Yesterday I burst into tears in the middle of Sainsbury’s.
‘Burst’ is perhaps not the right word. I found myself somewhere in the region of the pasta and rice section with tears running down my cheeks. There was no one around to see, thank goodness. I was upset because I couldn’t find what I was looking for – a common occurrence, especially in a unfamiliar shop, usually and quickly resolved by hunting down a person in a brown uniform – but for some reason this time I found I couldn’t cope.
There was a deeper reason for my upsetness, of course. It had been a bad week, I’d had a professional setback and then my purse was stolen out of my bag. But there were other causes, deeper still, behind my mini breakdown.
It is often said, quite rightly, that if you have a roof over your head, enough to eat for the time being and can get about, that you have no right to feel sorry for yourself in a world where so many millions have none of these things. But that doesn’t mean that for those of us who are lucky enough to have all those things and who don’t suffer from depression or other forms of mental illness, that life is by definition a breeze. I along with many others have bounced along over the years doing all the right things, keeping active, getting out and about in order to stem the awful loneliness, which is partly self-imposed – an occupational hazard for a writer – looking for new interests, new friends, all in an effort to find reasons to exist. If that sounds melodramatic it isn’t meant to. It’s only when you stop and wonder what on earth you’re doing that those dark feelings edge into the back of your brain. And once they’re there they are difficult to dislodge.
It’s not like me to declare myself quite so blatantly, and in an open forum. So why am I saying all this? To purge myself of course, partly. And because I feel ashamed that such trivial mishaps can upset me so much. And because perhaps perversely it’s easier to confide in a computer screen than a friend.
But also because I suspect I am not the only one who feels this way. We are fragile animals in a fierce world.