Insomnia has a lot to answer for. I have not been sleeping well for years but a few months ago I stopped sleeping at all. By that I don’t mean I sleep a little bit. I mean I sleep never. And since I stopped sleeping, I have been teetering on a knife-edge. It is, I can reveal, barely possible to behave in accordance with the law if you have had no sleep for a significant time. I suspect a large proportion of the prison population just needed a sleeping pill to make them into responsible citizens.
As for women’s prisons, they must be jam-packed with menopausal desperados needing HRT whose GPs wouldn’t stop their night sweats because of a sadistic NHS directive saying that since HRT is linked with an infinitesimally small risk of cancer, doctors should not prescribe it without sending you to an HRT clinic, the waiting list for which is six months.
My doctor has been telling me about this for years. Every time I go in and say, ‘Help me! Please! Give me the patches!’ she reassures me that being menopausal is preferable to getting cancer. And would I like an appointment at the clinic, to assess my options, in six months’ time? ‘Options? Options?’ I gasp. ‘I’m in no fit state to assess my options! I’m probably going to be dead in a ditch in six months’ time!’ And I walk out of the surgery, determined to go private. Then I become indignant about all the tax I’ve paid, and resolve to power on without medication, with dubious results.
The other day, you may remember, I ‘mislaid’ my car key at the stable yard after ‘taking it’ to the car and ‘losing it’ in the boot. Three hours later, with every item in the Volvo laid out on the grass verge as in a crime scene, and at least one of the back seats broken after I’d torn them all off their hinges to search between the gaps, I discovered that I had left the key in a drawer in a storeroom.
You would think that was bad enough. But sadly there is a second instalment to this sorry tale involving what happened when I got in the Volvo and started it up, which I must tell you now.
Muttering prayers of thanks to Saint Anthony and Saint Jude, I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw only a large, dark-coloured barn door, and so I reversed. At the exact moment I reversed, about 17 thoughts came into my head — all of them pointless, as usual — and I didn’t hear the parking sensors, if indeed they even went off.
I think they might not have gone off actually, because they’ve got dust on them and I was meaning to clean them only, of course, I forgot. So the first thing I heard was a bang. And a crunch. And I leapt out to find that I had reversed the great hulking Volvo into the tiny Ford Fiesta of another girl at the stable yard — a girl who had been helping me look for my car key for three hours.
The front wing of her car was hopelessly crumpled. I howled and she came running. I gushed apologies and she smiled grimly. What could she say? She had already had ample demonstration that she was sharing a stable yard with a lunatic.
Here is my theory, for what it is worth. If you are a well-balanced person before you embark on the change of life you will probably make it through without crumpling too many Ford Fiestas. If you are in any way eccentric, creative, artistic, highly strung — whatever you want to call it — then the menopause will in all likelihood turn you into a major risk to public health and safety.
And so I stood there, hair on end, apologising for smashing to pieces the car of someone who had just helped me look for the means to do this for three hours, and who was now surely wishing she had dug the key into a deep hole.
‘It’s all right,’ she said, heroically. Still, I felt some kind of explanation was in order. ‘I haven’t slept for three years,’ I said. ‘Well, I slept a bit for two and a half years but in the past few months the hot sweats have been so bad…’
She grimaced as if to say, ‘Please don’t tell me your problems, my car’s a write-off, that’s enough for me to deal with.’
A few days later, I sat in front of the GP and laid my position squarely on the line.
‘Don’t be fobbing me off with any clinic,’ I said. ‘I’m a danger to the public.’
He tapped away at his computer and a prescription shot out of the printer.