UPDATE: Mamamia’s Managing Editor Lana Hirschowitz writes: For almost two years I been fastidiously checking the wesbite of Marian Keyes. It became a hobby for me, a hopeful hobby. When Marian stopped updating her newsletter because she was suffering from severe and crippling depression I felt like my friend was suffering and there was nothing I could do to help her – that’s how close I feel to her after reading every word she has ever written. You cannot imagine my joy to see her site updated yesterday. She writes in part
A shy and tentative hello, my amigos. I’m mortified I’ve been off the air for so long – nearly 2 years – and if you’ve all lost interest, don’t worry at all, I don’t blame you. I really had no expectation that I’d be out of action for so long, It’s been a very strange time, I hardly know where to start, except that I kept waiting to get back to normal and I’m having to accept that the old normal is gone forever and that I’d better start liking the new one! I’ll tell you more about my ongoing unpleasant mental states as and when but lets talk about lovely things for the moment!….
….Also – and I find this amazing – I’m almost finished a novel. Well, I am actually finished, I’m doing the editing and I can’t tell you how incredible this is because for months and months and months in the past 2 and a quarter years I’ve been unable to get out of bed or concentrate on a sentence or motivate myself to do anything. But somehow, in pockets of time, when I felt less terrified and terrible than usual, I managed to write this book and the strangest thing about it is that it’s really funny. It’s about Helen Walsh of the Walsh family that I’ve written about in Watermelon, Rachel’s Holiday, Angels and Anybody Out There. Helen is the youngest sister, the ‘bold’ one and she’s a private detective and she’s on a missing person’s case. She’s looking for Wayne Diffney, who used to be in Laddz (they’ve a boy-band, they’ve popped up in other books, Sushi for Beginners, The Other Side of the Story and The Brightest Star in the Sky.) I’ve my friend AnneMarie Scanlon to thank for the plot, she was always a fan of Wayne’s and said he needed a book of his own and I had no idea how to go about it, but it’s worked! It actually really does function as a thriller. But it’s also a love story – 2 love stories in fact. And it’s dark, quite a bit dark. But honest to god, really funny. It’s taken me an appallingly long time to write because I’ve been hors de combat for long periods, so often I’ve forgotten what I’ve written, then I stumble over a bit and think, ‘but that’s HILARIOUS’ and I’m sorry if some nasty journos (and we all know who you are and you have my compassion) will lift this quote and headline it, ‘Boastful boozy author’ etc, but that’s the truth of the matter. It’ll be out sometime in the autumn and it doesn’t have a name yet, but I’m working on it.
Speaking of booziness, I celebrated 18 years of sobriety on January 18th, so not all is bad. Despite the tough times in my head, I haven’t had a drink and I haven’t killed myself and Himself hasn’t done a runner on me with a sane person. Mind you, Himself has done a LOT of running. He has become superfit and runs up the sides of mountains in Wicklow and is completely brilliant.
You can read the full post here
Can I preorder her book? I want to read it yesterday!!
Late last year I posted about Marian Keye’s crippling battle with depression. I was overjoyed to see Marian resume her newsletters (which you can subscribe to here). Her evocative and concrete way of describing her battle with depression makes for compelling reading. Damn but that woman can write………
In part, she writes…..
“….I don’t exactly know what to say because I still don’t really know what happened to me. The medical profession call it ‘a major depressive episode’ but I’ve been knocked sideways by a multitude of feelings, not just depression but agitation, anxiety, terror, panic, grief, desperation, despair and an almost irresistible desire to be dead and it’s gone on for a very long time. Every day for six solid months I’ve had to try really hard to stay alive. I’ve literally got through each day hour by hour, trying to hang on until the sun set and it was time to close the shutters on the windows and then I’d feel, Okay I’ve survived another day. It was such a horrible winter and it felt like it went on forever, but when the clocks went forward I felt even worse because then there was an extra hour of daylight to last through.
I know I’ll be criticised for saying all this, I know it sounds horribly selfish, when life is such a precious gift and many people desperately want to be alive and are denied it, but honestly, I’ve had no control over it.
Wave after wave of black agony has been rolling up from my gut and bursting in my head and I’ve been powerless to stop it. I’ve heard people describe depression as feeling like they’re living behind glass, of being numb and unable to experience anything, but for me, it has been totally different. It has been like being poisoned, it’s felt like my brain is squirting out terrible, black, toxic chemicals that poison any good thoughts. I’m well aware that I have an enviable life and there are bound to be people who think, “What the hell has she got to be depressed about?” But whatever has been wrong with me isn’t fixable by an attitude shift. Believe me I’ve tried (Mindfulness, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, gratitude lists…)
Another thing about depression is that you’re supposed to be catatonic, but it hasn’t been that way for me, it’s been the opposite. I’ve been waking way too early, arriving into the day with a terrible jolt and shaking with anxiety. I’ve been so agitated and so desperate to escape how I feel and how I’m thinking that I’ve had very few days when I’ve been unable to get out of bed. Like I say, it’s been the total opposite, I CAN’T stay in bed, it’s far too frightening and instead I’ve been running around like a hamster on a wheel, wildly looking for distraction.
But despite the constant activity, I don’t accomplish anything meaningful at all. The last eight months have been very very unproductive. I haven’t been able to talk to people, at times I’ve quite literally gone mute and I haven’t been able to concentrate on anything. Reading has been impossible because by the time I got to the end of a sentence I’d have forgotten the start. All I’ve been able to do is watch stuff – I don’t know what I’d have done without Come Dine With Me – do you love it? Isn’t it fantastic? And Glee. Also the box sets of True Blood and 30 Rock.
Then around February I suddenly started baking like a complete maniac. It’s something I haven’t done since I was 12, but now I want to do it ALL THE TIME. At times it’s like a compulsion and it transpires that I’m quite good at it. For a while I ate everything I baked and that was okay for a little bit because I’d lost tons of weight on account of my stomach having shrunk to the size of a walnut and the thought of food making me feel like I was going to puke. But now I’ve richocheted in the opposite direction and I’m the size of a house again, business as usual. It’s such a bummer (pun! Entirely inadvertent! Maybe I haven’t lost it!) because I was proper skinny for a while and too aghast and afraid to be able to appreciate it. Now I’ve taken to making the cakes for others and trying not to eat them myself.
The worst thing is that I’m still not able to write. I really miss it but once again, I’m powerless. I just have to wait it out. Actually I’ve just realised that this newsletter is the first thing I’ve written in nearly 8 months. Maybe in a while my brain will stop being full of broken glass and buzzing and I’d be able to manage a column. Although I feel I have so few areas of expertise at the moment, my life has become so small. Perhaps some kindly editor would give me a gig writing about cake. Or suicidal ideation. Or make-up. Oh God be with the days when I had a make-up column! Happy happy times!
…..Finally and most importantly, I want to thank you from the bottom of my battered heart for the stunning response to what I wrote in January. Your response was absolutely overwhelming and astonishingly loving and so, so, so kind and really, if love alone could have cured me, I’d be skipping around the place, in the whole of my mental health. Thank you, thank you, thank you. It kept me going when very little else was working……”
You can almost take that journey with her and as for the fact that she says she cannot yet write again – well clearly she CAN. To me, this newsletter sings and you can read it in full here on her website where she details from A-Z all the things she tried and what helped and what didn’t. That in itself makes great reading.
If you’ve ever suffered from depression, mild or severe and or even just the blues, what works for you? When you feel low (or even high) and you come back “home” do you like to express it creatively, through art, poetry, story, expressive dance? What helps?