The first time I cried in front of Mia Freedman was probably the second time I met her.
We were getting to know each other when I did that thing where I blurted out half my past in a minute because she had that effect on me, she listened with heart and compassion and she made me feel like my words mattered.
That warmth and tenderness, that ability to listen without judgement lead to me cry in front of her again, probably for the 78th time, when we read Marian Keyes’ “announcement” back in 2010 that she was suffering from crippling depression.
Mia knew how much that post meant to me. She knew, not just how much I loved Marian, but she knew about my own struggles with the darkness.
Like most women in the developed world I was in love with Marian. Not in a flippant “oh my god she’s so funny” way, but with a depth and intensity that transcended the normal crush. I knew Marian, I’d read all her books, googled her every column, subscribed to her newsletter. It’s a good thing (for her) I don’t live in Ireland because I would have sat outside her house and read her mail.
Listen: Mia Freedman interviews Marian Keyes on No Filter.
I was with Mia again two years later when Marian returned from her abyss and described the crippling depression she had endured.
“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.
Lana: Even without knowing Marian Keys, I felt like I knew her.
Marian got me, reading this was like allowing my own brain to speak, albeit with a far better sense of prose and form. Her account of her mental illness was the closest description of the fear and isolation I had felt in my bleakest period.
Marian understood me and I got her. In part that’s where her genius lies, every woman who reads her books feels like she knows her, she is infinitely relatable and exceptionally natural, she just is. She writes like she’s speaking to me, and I know everyone else who reads her work feels the same way. She is writing for them.
So when Mia texted and told me she was going to interview Marian Keyes, I almost flung myself through my phone. I wanted to crash the Mamamia office just to breathe the same air as Marian Keyes had exhaled.
And then Mia invited me to join her.
I’m going to explain this in a way that will only make sense to anyone who suffers the same level of anxiety as I do.
I was at once deliriously excited and absolutely terrified. There was no one I would rather meet but I was petrified of meeting her - I was scared of leaving the house, scared of going to the Mamamia office and scared that I would die on the way there. I was also terrified that if I met one of the people I most admired in life I would definitely die. I don’t know why I think those things; I just know that I do. I know that Marian understands that kind of thinking. So does Mia.
Meeting an idol can be pretty scary even for people who don’t suffer from anxiety. There is a lot to be said for putting people on a pedestal and expecting them to behave in the way you have carved out for them. I was scared about that too.
But I couldn’t not go. This was Marian Keyes guys!
My anxiety was wreaking havoc on me. So much so that when I drove in and past the office I thought it was no longer there. I actually thought for a minute that they had changed their address and I didn’t know. That’s how loud my anxiety was speaking.
I found it eventually, did about five nervous wees and waited for my stomach to reassemble itself. Every time I heard the lift open that reassembled stomach feel to the floor until eventually I heard that familiar Irish accent coming from behind me.
You might think I am fan-girling when I tell you that Marian Keyes actually lit up the office space. Maybe I am, but it’s true. She flooded everybody she met on her way to the interview space with love and warmth. She was the best words on her pages come to life but with the joy of a thousand sunrises and the warmth of a hundred fires.
This was a highlight. Not just of my day but of my life. Meeting @marian_keyes this morning was like catching up with an old friend. Reading her books for so many years makes her seem so familiar. The cadence of her voice, her wit and her warmth. We got straight to the meaty stuff, spoke about abortion rights and mental illness and I felt like she was speaking from inside my head and my heart. I walked out of the podcast studio and into my day on a cloud. It can be risky to meet women who admire so hard and feel so invested in. But today was a gift. Marian’s new book The Break is out and I’m loving it to pieces. And I just want her to pack me in her hand luggage and take me back to Ireland to become part of her big mad family. She is all glowy and beautiful and tiny and she looks about 22. This episode of No Filter should drop next week.....
Everybody had told me not to fall at her feet, not to fawn over her, not to cry or behave in a way that conveyed the intensity of my emotions. They might as well have told me not to blink. I had no control. As soon as I was introduced to her I told her I loved her. I asked her if I could go home with her. She said yes. She made me feel like she was my friend, she actually acted like she was grateful to ME for reading her books. Can you imagine that? She even assured me that she had not followed me on Twitter by mistake.
I sat in as Mia and Marian chatted like old friends for the No Filter podcast. The parts you may not hear are the bits where Marian expressed her admiration and veneration of Mia and suddenly it became clear to me how much of a big deal it was to me sitting in a room with two women who had both touched me very deeply – both through their words.
Marian and Lana.
As a woman, and a woman who suffers from some pretty scary darkness at times I felt literally cradled by the work these women had done in speaking about women’s issues, about mental health and about being honest and authentic. It was an hour I won’t easily forget.
I have not written openly and honestly about my own battles for reasons my therapist can probably best explain. But I will forever be grateful to Marian Keyes and to Mia Freedman for lending me their voices when mine doesn’t want to leave my heart.
You can listen to the full interview with Mia Freedman and Marian Keyes right here. (Post continues after audio.)
(In the interest of keeping things real I feel like I should admit that I was so shaken by the whole event that when I went back to my car I couldn’t find it and I was absolutely convinced it had been towed away. I was in the wrong street. Gosh anxiety is so much fun.)
Lana Hirschowitz is kind of a worrier who is trying very hard to transform into a kindness warrior. It remains a work in progress. In between worrying (and reminding people to be kind) she espouses her opinion on most things on Facebook here.
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