Growing Pains


Monday 4 January 1993

Dear Diary,

Thoroughly depressing day. I was on such a downer. I didn’t go out. I would have been very bad company. I just watched Eldorado and went to bed.

This entry concerns me for a couple of reasons. It certainly explains why I didn’t do as well as expected in my English exam, if this is an indicator of my story-telling skills. Why was it a depressing day? Why was I on a downer? Was I just upset by the bad acting in Eldorado?

It also bothers me because if you’d asked me when I first started with depression I would have said, quite confidently, January 1994. Yet my journal from the year prior suggests otherwise. Was I really depressed though or was I just being sixteen? Who knows. There’s not much scope to read between the lines. And if I thought I was suffering then, I had no idea what was about to come…

My diary continues in the same scintillating fashion. I ‘chuck’ my boyfriend. I fancy a lot of other boys. A 21 year old asks me on a date. I’m dead worried that he’ll decide I’m too young for him. What if he does? I’ll die and I mean that (well maybe not). It would be awful though! I do a lot of ten-pin bowling. I fall in love for the first time (with the afore-mentioned ‘older man’.) Go on a German exchange, learn to drive, draw a picture. I drew a fabulous picture today of Mr (Mr! What am I writing Mr for? I mean Prince) Charles. Well it’s not fabulous but I am really pleased with it. 

Just your usual teenage stuff until towards the latter part of the year when I start complaining about a cough.

I coughed and I coughed. I coughed so much I blew the house down broke a rib. ‘It’s asthma,’ the docs said. ‘I’m not convinced it’s just asthma,’ my mum said.

I went out dancing one night. My legs were in agony the next day. Then the next, Christmas Eve, they were covered in bruises. I went to the doctor. She gave me the wrong diagnosis of Lupus and told me to have a good Christmas. We drove down to England to see the family that afternoon.

I was worse on Christmas Day. Couldn’t face the turkey dinner. Had a yoghurt instead. Was too weak to participate in the family tradition of joining hands and dancing to the Pogues, Fairytale of New York. It had started looking like it could be serious. We drove back to Scotland. The doctor was called out. I showed him my new party piece – coughing up blood. Pure blood. I was admitted to hospital.

They wanted to know if I’ve taken any drugs. Asked me a few times. I laughed at the irony considering I was known as a ‘square’ at school that had never even tried a cigarette.

It was decided the next day I need to move hospital for more specialised care. I was transferred to Glasgow Royal by ambulance!! How exciting!!!  Mum and Dad were told not to worry because the ward I was in was next to intensive care. They realised that the fact they were being told that meant there probably was something to worry about.

A few days of prodding and poking followed. Was given a bed-bath by two nurses that didn’t seem much older than me. Mor-ti-fy-ing. There was talk of doing a kidney biopsy. I couldn’t breathe unaided lying down so it didn’t happen. I was glad. I was finally allowed out of bed to go to the toilet on my own. What a treat. There were conditions though. They wanted to monitor my bowel movements so I had to shit into one of those cardboard hats. I was too shy to ask what to do with it after. Didn’t fancy walking back onto the ward brandishing it. ‘Look what I made earlier!’ I left it in the bathroom covered up with toilet roll and prayed that wouldn’t affect the results.

I celebrated the arrival of 1994 laid up in bed.

Finally a diagnosis. The consultant came to tell me it was “Churg Strauss Syndrome. An auto-immune disease. It’s where the body declares war on itself and your blood vessels have been expanding, bursting and bleeding into your lungs. It’s incredibly rare. Sometimes only diagnosed at post-mortem stage,” he said. “We got you just in time,” he added.

“Meh,” I said. Or I would have if the word had been invented then. All very great that it’s rare, making me a bit special (no run-of-the-mill-ills for me), but it didn’t mean anything. It was before the internet so I couldn’t Google it. It was just words.

Naively oblivious to the battle I was about to face, I went home to get back to living my life. Others had the same plan for me.

“What’s this nonsense about Churg Strauss Syndrome?” my friend Dougie asked. “More like Jug Stress Syndrome. You just need to wear a bigger bra.”

I went to the Doctors n’ guess what he told me?
Guess what he told me?
He said girl you better try to have fun
No matter what you do
Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares 2U

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Hair of the Dog


I wake up. And wish I hadn’t. For a minute I panic about where I am. Work out I’m in my own bed. Should be relieved. Feel like I’m in hell. What time is it? Far too early to be awake. I’m exhausted. Thoughts are racing through my mind. I’m too tired to open my eyes. I should be asleep. Try to remember what I did last night? And what I’ve to do later? It hurts my head to think. I feel sick. My heart is pounding. Reach for the glass at the side of my bed. It’s a struggle to lift it up to my dry mouth. The sips of water don’t help. It doesn’t matter. I don’t deserve to feel better. I’m never drinking again.

