Tag Archives: depression

If The Sky Above You Should Turn Dark And Full Of Clouds

The First Fortnight Mental Health Art and Culture Festival  takes place this month in Ireland. In an article in the Irish Times about the events Composer Amanda Feery pointed out that among their Gods the Greeks had Oizys, the Goddess of Anxiety, Grief and Depression, meaning that they were discussing mental health all the way back then …


Oizys (image from greekmythology.com)

Some deities have it tougher than others.

At the very highest level Gods and Goddesses are worshipped – this, indeed, being their primary role. Others, lower in rank but still revered, have spaceships named after them, or planets, or get played by Brad Pitt in films. At the very least most of them get petitioned for the gifts within their purview – people pray to Aphrodite if they want love, to Athena if they want wisdom, to Demeter if they want agriculture.

But then there are the others, the Gods and Goddesses of the stuff that nobody wants. No-one has ever prayed for anxiety, fear or depression, so being Goddess of these is a difficult and lonely gig, like it would be if you were Goddess of Rabies.

So over time Oizys became the avatar of the very emotions she was responsible for. Lack of worship from humans (other than Goths, and Emily Dickinson) caused her to become depressed. This engendered guilt, since she was after all still a goddess and so had things better than most, and this guilt worsened the depression and so on, in an ever deepening vortex of gloom. This gloom increased her fear and anxiety, and, as so often happens, she froze. Then hid.

So the emotions under her charge hid too. The Greeks’ open discussion of mental health gave way to the silence and denial of following generations. Humankind took to valuing the non-crying male, the un-“hysterical” female, the stiff upper lip. We coped by not coping. This didn’t work.

For her part, Oizys took to spending each night in the Wingèd Horse, the bar on Mount Olympus, staring into her drink and into deep, soul-aching blackness.

Then one evening a voice said “cheer up, it might never happen.”

Oizys turned. A beautiful young Goddess sat beside her, a cheery, cheeky smile on her lips. Oizys was going to ignore her, but something about her good humour opened a small gap in her tightly-wrapped blanket of woe.

“It already has,” she found herself replying.

“Well, things could always be worse,” said the Goddess. “What’s up?”

And Oizys found herself opening up, telling everything about her self-loathing, her loneliness, her sense of worthlessness. It came out in a torrent of words that led to a torrent of tears, tears that she had kept inside for aeons.

Her companion said nothing, just listened, then when the weeping ended in a final sniff and a most ungodlike burble of snot, she placed her hand upon Oizys’s and said “you’re too hard on yourself, love. Most people are.”

She stood up to leave. “I didn’t get your name,” said Oizys.

“I’m Lyssa,” said the girl, “Goddess of Rabies.”

After she left Oizys sat thinking for a long time.

The following evening she came to the bar again. This time, though, she didn’t sit defensively behind a thousand-yard stare. She started to talk to the others, and also to listen. Hera told her of her embarrassment at being Goddess of Marriage while married to Zeus, the Weinstein of the Heavens. Chronos spoke of his irrational fear that time-travel would one day put him out of a job. Eros said he was just exhausted. Oizys learned, or rather remembered, that everyone has hopes but also fears, good days but also bad days, self-belief but also insecurities. That no-one is alone in the way that they feel.

Emboldened, she has returned to the affairs of man. She encourages discussion and openness about depression. She has made people aware that mental well-being is as important as physical. She is promoting a culture of self-kindness.

She is creating an environment in which a group in Ireland is giving their time to run a festival to challenge mental health stigma through creative arts.

She has a huge amount of work still to do. But then, she is immortal.



Baring My Head

HeadSpace 3 (cover art by Michelle Granville)

HeadSpace 3 (cover art by Michelle Granville)

HeadSpace Magazine is a writing and art magazine based around the theme of mental health. It is published online, and also has print copies which it distributes free of charge to hospitals and support groups across Ireland and the UK. You can read more about the magazine and its aims here.

