In July 2005 I was twenty five, we were renting number 70 Whalley Road in Manchester and I was crying so much my periods had stopped.
Notable features of 70 Whalley Road included:
– A moth-eaten wreck of a chaise longue I’d convinced Anthony to buy in a junk shop, and which I intended to re-upholster (once I’d learned upholstery.)
– An unfinished mail-order course in copy-editing that gave me shooting pains in the head from squinting at semi-colons.
– A half-knitted, scratchy blue wool scarf, still on the needles.
– A stack of headshots which, according to an online acting community I’d joined, showed me to be “homely” and “middle aged.”
– Clean skirting boards and windows because I scrubbed them so often.
– A trio of small canvases on which I’d used tester pots to paint flying geese.
– My stunning taste in interior design, as evidenced by a wall-sized, laser-cut, silver rowan tree I’d bought from a stationery store when they were taking down their Christmas decorations.
– My dark grey Nokia phone. Ringtone: the Harry Potter theme.
– A book on polycystic ovary syndrome, with which I’d just been diagnosed.
– An unfilled prescription for the Pill to “fix” my PCOS.
– Beige walls.
– Beige carpets.
– Beige curtains.
– A box of raspberries.
On the day I have in mind, Anthony was at an audition in London and I was passing the time by (surprise!) crying.
Around two, a slice of hot light beamed into our bedroom. When you’ve grown up in Scotland, sunshine like that is practically a command. You don’t waste it.
So I’d washed my face and gone out. I bought the raspberries.
My job in July 2005 was waiting for the phone to ring. I’d got my first professional role as an actor two years earlier while still at drama school, and had worked in theatre non-stop ever since.
Why was I spending so much time crying?
Mostly because it stopped.
I hadn’t had an acting job, or even an audition, in nearly a year and I’d fallen into a cold depression. Broke and full of self-loathing, I didn’t know who I was anymore.
I wanted to work so badly and couldn’t.
I told myself I couldn’t do anything outside of the house because I had to “keep myself free” in case an acting job came up.
(And also because I deeply and silently believed that if I got any other job I wouldn’t be an actor any more, and that thought stabbed me in the soul.)
My disappointment with myself was immense and self-pitying. My major food group was tears.
Well, tears and sugar.
Throughout the previous year I’d eaten a lot of chocolate raisins. I could easily eat a packet in one go.
But now I was learning that polycystic ovary syndrome, which for me had shown up as my periods vanishing, was intertwined with insulin production. Too much sugar (and chocolate raisins are sugar squared,) leads the body to produce too much insulin which, over time, can disrupt hormonal balance.
Too much crying, too.
Intense crying every day for months on end can lead to chronically elevated cortisol, which also jacks up your endocrine system.
Not that any of the doctors I saw enquired about my diet or emotional health.
Taking the Pill would induce a false cycle that mimicked my absent one, and that’s about as far as their interest extended.
But, no periods. Not asking why felt like a mistake.
So there I was, burning through our rapidly dwindling savings…
…not at all the success I intended to be…
…frightened and angry all the time…
…viewing the world from behind a thick sheet of ice…
…deeply ashamed of myself…
…with a ballooning overdraft and degrees in English Literature and *Acting*, FFS, to show for the first decade of my adult life.
So what do you think happened next?
Stay tuned and I’ll let you know.
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