Remove that last sentence, and rather than describing how it feels the morning after the night before, I could be writing about how it feels when I’m depressed. My meltdowns are short-lasting, fortunately, but they are intense and share a lot of traits with a particularly hellish hangover. The inability to function properly, the paranoia that nobody likes me, the self-loathing, the struggle to sleep, the loss of appetite, the nausea, the headaches, the tiredness, the not wanting to leave the house. And that’s not to mention the awful symptom where I suddenly develop a phobia of my phone. I have to put it on silent and just glance at it occasionally, cause although I don’t want to talk to anyone I couldn’t cope with the guilt if I switched it off completely and later discovered that someone had been trying to contact me urgently. Then of course there is the disastrous side-effect that I’m unable to go on Facebook cause I can’t bear hearing about how happy everyone is and how much they enjoyed what they had for tea.

Probably the only difference between suffering after a night on the lash, and being depressed, is that you know your hangover will eventually go. Whereas when the black dog is around, you can’t imagine ever feeling better again. Oh, and also with depression there was no great night out beforehand to make it even a teeny weeny bit worthwhile to feel like a bag of crap.

Obviously it isn’t the same for everybody. No, the nature of the big snarling dog-beast means that depression comes in different formats with different specs. My friend in her sixties says that hers is nothing like a hangover. I did argue that as the last time she was steamboats was forty years ago after a night on the Cherry B, (a drink so old it’s practically extinct) she wasn’t really in a position to compare. Another friend succinctly describes his down days as ‘feeling like someone is sitting on you, making it difficult to even make a cup of coffee.’

I read an article t’other day from a woman who had stopped discussing what depression feels like to anyone that hasn’t experienced it, cause she claimed that they just couldn’t understand. I think that’s a real shame. I may have said in my last post that it is impossible to properly relate without going through it, but I strongly believe that we have to try and explain it (and please do share your experience in the comment section below).* Otherwise those not in the know will continue to think that being depressed is just a lot of moaning about feeling lower than a worm’s tit.

I took my opportunity when I met a guy, lets call him Gavin, cause that’s his name, who had just been on a lad’s holiday. He said one of the group had behaved totally out of character and had been really quiet and dour-faced. When they arrived home this guy had seemingly confessed to a recent diagnosis of depression and had apologised for going on the trip. I explained to Gavin how hard he will have found it to ‘come out’, and how he’d likely be hating himself due to irrational thoughts that he’d spoiled everyone’s fun. Gavin thought for a minute and replied “Nah. I don’t think it was anything to do with depression…he’s just an arsehole.”

*Please proceed with caution. Some people will never try, or want to, understand.

I can’t tell you what it really is
I can only tell you what it feels like
And right now it’s a steel knife in my windpipe
I can’t breathe but I still fight while I can fight
Eminem – Love The Way You Lie ft. Rihanna

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Come Again?


Having depression is like having an orgasm.

You don’t believe me? Think back to your last orgasm. Put yourself there. Relive it. Think about who you were with (or not as the case may be. No judgers here. ) Think about where you were. Remember how your breathing got heavier….and quicker…oh…oh yes…right there….your heart started beating faster…your body was tingling…oh…oh…you were panting…your head started spinning…oh yes…your muscles tensed….you quivered…the pulsating…the pressure…you wanted it to happen…you wanted to prolong the feeling…you didn’t know what you wanted…you couldn’t focus…oh God…oh God…oh…oh…you were on the edge of what you knew would be the most intense feeling ever…

Let’s stop there. Partly because this isn’t that kind of blog. The only 50 Shades of Grey on here refer to my moods. But mostly we need to stop because we’re already missing some of our group. Some of the readers have left the building. They’ve started pairing socks or are going through the freezer to see if there is something for dinner. We lost them at hello.

Yes, they know all about orgasms. They know what happens. They’ve maybe even seen people have them. But they certainly don’t want to talk about them or waste precious time reminiscing about having them. No siree.

In actual fact, it’s because they can’t. And the reason they can’t is because they’ve never had one. And having never experienced it, they can never really know what it feels like.

And that is why I say having depression is like having an orgasm. Ta da!

Oh. You thought I meant in a good way? That I was going to find some positive comparison. Hell no. I’m not that mental. Depression is vile. It would be a struggle to find anything good to say about it. Perhaps I could say they are similar because in both cases you temporarily lose your mind, but that would be really stretching it. A bit like trying to find a link between a Tesco burger and a cow.

