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Thursday, 5 November 2015

A DOOR OUT OF DEPRESSION


I’m trying to help three people at the moment. Let’s call them A, B and C. At the same time I have been working on my second novel ‘Stopping Time’. I say working, but in fact it is thinking which takes up much of a writer’s time. A recent visit to a timeless and uplifting place on Dartmoor called Brentor, led me to want to post a photograph on this blog. So the photo which you see here is the view from the doorway of the small church which is perched on top of Brentor.

If you have read my first novel, ‘Losing Time’, you will know that doors are important to me. In the book doors can be portals across time and sometimes across dimensions.  I often look at doors and wonder where they lead to, whether they might in some strange way prove a physical entrance to a life-changing experience, or instead a mental change in crossing the threshold of a memory or thought. So the minute I saw this doorway into – and out from – such an unusual place, I knew that it might be somewhere I could use in my writing.

When I started thinking along these lines, I was worried about B. B is suffering from depression and going through a very bad patch at the moment. Many members of our family suffer and have suffered from this terrible illness, and I am well aware of the dark-induced chemical change which the brain suffers. An attack of depression is almost like the onset of a cold, because the minute you recognise it, you know that there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. It will creep insidiously upon you, whispering softly into your mind: I’m back…

November is a bad month for depression. The low autumn light and the dying trees, together with the acrid smell of bonfires all conspire against the greatest of optimists. I am drawn, in the late afternoon, to make tea and hot toast, draw the curtains against the failing light and switch on cheerful lamps. B is not so lucky. B is probably still at work, struggling to maintain the status quo and the everlasting pretence which accompanies this condition. B won’t be able to leave the desk and make a quick mug of some hot beverage, without being observed by everyone else. B, in a sudden onset of paranoia, daren’t go home until everyone else has gone. By then it will be dark and the glare of streetlamps  and flashing car lights will have replaced natural light.

I don’t have any wonderful remedy for depression. I can only listen on the end of a phone and tentatively suggest optimistic things: daylight lamps, good food, and plans to look forward to. I must include visits to – or if this is impossible, pictures and memories of – some of the best places where someone depressed has felt happy and uplifted. Brentor is certainly one of these for me. There are a few others, usually high places where the sun shines and the air is like champagne.

In the current book, I have a character in a very dark place indeed. I hope to rescue him before long. Perhaps a door will open into his miserable world and invite him back on to the top of a moor, in Summer, when all is green.

2 comments:

  1. Well written Prue. It amazes me that in the era of stem cell research and genetic editing that brain injury can still be so misunderstood. The plethora of the "pull yourself together" brigade has always made me ridiculously wary of talking about my own mental health issues. If I'd broken a leg I'd probably get lots of sympathy and get well soon cards. When my brain is broken, I get no cards and cliched sympathy. It's no-ones fault and I usually find blame within myself.

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    1. Thank you Hugo for your brave reply. It has made me think further about the way the 'pull yourself together' brigade has continued to flourish despite being deeply rooted in Victorian and Edwardian values. The wide use of the word 'depression' and the everyday term 'I'm depressed' probably don't help. Perhaps fear, too, plays its part. I had a great-uncle who was gassed in the First World War. My father and his siblings would refer to 'Uncle W' with the same amusement in their adult voices as they probably found uncontrollable when, as children, this poor man would disappear down to the bottom of the garden and shout. He was, quite clearly, suffering from some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder as well as the symptoms of the gas, none of which were understood at the time - and which are still viewed with some suspicion today. I feel another post coming on! Keep smiling :)

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