I’ve been overwhelmed by the response to my posting about depression here a week or so ago. From simple ‘good on ya’s’ to heartfelt and detailed accounts of tussles with the ‘black dog’ I’m utterly humbled by all the reactions and deeply moved by some of your e-mails, although I feel a bit of a fraud fielding the good wishes and pats on the back as I’ve not had a proper, serious depressive episode in a good couple of years or more.
Several people have told me I was ‘brave’ for posting what I did. I’m really not, oh dear me, no, I’m really not. In general I am the biggest yellow-bellied scaredy-cat there is: you have to peel me off the ceiling whenever the doorbell rings and I still shout, “it’s witchcraft I tell you!” when the toaster pops up.
The difference is that I’ve learned to live with depression by treating it as an everyday thing. Even when I’m not actually shrouded in the dark cloud it’s always there somewhere, lurking away like the navy blue sock hidden in the white washing ready to turn everything dark and spoil all the good things. As far as I can see depression is nothing to be ashamed of, nothing to be self-conscious about. It’s an everyday thing, an unfortunate part of who I am as much as my big nose and hilariously oversized head.
It’s a cruel condition all right – I’ve been dipping into The Kenneth Williams Diaries lately, and at the weekend I read his description of depression as ‘like waiting to cry the tears that never come’ which I thought was spot on – but it doesn’t have to be taboo and it doesn’t have to take bravery to talk about. If a lily-livered old scaredy-trousers like me can do it, anyone else has the capacity to do it too.
Now, I’m not saying I’m approaching complete strangers in the street, shaking their hand and saying, “hello there, I suffer from depression,” or anything, I just try not to make a big deal about suffering with it. As far as I’m concerned suffering from depression should be no more awkward to talk about than, I don’t know, having hay fever or a susceptibility to trip over loose paving stones. That’s not to equate the condition itself with such trivial things – although I’m afflicted with both those too – rather to hope that by talking about it and writing about it, we can make it as easy to discuss as those kind of afflictions.
It’s Depression Awareness Week in Ireland this week (although you wouldn’t know it to look at the website) and in the UK in April. It’s a long process and a tough ask, but by keeping it out there we can make people, sufferers and non-sufferers, feel less awkward talking about it. In addition, people who suffer with depression can realise straightaway that they’re not alone. It was realising that put me on the road to where I am now.
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