I really do believe that depression is something that is very difficult to understand unless you have been through it yourself. My heart sinks a bit when I hear of celebrities revealing their mental health issues. Yes, it’s great that the more people talk about it, the less stigma there will be surrounding depression, but I also worry that it widens the gap between the people that don’t understand it and those of us over in the blue corner.

I see the comments on the Daily Mail articles about whatever star has ‘come out’, slating them for claiming to be depressed. Telling them they should try living off fifty pence a week etc etc and then they’d have something to be miserable about. And I do know where they are coming from. It is hard to understand why someone can feel so low, when on the surface they appear to have everything.

If only it worked like that. I have a lovely life. I’ve got bugger all to be depressed about. Generally though, it isn’t about ‘something’ being wrong. If it was I’d just change the ‘something’ and hey presto I’d be Little Miss Sunshine merrily emigrating from Miseryland to Laughterland.

I’m hoping to try and explain via this blog, what it’s like to have depression. Perhaps even try to understand my own. Because that’s another thing, it can be different for everybody.

Mind you, it seems that the same can also be said for orgasms, as while writing this post I did some googling (which is not a euphemism.) According to Wikipedia, there were 26 definitions of orgasm listed in the Clinical Psychology Review. Yes, 26. Are you surprised? It got a big ‘Oh’ from me.

When I feel down
I want you above me
Divinyls – I Touch Myself

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Knife Fork Spoon Spin


There was a day not so long ago that I behaved totally out of character. I bought some new cutlery.

Admittedly I’d had ‘Cutlery’ on my shopping list for a while, but it was written under the Buy Sometime heading. You could be forgiven for thinking it was on the Buy Immediately list though, alongside toilet roll and milk, the way I just marched off to the till with the box of gleaming silver utensils. I didn’t stand around dithering for an age. I didn’t check to see whether I could buy them cheaper on eBay. I didn’t leave the shop to see whether I’d keep thinking about the lovely cutlery or just forget about it, a sure test of whether I wanted it, whether I really really wanted it, a-zig-a-zig-ah. Instead, I came, I saw, I conquered bought.

I’d reverted to type as soon as I got home though. I couldn’t stop berating myself for behaving so recklessly. What had I been thinking? Or not, as the case seemed to be. Why had I made such a hasty purchase? I didn’t even really need it. Did I even like it? Did I even deserve to be the owner of new cutlery? I couldn’t decide. As a child, one of my favourite playground games was a handstand competition named Knife Fork Spoon Spin. As an adult, I was definitely getting into a spin about the knives, the forks and the spoons, but it was no fun at all.

I put the box on top of the microwave and left it there. Unopened. For weeks.

This story isn’t really about cutlery. (“Thank God,” I hear you say. “Cause if I’d wanted to read about that I’d flick through an IKEA catalogue.) In actual fact it is the story of my life. Or at least it is certainly representative of it at the moment.

I’ve been exactly the same about this blog. I got the idea months ago and felt all gung-ho. Then I wasn’t so sure. Then a while later I was even more unsure. Then I was my most unsurest. Then I reverted back to being sure but decided I couldn’t possibly launch until the right time. I’d have to finish writing my ‘About’ page…and of course that wouldn’t be complete without taking a nice photo to go alongside the blurb…I’d have to get the Facebook page sorted…and the Twitter one…I’d be best starting posting at the beginning of the week…perhaps start of a new month…or on a date that is a lucky number…and of course the wind would have to be blowing the right way…maybe I shouldn’t be doing it at all?

I kid you not.

I haven’t always been like this though. I haven’t always been so hopeless. So indecisive. I haven’t always lacked confidence in myself. The ironic thing is that the reason I am now all of the above, and why I’ve put off starting my blog, is the very thing that I’m going to be blogging about.

“What’s this doing here?” my brother asked one day picking up the still unopened box of kitchen utensils. I sheepishly explained all about Cutlerygate. “You don’t think you deserve some cheap knives and forks? You need to get a grip,” he laughed and proceeded to rip open the box and threw it into the sink to be washed. “Get on with it!”

And I did. It worked. And you’ll be happy to know I’ve not played that version of Knife Fork Spoon Spin since.

I’ve decided to try applying the same rule to this situation too. It’s never going to be the ‘right time’ to start so I’m ‘getting a grip’ and I’m ripping open my Pandora’s Box and telling you that I suffer from depression and that is what this blog is going to be about. There, I’ve said it. Now I’m just going to have to get on with it.

So whaddya think about that, now you know how I feel?
Spice Girls ‘Wannabe’

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