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When the drearies do attack/ and a siege of the sads begins…

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I guess we just have to get used to it: life can frequently be depressing. But I never get used to suffering from depression, which is a different (though sometimes related) thing entirely.

Just the other day I tweeted after seeing the new production of Chekhov’s Platanov, as retitled Sons without Fathers at the Arcola Theatre (which may of course be the source of many a depression in itself, I suddenly reflect — not seeing Chekhov, I hasten to add, but the absence of fathers), that Chekhov is “possibly my favourite playwright – a patron saint of depressives who really understands how (we) feel!”

It was a way of outing myself as a (fellow) sufferer. There many distressing things about depression in its multiple incarnations, but one of the worst and most isolating is the sense of isolation when the fog of depression descends, as I sometimes characterise it. The world mercilessly continues to go about its business, however you feel, and however you feel about it.

And as a relatively high-functioning depressive, so do I. I have written this blog through thick and thin, highs and lows. Indeed, it probably provides me with an anchor of security and stability in a world whose foundations sometimes feel like they’re constantly shifting.

But then that’s another fact of life; change is both inevitable and remorseless.  And depression is something that changes (with) me, too; it’s indivisibly part of who I am. Of course, the hard bit is explaining it to those who don’t suffer from it – but someone on Twitter sent me this cartoon blog the other day that makes more sense of it than just about any self-help manual or session on the therapist’s couch I’ve ever had. I’ve since shared it with other friends who also suffer, and one wrote back: “You’re right. Exactly how it feels….”

Believe me, I know I’m one of the lucky ones – indeed, one of the luckiest ones alive. Not only am I not starving or homeless, but I’m living in a (relatively) stable democracy, I have a job that I love, a husband I love even more, a great home in London and another in New York and terrific friends. So what’s not to be happy about?

Yet depression, of course, can’t be cured by a simple instruction to “cheer up” or “count your blessings.” Instead, I prefer to turn to musical theatre for inspiration, as I usually do.  In Pippin, now incidentally being superbly revived on Broadway, there’s a perfect prescription for a cure that always raises a smile (even if, I hasten to add, I’m not going to act on it, as I’m now happily married!)

When the drearies do attack
And a siege of the sads begins
I just throw these noble shoulders back
And lift these noble chins
Give me a man who is handsome and strong
Someone who’s stalwart and steady
Give me a night that’s romantic and long
And give me a month to get ready

The important thing is to know we’re not alone. And that’s one of the reasons I’ve written this blog. Sharing my own experience is a way of letting others know that they are not alone, either.

I don’t wish depression on anyone – but there’s a kind of comfort to me in knowing that it’s not a problem unique to me. Amongst my fellow members of the Critics’ Circle, two of my closest colleagues Charles Spencer and Paul Taylor also suffer. I am not, of course, betraying a confidence to say as much; both have mentioned it in their writing.

And now I’ve mentioned it in mine.