When January Jet-Lag Lasts until February

What is it about January and February that get me down? It’s not the weather. Right now it’s 25°C, blue sky, sunny.

No, I think it’s that lovely break away from work that does it. Whether it’s a week opening presents with the family while it’s cold and dark outside or a few weeks enjoying la dolce vita in blazing sunshine.

I come back to work out of it. I have to reacclimatise to being imprisoned in one chair for eight hours straight, or having other people giving me orders. Life has spiralled downwards into mere routine. Get up, get ready for work, go to work, work, come home, decompress, get ready for sleep, sleep.

I keep losing my breath; it’s up in my throat, so constricted and tight. Then I realise I can’t breathe properly. I’ll just be sifting through emails at my desk. I have to get up, to go to the bathroom or kitchen, just so I can hyperventilate or cry alone.

I’m tired and my head hurts. When the alarm goes off my eyes sting with tiredness. I yawn constantly. I keep refilling my bucket-sized mug with caffeine as a comfort blanket. It’s making my day-long headaches worse. I’m so tired I don’t want to go to the gym or get to the yoga studio, even though I know for certain both of these help me to feel better. I know walking to work would give me fresh air and clear headspace, but all I have is the energy to walk to the bus stop and drop down into a seat. I just want to lie down and sleep until it all gets better.

I’ve been buying again. I didn’t feel the urge in Bali. Now I notice that all the cheap clothing I own is pilled, worn, unravelling. The whites are grey. The jewellery, green.

It’s when I don’t feel good enough. Purchasing something new gives me a temporary lift, a feeling of action – at least I’m working on my situation, on my way to getting myself ‘there’. A dress for summer weekends, new earrings for work. If I get these right I’ll be ‘better’ forever (of course, there is no ‘right’; next year these items will be passé and I will feel the urge to replace them).

It’s the same waste and pressure with social media. I spend hours gathering photos for my Instagram posts, filtering and re-filtering, though never managing to achieve that perfect, consistent, curated feed I’m aiming to emulate. Still, I waste time every day, tweaking something so inconsequential that nobody else notices or cares. The likes are auto-generated by bots. No hashtags, no likes.

And after getting the moles on my neck removed to avoid causing people disgust – Which people? Who was disgusted? – I’m now considering Botox for my enlarged jaw muscles (caused by my relentless teeth grinding, most likely due to stress). I never cared about my square face until others pointed it out to me. How much am I willing to spend to ‘improve’ my face, when I hadn’t even noticed a problem? Now I’ve noticed it, it’s all I see. My face used to be my consolation when I despised my body for being ‘fat’. Now the reflection of my face in the mirror is a reminder of my failings too.

It does get better, I know. My brain goes through these frustrating phases, but I emerge every time. That’s what gives me the hope to get out of bed.