Category Archives: depression

cubes and black holes

I found this little cube stool thing on one of the zillions of facebook sales pages I scour every single day as a major work avoidance strategy I occasionally look at. I’m going to use it in the new room so it can be sat on if required, but I couldn’t let it remain beige and plain. As you may have noticed, I’m like fully into more of a groovy boho vibe if you know what I mean, so it had to get jazzed up.

cube 1

Finally sewed the seams this morning! The colours don’t show too well but they are lilacs and different shades of grey, all cut from upholstery swatch books.

cube 4

cube 2cube 3

It’s not 100% perfect but I’m happy with it for now, may get around to edging the bottom with something or topstitching the seams a bit later on.  At least it’s another tick on my to-do list. That list is supposed to keep me focused and busy, but in the last couple of weeks it’s felt more like an albatross round my neck.

One of my lovely blog readers recently commented that she guessed I was always an upbeat, positive kind of person. I haven’t been able to get this out of my mind because that is the absolute opposite of what I am really like, and it strikes me how well some of us hide behind our facades and manage to fool others. My mind is often restless and disturbed, and sometimes I don’t even have that – I just have a black hole where creative thoughts and emotions and initiative are supposed to be. It’s a zombie-like state, a symptom of depression, and can vary in magnitude. Sometimes it’s minor and passes quite rapidly and doesn’t get in the way of doing basic stuff, and other times it’s worse and I can barely function. It’s almost impossible to engage with other people, to find words,  and absolutely nothing gets done – no work, no reading, no nothing. I had one of these wonderful ‘episodes’ recently and it lasted about 10 days. I had to cancel social outings with friends, put off running errands, and try and switch off the voice in my head that was constantly telling me what a useless waste of skin I am. It sounds so extreme, doesn’t it? It’s not really that easy to explain, except perhaps to someone else who is familiar with the joys of that particular roundabout. I’ve started referring to it as “brain flu” because when I get flu or a bad cold or something similar, I don’t put myself under the same kind of pressure to recover. I just endure.

I suppose what I’m saying is that none of us can ever really know another person or their reality, and how they express themselves through their words or demeanour is sometimes just a social pretence. Most of the time I feel like a fraud because I wish I was naturally positive and well-balanced but, left to my own devices, I’d fold in on myself like a little house of cards.

describing the indescribable

This isn’t really a post – this is me finding a brilliant article about depression that deserves to be shared. I’d never heard of Tim Lott before I read this, but I think he’s a kindred spirit.

To try and explain what his illness felt like to him, he uses his mother’s suicide (which most people would be able to relate to as a truly ghastly event to deal with) as a marker of grief and apathy. That must have been terrible – but even that wasn’t as bad as being depressed? 

He’s right. My dad died of pancreatic cancer when I was 17, and the circumstances were such that I had to handle it on my own, emotionally (and, within weeks, in all other ways). And I can honestly say that I would rather endure that all over again than go through another severe depression.

But that’s not why I’m telling you this – this isn’t me being self-pitying, I promise! What I’m wondering is why it is important that we should understand Lott’s experience. Sure, mental health practitioners and pharmaceutical researchers need to know as much as possible, but I’m talking about the people around him. Around us. Why isn’t it enough to say, Look, I’m really ill right now, can you please leave me alone for two months? And if I start smelling because I haven’t showered, ignore that too… ?

I’ve come to the conclusion that we want people to know how it feels so that they don’t judge us. Being judged negatively, for something you can’t prevent and certainly don’t want, is a double trauma. I have to wonder how many marriages and other close relationships between people have failed due to one person’s inability to “get it”. Perhaps it says as much about a depressive’s inability to communicate clearly as much as the listener’s inability to empathise?

I’m rambling, I apologise. Lott’s article helped me, maybe it will also help you. x




I finished reading Shoot the damn dog by Sally Brampton yesterday, and it just blew me away. It’s the story of her depression, its symptoms, its effects, and how she learns to manage it all. Some pages are like reading excerpts from my own diary in my head, which is wonderful in a strange way – it’s always reassuring to know you aren’t alone with something, but your heart aches with empathy.


(There’s a good review in The Guardian: here).

Sally’s family background and childhood were very different to mine, plus she developed an alcohol dependence (so far I’ve managed to avoid any substance abuse!), but so much of what she experienced resonated in deeply personal ways. I was also lucky that almost the first type of anti-depressant medication I was put on (over 20 years ago, and after two years of therapy) worked for me – I hadn’t realised that over 60% of depressives do not respond well to drugs, until I read this book. So, I’ve come to see “lucky” as an understatement: fluoxetine still works relatively well for me, my ‘low moods’ are generally short-lived, and most people probably have no idea that my mental state is sometimes shaky. I battle with fatigue, but I manage to work around it (it could be a symptom of something else entirely, anyway).

It’s a fascinating blend of scientific research (albeit a bit sketchy in places) and individual experience that I am going to pass round to everyone I know – if you aren’t a depressive yourself, chances are you know at least one person who is. This will help you understand that it is in fact a genuine illness, how they/we see the world when they/we are really ill, and how you can support them/me best.

I was moved to write to the author to let her know what her book has meant to me. But googling her name took me straight to a report of her death, by suicide, in May this year. As if she had been a close friend, I felt absolutely gutted. I also know I’ll always be grateful for the courage and energy she found to write her story, and I so wish she’d found her own happy ending.