Last night, I dreamt that somebody loved me. (I promise to pack it in quoting these lyrics next week, non-Smiths fans.) But I did, as it goes. It was Dave Grohl (obv) and he began to fall in love with me while I was busy hiding my cancer from him. But when I finally gave in to the truth and took off my wig (after he chased some kids who'd nicked my handbag), rather than run a mile from me, it made him love me even more. He took me on holiday and I revealed, while we were swimming in the sea, that I was pregnant with his child but would have to terminate it because the oestrogen levels were too dangerous to me. He was lovely about it, and promised to give up the Foo Fighters to look after me. (Kath and Keith, take responsibility – this dream is all your fault.) Seriously though, last night – pre-dream – while trying to get to sleep, I saw a star out of the bedroom window, and made a wish on it. I'm not normally one for such superstition but, admittedly, there's been a lot of wishing on stars over the past few months. No prizes for guessing what about. (It'll come as no surprise to you, then, that my tattoo is going to be of a star. A tiny one, on my right wrist – thumb side – in the place that currently makes me look like a pin cushion, thanks to all the chemo needles that have been inserted there. It's a place where I could do with something nicer to look at.) But anyway, last night's wish was a bit different to all the others: I wished – no, I begged – that, rather than falling alseep, I would instead fall into a coma, to avoid any more evenings like the one I had last night, and wake up when all of this is over.
I thought that all this week's whingeing was just me taking the opportunity to have a moan, and letting the bubbling-under-the-surface anger have its moment, but now I know it's more than that. It's depression. I'm almost cross with myself for writing that. I HATE having to say it. Depression is a word I loathe. Like 'stress', it's bandied about too much by people with no sense of its meaning. Exam-age schoolkids, lovestruck teenagers, fortysomething women looking to get signed off work. It makes me look weaker than I like to think I am. It's like admitting defeat. But it's the truth.
In reality, depression is something that is stuck, rigidly, in your mind (or your soul or your body, I don't know), that shows its face only when you allow it. Not that you consciously allow it. It senses when you're vulnerable and lacking the compulsion to keep it hidden, and surprises you with a mini mental breakdown in the middle of Deal Or No Deal. (Or was it because of Deal Or No Deal?) It makes it impossible to do all the little things that show the world you're okay: laughing at a joke, winking at your husband, tapping along to a tune, enjoying a cup of tea, idly singing to yourself as you get dressed (and I'm always singing or humming – ask my colleagues; I imagine our corner of the office is unusually quiet at the moment). It presents you head-on with all the worries you try so hard not to think about: that the pains you're having might be a sign that the treatment's not working; that you might instead be dying; whether you'll make it through the night; whether or not you can trust your family to pick a decent song to play at your funeral; whether you've got time left to listen to all the favourite albums you've not heard for ages... The worries get more and more ridiculous as they come, and it's the trivial ones that panic you the most. And then, as the panic reaches its peak, it all implodes in your head and you're left with a bleak, grey nothingness and uncontrollable weeping that makes you tell your Dad – the one person you most want to keep up the front for – that you've got no fight left and that you haven't got the energy to go on. And then you feel even worse for letting him hear it. You go from a strong-on-the-outside, brave-faced girl to a consumed, cloaked, troubled mess with a dark side to rival Anakin.
All of this... all the blogging. All the banal things I talk about. Every stupid sentence I say that doesn't reveal what's underneath. Every time I set the Sky+ for Coronation Street. Every smile I offer and joke I crack and 'I'm fine' answer I give (and of course I give that answer; you've got to tell people what they want to hear, right?). All of that – ALL of that – every. single. thing. is an effort I'm making not to let the dark stuff surface. Because it's there all the time, much as I disguise it by acting normal or jovial or angry or brave or whatever else. And it is an act. This whole cancer game forces you to act. And soon the acting becomes the reality, because you're so bloody determined to put out the right signals, come across a certain way and get the better of the stuff that could ruin it all for you. It's the role of my life; my Hannibal Lecter, my Don Corleone, my Scarlett O'Hara. And it's exhausting.
When the physical exhaustion reaches its peak – like it did yesterday evening – the emotional exhaustion is that bit more acute, giving the depression its cue to enter stage left and perform. And, my God, did it show off last night. It's left me with chapped, raw, painful eyes from all the crying and a gut full of guilt from letting P and my folks hear all the stuff I try so damned hard to keep from them. But even a few hours of broken sleep seems to have topped up my lifeline, like a character in a Grand Theft Auto video game. But rather than using my energy to steal cars and take drugs and shoot people (much as I'd like to), mine's back to the business of burying my dark side. Using the force, if you will.
So for once I'm pleased that the stars didn't grant my wish (if nothing else, I'd have missed J's wedding, and you can hardly do a reading from a coma). Maybe the stars don't work that way anyway. Because in the bath a couple of hours ago, I found myself humming again, and what was the song? Girlfriend In A Coma. Not quite the wish I'd asked for, granted, but I can forgive the stars that – they've got one hell of a sense of humour.