Applique and embroidery piece by the incredible Sarah Naqvi

For a few days each month, I go a little crazy. I am wired. I can’t sleep. My mind races and my heart thuds. Each night when my internal wheels are spinning I think, Tomorrow I’ll support myself better in this phase. I will avoid sugar, alcohol and cigarettes. I’ll meditate. I’ll drink herbal tea. And each morning when I wake, startled and haggard, nerves frayed, I seek out those which destroy any chance of peace.

In the evening, I try everything. Again. Reading, deep breathing, masturbating. All offer a momentary, shallow, unsatisfying distraction from the grinding wheels of mild panic, omnipotent like the faint, high-pitched sound of a blender that never turns off and only I can hear, as I frantically and furtively scan for the source, twitching and paranoid.

My weariness is sharp, with thrusting pangs of deep nihilism. As I stand in the light drizzle at the bus stop, I picture myself collapsing to the ground with a heart attack, my bad knee buckling under me. I wonder if the Japanese tourist group will take photos as I lay in a crumpled pile on the ancient cobblestones.

Later at home, revived after a steaming bowl of pasta pomodoro and ricotta, I smoke a cigarette and contemplate the irony of me expiring right there at the table, unable to call out to Claudia, my 90-year-old flatmate to whom I am companion. If I do manage to feebly pass some sound through my gasping vocal chords, it’s unlikely she will hear me, because she is slightly deaf and has the television in her room turned up loud to watch an Italian soap opera based on Neighbours, her daily trashy delight.

I constantly think about death, harassed by my own imaginary grim reaper. In bed, I have to focus hard to unclench my jaw, teeth and tongue. As soon as I release my effort to relax and catch the elusive wave of sleep, my muscles tighten once more into an oral claw, like the cramp I sometimes get that forces one toe across the other, reasserting its unnatural bind when not physically held apart.

What is this monthly occurrence for, I wonder. A time for watching and waiting. Forcing me to live in intimate discomfort with my demons — neighbour, captor, lover. A relentless ticking time bomb of energy and frustration. I bear it, trapped in a busty corset in a musty ballroom, resigned to this terrible dance set to the sharp shattered screeches of a novice violinist, comforted only by the knowledge that when the dam finally breaks,