Level-Up: Part 9

Every Sunday I record my health achievements and discoveries for the week here. To find out why I decided to start doing this, you can read an explanation in the first post of the series here.

Late last Sunday afternoon it struck me that I hadn’t ordered any groceries for delivery on Monday, as I have done every week since buying cooking ingredients from the supermarket stopped being an option a few years ago. With cooking being one of the few hobbies I could still just about manage, I wanted some control over what I bought. Nothing felt less independent than asking someone to go shopping on my behalf, only for them to get half the shopping list wrong. Online food shopping saved my life, several times. Perhaps foolishly, I declared on Sunday that I would actually break the barrier and go to buy everything I needed myself, bringing it home in a cab. I say foolishly, because on Sunday I was feeling particularly wobbly and unwell. Those kind of days are rarely followed by surges of energy. The strength has to be  built back up.

I woke up on Monday feeling beyond nauseous. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination. Without a back-up grocery delivery and nothing to cook my family for tea, I knew I had to go out and buy something. I ran through countless options, but the least arduous seemed to be to walk to the local shops, buy enough for one meal and carry it back. It was the least pleasant walk I’ve ever been on by myself and it’s a miracle I made it back without puking over anyone. I felt defeated.

By Tuesday the exhaustion had reached fever pitch and even moving around the house felt like a massive effort. There was no way I’d be able to walk back to the shops for another meal, and I risked pushing the exhaustion further by even attempting it. We agreed we’d have a chippy tea which, let’s be honest, can put the shiniest of silver linings on even the bleakest of days.


Avoiding going out on Tuesday and going to bed a little earlier made Wednesday the first day I’d felt even mildly human all week, so I decided to head back to the shops. Some time ago, Andrew and I were watching Nigel Slater shopping in his local area on TV. He’d go to a different place every week, check out their produce, then invite himself back to their home to show them how to cook something new with what they sold. I commented at the time on how much I missed that; not knowing what you’re going to cook until you got to the shops and saw what they had. He promised me that I’d be able to do it again one day. My agreement was tentative at best. On Wednesday I had my Nigel Slater moment.

I’d been struggling a little along the walk, so I rested on a bench before going into the greengrocers. Once I was ready I went in, looked around, inhaled the fresh air filled with the scent of chilled and ripening fruit and vegetables, then bought some potatoes. I got to pick them out myself. I don’t think anyone has every felt so emotional buying potatoes before. I was so overcome that I managed to have my Nigel Slater moment I had to return to the bench and give myself a minute before heading home.


My adjusted goal for the week became a trip to the Tesco American food aisle on Friday, steadiness and nausea pending. Come Friday I just couldn’t face it and decided to go elsewhere; somewhere I’d be able to step outside and sit down whenever I needed. As it turned out, I needed every bench I could find. Most places were overrun with chaotic, angsty Christmas shoppers. It was a big challenge, keeping my composure when my brain kept trying to move my body in the direction of every person rushing past me. Despite telling myself many times that I’d done enough, I (stupidly) kept going. At the point where my legs started buckling, I gave in. I didn’t even have the strength to stand in the Starbucks queue. I always make some weird drink my reward for getting through these things.


This week I got to have my Nigel Slater moment and I got to shop for Christmas presents in person for the first time since 2009. They’re two more things I couldn’t do a week ago. In truth, I probably fought too hard for them, because I set myself up for a physical and an emotional rollercoaster that can’t possibly have been sensible. Nobody considers themselves lucky to be able to go and buy potatoes when they need them. These are the things you take for granted when you’re healthy. They’re things you sleepwalk through. And all those people snarling at each other while Christmas shopping have no clue how fortunate they are to be able to do it without having to sit for some 20 minutes or so between shops. I felt lucky though. And if the past few years have taught me anything, it’s that the tiny stuff you take for granted in life is actually the most wonderful. However much my condition improves in the future, this illness has changed how I view the world. So for all the distress it’s caused me and the people closest to me, it has taught me something about living that I would never have learnt without it. For that, I truly thank it.


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