love to walk the world at night


this time last year, if you had been following my private instagram, you would have seen me sick in bed, lots of pictures of my new cat, misc objects around my house, and then a handful of posts that looked similar to this:

gab stands still at a lampost wearing a tshirt that says 'i love my sick friends'

it’s kind of a funny photo but the context is shit: long covid houseboundness had sent me loopy and I was only able to walk to the lamppost at the end of the road and back. I actually only did the 50 metre depressing walk a handful of times because each time it meant the next 24 hours were dominated by fatigue and leg pain. I always went at night because since I got sick, I’ve had way more energy at night (I write about that in more depth here if you are new to my mad body. if you are not, I am sorry for repeating myself but I never know if any given post is going to be the first thing someone reads from me).

Well, I didn’t know back then in my lamppost walking days that COVID had given me a heart condition called POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome); the minimal exertion was triggering post exertional malaise, the leg pain was searing adrenaline. I got my diagnosis, and the medication that came with it, in January 2022 which was a full year after I got sick. I slowly started doing more stuff and going outside in earnest and then I retreated when summer came because the heat was making me feel very, very bad. The number one element that exacerbates symptoms for people with POTS is heat because it messes with the autonomic nervous system, heat regulation, blood, heartrate and energy.

I have been DYING for the relief of autumn and winter because I’ve had a hunch I would be able to do a little bit more. The 2021 version of that was my lamppost walks, as opposed to lying flat in bed all summer not knowing what was wrong with me. The 2022 version is this:

gab takes a selfie wearing a reflective silver jacket and smiling in darkness

this is a funny photo and this one is allowed to be. I am currently in the following routine: I wake up around midday, I feel ill during the day and I wait patiently for the night. I eat my dinner. I play some games. And then I go for a big 45 minute long walk around midnight. I put my reflective coat on, step outside, and start walking in a random direction. I listen to a podcast. Heavyweight, You’re Wrong About, Invisibilia. I have heard stories about lost photographs, worker rights, and free-diving. I’ve walked over piles of dead leaves and taken pictures of the moon. I keep finding myself down long hilly roads in the suburbs of Liverpool where the houses are so big they surprise me – I want to be invited in to see why these people within walking distance of me are so rich, but unfortunately everyone in the world is asleep.

at least that means I can take pictures like this to send to my friends in other cities who are also awake til 4, 5, 6am like me.

I feel like I’m flying, I can’t believe I’m walking so far and for so long, that I have a reason to listen to podcasts again - - and I hate stopping, I hate coming home. I turn into my street and the widget on my homescreen says I’m at 6000 steps. I think to and from the lammpost might have been 100; I can’t believe I have a reason to use widgets again. There is a horribleness to stopping beside landing back on the ground, and it’s that POTS means I have a lower blood volume. So, when I stand in one place, my blood sinks in my body, and this very familiar dizziness and nausea come into my head and my stomach. I finally stand still at the door to find my keys and I notice the blood noticing what’s happening, and I wish I had another 6000 in me but I’ve reached my limit; sweat dripping down my back and my arms, hot face, want to take my jacket and my hoodie off even though there is frost on the cars and it’s only October.

I present myself to my boyfriend so that he knows nobody kidnapped me tonight. Even though I am a slow target, loud with my breathing, wobbly on my feet to the point someone might think I’ve been drinking, I am glad I am so big and heavy so kidnappers would struggle to kidnap me. (I carry a rape whistle and a defence spray that marks someone’s skin and clothes incase anyone tries it on). I let my body relax and then 20 minutes after getting back in, I finally get hungry. I really do feel nausea all day and the real genuine hunger feels like a reward, like an old-body feeling that I took for granted for the first 26 years of my life. (Crazy to think I was 26 when I got COVID, it’s been 1 year and 10 months since then but apparently I’m now 28?).

After I eat, I feel awake and happy and sort of normal. So, I write. Tonight I am writing this blog post and once I push it, I’ll open the book we’re working on and edit into that. I think highly of the night, as if it is someone who has earned my respect. I guess that makes sense – it is the only time I feel well enough to feel like the person I used to be. Besides the physical symptoms, something has happened to my brain. The day is oppressive, distracting, too much at once. I can’t have any ideas during the day. People ask me to reply right away with incredible solutions to complicated problems and they don’t know I am lying flat on the couch and also I’m not interested. The night is so powerful because it is silent. I have ideas at night, and I think that’s the best sign that life is going alright. Those happen on the walks as well. I’ll be hearing the podcast host but I’ll be thinking about something else entirely, because new thoughts pop into my head constantly. The best surprises.

It is strange that my health has pulled me into the night so strongly and even though that’s out of my control, I don’t completely resent it. At night, there is no one demanding anything of me. At night, I can do things at my own pace. At night, I am lighter. Relaxation feels more relaxing, and work feels smoother. Writing becomes more obvious. I even make peace with housework.

It’s like… during the day, the world is fastened tight around my body. At night, it finally lets me go.