Marian Keyes is battling ‘crippling depression’

In her latest newsletter to fans on her website, the internationally famous and successful author is candid about what she’s going through.

She writes….


My dear amigos, happy new year to you all and I hope your festive season was not too unpleasant. I’m very sorry but this is going to be a very short piece because I am laid low with crippling depression. Regular readers know that I’ve been prone to depression on and off over the years but this is in a totally different league. This is much much worse. I know I’m leaving myself open to stinky journalists saying ‘What has she got to be depressed about, the self-indulgent whiner, when there are people out there with real troubles?’ so I won’t go on about it.

All I will say is that I’m aware that these are terrible times and that there are people out there who have been so ruined by the current economic climate that they’ve lost the roof over their heads and every day is a battle for basic survival and I wish I could make their pain go away. But although I’m blessed enough to have a roof over my head, I still feel like I’m living in hell. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t write, I can’t read, I can’t talk to people. The worst thing is that I feel it will never end. I know lots of people don’t believe it, but depression is an illness, but unlike say, a broken leg, you don’t know when it’ll get better.

I’ve been trying to read helpful, comforting and inspiring bits and pieces because I can’t manage novels and I’ve included some of them at the bottom of the page, in the hope that you might find them helpful, comforting and inspiring at some time too.

So amigos, I’m sorry to abandon you for the moment. Full service will be restored at some stage, I hope. Thank you in advance for your kindness because you’ve always been so lovely to me and once again Happy New Year. I hope it’s a nice one for you.

I think the saddest part of that letter is how she feels she has to defend herself from criticism from ‘stinky journalists’ as she calls them who have obviously snarked in the past about the fact anyone who was rich, famous and successful could be depressed. Ugh. Are there really people out there who are so stupid? Does anyone still believe that depression is self-indulgent? Or that it can be cured by money, fame or thinking about cute puppies?

I think it’s wonderful and generous of Marian to be honest about her depression in the same way she has been honest about her alcoholism in the past.

In an interview in November last year with a UK newspaper to promote her latest book, The Brightest Star In The Sky, the interviewer noted that despite being dismissed by some critics as a “Chick Lit” writer (why is that label always used so dismissively to belittle authors of popular fiction for women? Why are male popular fiction authors not described as writing “Dick Lit”?), Marian Keyes covers some heavy subjects in her novels including bereavement, drug and alcohol addiction, sexual harassment, emotional abuse, the glass ceiling and…. depression. This new novel is no exception.

Happiness and happy endings are a particularly precious commodity to Keyes. Like many of her more troubled heroines, she understands from personal experience what it is like to have been in a “very bad place”. One of her best-known early novels, Rebecca’s Holiday, the story of a young woman’s drug overdose and stint in rehab, was based on her own battle with alcohol and a suicide attempt. Even now, though Keyes is 46, that era still casts its shadows.

“I’ll be an alcoholic until the day I die,” she says emphatically. “I will never be cured. It has to be managed on a daily basis. When I drank, I drank to kill pain. If I’m upset I still want something to numb me out. I’ve got to watch that. I still get awful depression. It’s who I am.” A steady routine, seeing her friends and exercise all help. Keyes and her partner attend a Pilates class once a week. “We’ve been doing it for three years now,” laughs Keyes. “We think we’re great.”

The central drama of the new novel revolves around the assault of a newly married woman by a vindictive ex, and the ensuing emotional mayhem it causes.

Mention of rape, however, gives a misleading impression of the timbre of Keyes’ more recent work. Indeed, it’s part of her great talent as a storyteller that she is able to handle such distressing subjects with such a light and empathetic touch, yet keep her books as “page-turning” as they are. “For feel-good fiction to work,” she says, “there has to be an element of darkness. Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. That’s what I want people to take from this book. Optimism can be relearnt.”

Has depression affected your life or the life of someone close to you?

Do you find there are many misconceptions about it? Like that you should just ‘buck up and get over it?’

Does it help when high profile, successful people come out and speak about their struggles like Marian has?

Having it all, just not at the same time

What it’s like to love someone with depression

Parenting when you have depression

How a nervous breakdown helped one woman rethink her entire life – Guest Post

Overcoming depression

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