YOU NEVER HAD IT SO BAD – Why We’re All Full Of It When We’re Ill And How Harold Macmillan Was Right About One Thing.
Women harp on about the old man flu, and there’s no denying the phenomenon. But it’s not restricted to men and it certainly isn’t restricted to flu. I’ll get back to flu in a moment, but let’s start off with the female equivalent of Man Flu. Migraine.
This is the classic female martyr card. I wish I hadn’t lost count of the number of times I’ve overheard – or been forced to listen to – one woman at work asking another why she was acting a bit under the weather. And the answer being “I’ve got a touch of migraine”.
Now I was always quite sympathetic to this when I was under the impression that a migraine was just a really bad headache. Then I actually got one. After that it was clear that these women are being less than truthful, to put it mildly. You do not go to work with “a touch of migraine” any more than you reluctantly get up off the slab because you’re “a teensy bit dead.
When this work of Satan gets you in its grip, it’s actually a beautiful Zen experience. You are the universe and the universe is you and both you and the universe are made entirely of little particles of pain. Raw, undiluted, triple distilled agony. Even if you are one of the lucky ones who have a warning of its arrival, the strongest drugs can barely touch it. You can’t eat anything because it’s all too noisy.
The mere act of breathing is like being trapped at a redneck chainsaw convention with a three day binge hangover. If there was a loaded pistol by the bed – because you have to be in a darkened bedroom- then you would quite happily dispatch yourself with a single gunshot to the temple to make it go away.
Any professional torturer will tell you that after a surprisingly short time, people become insensitive to pain. This is why torture is a fine art, albeit a nefarious one. If they invented a way of just bringing on a migraine, then had a jab hovering over you that would make it go away, a spotty 15 year old on work experience could be a master torturer.
“Tell us everything you know and this stops now.”
“Ok, just make it stop.”
It’s the pain that keeps on giving. You don’t get a touch of migraine. It doesn’t touch you, it just powers through you like you’re not even there. Like a flimsy scrap of silk, nailed to a gatepost and blown around by a hurricane. All you can do is hang on until the storm is over.
Alternatively, flu is the classic man gambit. If you can actually tell someone you have flu, then you haven’t got it. I have had it twice in my life and both times involved three weeks in bed and the loss of at least two and a half stones in weight. Plus the indignity of having to be helped to the toilet. If you can move about you do not have flu. Full stop. The end.
This story is, however, a trilogy. The final subject is the most annoying. If it were possible to get anti knocking granules into my bladder before contemplating this subject I would, that’s how hard it boils my piss. That subject is depression. Have you ever been depressed?
If you had to think about that question for more then a microsecond then the answer is a resounding no. You may well have said yes anyway, but you are wrong Like everyone else you have felt down, or some bad things have happened to you or you broke up with someone and felt generally a bit shit. But you have not been depressed. Situations like this can spark depression off, but they are not it.
Someone can have the world at their feet, but depression can make them take their lives. The question always is “What have they got to be depressed about?” It’s an understandable question, but not a valid one. Depression is the failure of the brain to maintain an adequate amount of a particular group of chemicals, mainly serotonin and dopamine. The question is like asking someone with a flawed pancreas “What have you got to be diabetic about?”
You know that feeling you get when you walk into your house and realise you’ve just been burgled by a rat boy who has drawn all over your walls and crapped on your sofa? Or whatever situation might make your heart feel like it’s sinking into your boots? Well, that’s how depression feels. Only all the time. No initial shock then a tailing off. Just a constant whistling as the heart plummets to the soles of the feet, but never quite gets there. Every speck of joy hoovered out of your life. If that’s not familiar, then you’ve never been depressed, you’ve just felt exceptionally grumpy. Depression is to your emotional state what being in a coma is to “feeling a bit sleepy”.
People. You are not depressed, stop saying you are. You have not got the flu, stop saying you have. Your headache is not a migraine, stop saying it is. All of these statements devalue the predicaments of the people who are afflicted by these things. They have no choice but to take time off work or rearrange their lives because of them. Society labels them as malingerers because it lumps them in with you. Stop soldiering on through something you haven’t got. You’ve never had it so bad? You’ve never had it at all.
© Copyright Michael Grimes 2013