Sometimes the relentless pace I maintain takes its toll. My immune system becomes vulnerable to every bug that's floating around. I'm often irritable and quick to anger. When I'm utterly exhausted, my mental stability wobbles and I end up on an unpredictable roller-coaster ride from jittery, anxious highs to depressive, energy-sapping lows, often within a few hours. It's impossible to concentrate for very long on anything. I take a Valium and try to sleep. Or I go for a long drive. If it gets really bad, I'll succumb to slight but perceptible, uncontrollable shakes and end up on my knees in a toilet, throwing up. It can take me a week or more to settle my jangled nerves.
But I'll keep on doing it to myself. I haven't mastered the idea, let alone the discipline, of a balanced working life. Or a balance between my working and my personal life. There is none. Or, rather, there is none of the latter. For better or worse, it's a choice I made when I was very young: to succeed as an artist on my own terms and not to rest or allow myself to be too distracted until I had. Which means I'm not much fun to be around when I'm busy – and I'm busy all the time. It explains also why my closest friends are either those whom I employ or my collectors. I had a bad couple of days this weekend. I gave up fighting it on Sunday and took to my bed to wallow in self-pity and weep a little. Today, I am back in the enamel 'factory', finishing three large pieces and a couple of smaller ones. I might come across to my assistants as a little impatient or crotchety but I learnt some time ago to keep my fragility to myself.