Before you start worrying about me – I’m not! Honest. But something happened over the last couple of weeks which made me realise how many people are, and how easily it can happen to seemingly anyone.

Yes – I’m talking about depression (cheery subject I know) and how prevalent it seems to be. There has been a lot in the news recently regarding mental health, spear-headed by some of the royals, to raise awareness of the subject. And a good thing too.

The event that started these musings, was my helping to clear out a house where the mother of a young child had clearly gone off the rails. It was very sad… The house hadn’t been cleaned for months. There was rubbish everywhere, and most of the child’s belongings had been abandoned. Something had happened in her life where clearly nothing mattered anymore…. Not even her 4 year old child. I saw no evidence of drink or drugs. My friends were quick to condemn her – disgusting! Unfit! And they may be right. It was my initial reaction too. But I don’t actually know what happened, and it may be that she just needs help.

First I have to say that I’ve been extremely lucky. There’s an awful lot of this stuff in my family, including manic depression, schizophrenia, and a bunch of suicides. So it’s a near miracle I have escaped it. But I have experienced a couple of years of depression in my mid to late teens, whilst coming to terms with a lot of childhood issues mixed with a cocktail of teenage hormones. And I can still, just about, remember that strange outlook on life.

If anyone asks me what it’s like, I describe it as ‘Imagine looking at the most beautiful landscape, and all you can see is the dog turd in the distance.’ I remember reading some very good books at the time, in order to understand my state of mind. The best ones were actually very funny! Caricaturing life and everyone in it with the broad brush of black humour.

But the sad, and real fact is, that unless you have experienced depression or anxiety yourself, it’s pretty impossible to empathise with someone who does. No matter how much you point out all of the things that are actually very positive in someone’s life, they will find a negative for everything. It’s frustrating and incomprehensible. It drags you down. Nothing you say seems to help.

And that is why we can’t always see it coming. Even in people we think we’re close to. It’s easier to keep up a pretence and to say ‘I’m just a little bit down. I’ll be fine.’, convinced that it won’t be understood anyway.

All the more important to have a good network of councillors to deal with these issues. Sometimes people just need to talk and be listened to (not always good at that), without hearing peoples’ opinions and suggestions (definitely not good at that!). I love the idea of a non-religious church – a nice building where people can meet up, and instead of confession you can just unburden yourself to someone in complete confidence, who will sit and just listen to you. Instead of the Hail Marys they could just tell you that it will be ok. And keep God well out of it.

Yes. I am fortunate indeed. My cup is, at worst, half full. And I know that when I talk to you, I’m not really helping. But know that you’re not alone and that there are people who can. And it will be ok…


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