Yesterday I almost killed my own child.
I woke up foggy headed after a lovely evening out with Rosie. We went to a friend’s wedding at a stately home in Hampstead. It was pitched perfectly. An intimate gathering, a short ceremony, some live piano accompaniment and a special reading, which turned out to be the Owl and the Pussycat – the perfect combination of whimsy and romance.
Rosie spent the evening playing with my friend’s daughter – an old friend who no longer lives in London. I spent it chatting to people I’d never met before, all of whom were welcoming and engaging.
I was in a fine mood, and when dessert came along, I took an antihistamine to pre-empt the unpleasant effects of eating chocolate cake and creme-fraiche (I’m allergic to wheat and dairy), and enjoyed the rest of the night.
Fog and mirrors
The next morning, I woke up heavy headed and irritable. It took me a minute to remember I hadn’t drunk anything the night before (since I don’t drink any more), and another minute to remember I’d fallen asleep at the very decent hour of 10pm and couldn’t possibly be tired.
I got up, did my usual crazy work-out while Rosie had her breakfast, all with the intention of taking her to her swimming lessons. As the day progressed, my mood became increasingly darker. I found myself snapping at Rosie. Snapping and apologising, snapping and apologising, careering from one emotion to the next like a ball bearing in a plastic pinball machine.
After swimming, I did some music with Rosie, but as always, she was reluctant and silly. Each time she dallied or refused to play when I asked her to, the blood rushed to my head. I felt like Bruce Banner – no joke – about to pop my shirt. Any minute I was going to turn green.
At one point, I ran to the kitchen, and in a fit of rage, dashed a bowl in the sink, strawberries and all, sending chips of pottery flying. I did it because I didn’t want to hurt Rosie. I felt out of control, dangerous, murderous – and exhausted.
I don’t want to remember the things I said to her. They were awful, hateful things. It was like a storm had swept into our flat and churned me up until I was spitting venom. Then every so often, the winds would drop and I would kneel in front of her, saying: ‘I’m sorry, Rosie. I don’t know what’s happening to me. Something’s wrong with mummy. Forgive me. Stay away from me.’ And then a gale would sweep in and I would lose sight of her again.
I couldn’t understand it. I was terrified and confused. And then I wondered about the antihistamine I’d taken the night before. I looked up ceterizine hydrochloride – a common ingredient in many antihistamines, like Zirtek, and one I take frequently for my food allergies. Apparently, it has certain side-effects, one of which is fuzzy-headedness, exhaustion and rage.
I thought back to previous occasions when I’d taken ceterizine hydrochloride, and could recall a number of occasions where I’d felt similarly groggy and irritable – although nowhere near as intensely as this time.
By the time Ben arrived for his usual weekend visit, the worst effects of the drug had dissipated.
This morning, I woke up feeling much as I had the Friday before, happily reading to Rosie, cuddling her and being firm with her without losing my temper. It was a classic Jekyll and Hyde moment – one I have no wish to repeat. I’d rather suffer the allergy than turn into that monster again.