient exasperation.

I have always been forgetful. Always been a clutz. Nothing I've ever done has really made very much sense, yet this latest bout of foggy headedness is, without a doubt, the worst I've suffered. So much so, I found myself crying on the phone to the doctor last week because I thought I might be suffering ADHD and a nervous breakdown at the same time. In hindsight, I personally think it's a mix of two things: months of extreme uncertainty, instability and fear about future survival with no job. And illness. Now I'm loathe to jump to the conclusion that Covid is responsible, but I've had a very strange cold for the past fortnight, which I'd assumed was hayfever. Strange, because it moves to different parts of my head on an almost hourly basis, and I've been able to run and go to the gym. Covid or not, I think it has caused me extreme mental fatigue.

This is very personal, and I hope you don't mind me sharing with you, but I know from experience that I'm crashing when I become violent with myself, and the other evening I met with a very close friend and confided in them that I was quietly losing my grip. The next thing we knew, I was fully punching myself in the face because I couldn't remember the words I needed. As I write this now, the right hand side of my head is tender from the pounding it took in my moment of hopeless frustration and rage.

I have a history of hitting myself. I'm not violent to other people, but when I feel angry at my own failings, I treat myself horribly. It's sad because I try so hard and when I get things wrong it's only because I'm tired or naive. It's never deliberate.

I think it's all too much at the moment in many ways. The paperback is published on July 21st and I worry about how it will do. The next book is beautiful in so many ways but I can't help but worry about whether it will succeed. The writing is of its time and rather dense. Historical fiction these days is so often written in a contemporary style with modern language, short sentences and little poetry. I worry that mine may well not appeal to many modern readers, or publishers for that matter, which concerns me deeply. The story is so complex and subtle and difficult to tell, that it's stretching my every faculty. Writing history is so exhausting, and writing love... and writing it well... in a new and sensitive way is proving impossibly difficult. I will complete this book and I will love it. But will anybody else?

I need them to, or I can't afford to live and write any more books. It's such huge pressure.

That's why this brain fog is so frightening. I sat in front of my story yesterday and simply couldn't move forward. Characters are in the wrong place, doing the wrong things and they're not being themselves suddenly. I know how the story ends but not how I'll get there. The characters are trying to tell me, but it's like I've lost the ability to hear them. Like I'm Kathleen in a séance and the voices aren't coming through anymore.

It's this illness and life combined. I need to be better to myself. To clean up and simplify. Too much is going on all at once and it's killing me. I hope the virus goes and my brain fog lifts. I hope the paperback launch goes without too much stress. I hope somehow I can find some financial reassurance. More than anything, I hope to sit in front of my laptop and write with confidence again, as I usually do. If not, I fear for my characters because at the moment, they're lost, and so am I.

Forgive the personal nature of this post, but I find it helpful to share. I hope to look back at this post one day and take strength from the fact I got through. You are part of my solution, so it seems only fair to be honest with you about my struggles. I should say that book 2 is progressing well, in spite of my struggle the last couple of weeks. It is always growing and improving. I'm very proud of it. I am determined and will fight on, with your support.

Thank you.

AJ x

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