Issue No 3 is being launched tomorrow night at White Lady Art on Wellington Quay in Dublin. It features art, poems, fiction and memoir, and much to my astonishment it includes a piece I submitted about my stress-induced bout of depression in 2001 and about an incident which I regard as the start of my recovery.

Even more to my astonishment I have agreed to read this piece out at the launch. At least that proves that I am nuts.

Actually, I’m quite looking forward to the event, and I hope that the magazine gets all the publicity and attention that it deserves.

Lives Of Quiet Desperation


My name is Tinman, and I am an accountant.

Since there is no such organisation as Accountants Anonymous it’s unlikely I’ll ever have to sit in front of a sympathetic, gently nodding group of people and say those words, but if such a body is ever formed then I will probably be its first President, since I’ve been Anonymous about it my whole life.

I never wanted to be one, I don’t believe that I think like one and, although it’s not drug-dealing or gun-running, I am oddly ashamed to be one.

When I was seventeen, in the summer when I finished school and was awaiting the start of university, I got a summer job in an Accountancy Firm. The people were great, I’d have loved it anyway because it was my first job, and when my Leaving Cert results came out (I got a B in Accounts, though I’d never really bothered studying for it) I found myself doing Commerce instead of English and starting down the road to a life most ordinary.

The odd thing is that, after a couple of jobs, I ended up running my own accountancy business, and ran it very successfully for nineteen years, though when people asked me what I did I’d tell them I ran a book-keeping firm.

I can’t deny that I got a great buzz out of it sometimes, though mostly the buzz was from running the business itself, working out schedules that would enable me to get to each of my thirty-odd clients during the twenty-one or so working days of an average month. And as thirty clients became forty the schedule increasingly involved working Saturday, then expanded to working Sundays as well.

And in February 2001 it all fell apart.

It had begun a couple of months earlier, with a continuous ball of vague dread in the pit of my stomach, but on the day after Valentine’s Day I woke up shaking, and wasn’t able to face going in to work. I took some time off (though I had weekly wages to do for two factories, who would fax (sorry, younger readers, you’ll have to look that word up) their hours to me each week and I would fax back the payslips for each employee, and I did these during my break period by going into my office at night, so I wouldn’t have to face the phone ringing while I was there).

I should have given it up then, I was still young enough to train for something else, but I’d a very young family, the business and therefore the income was there, and so I shed some of my workload and kept going.

Then a client that I took on in 2002, originally just to do their payroll, gradually grew and grew, along with my involvement with them. They eventually asked would I join them full-time, so I closed my business and in January 2006 I came to work where I am now (just nine months later I had the first of the 17 blackouts that would eventually lead to me getting my pacemaker, so I was unable to drive during all of this time and my business would have fallen apart, so just because I’m doing something I don’t like doesn’t mean I haven’t been lucky sometimes while doing it).

I’ve been the accountant here ever since. When people ask what I do I tell them I work in the Accounts Department of a Software Company, trying to give the impression that I’m the person who sticks the stamps on the bills we send out.

On balance it’s been good. The work I did was important to the company, as our gradually increasing monthly profit meant that we could plan more expansion, seek new clients and create more jobs.

But now we’re very big, making a healthy profit every month, and whether that profit is up or down by a couple of thousand doesn’t really matter very much. Certainly not to me.

I don’t save the world. I don’t save a patient’s leg. I don’t even save penalties as a professional goalkeeper, though that may be because I’m only five foot five. A counsellor told me that our fifties is when many of look back at our working life, and wonder have we spent it doing anything meaningful. I look back at mine (and here I do mean just the working part, and not any of the rest of it, which has been pretty great), and am depressed at the sheer waste of time that it has been.

So the ball of dread is back. On the last few Sunday evenings I’ve felt physically ill at the thought that another five days of unimportant, meaningless work is in front of me.

Then yesterday I didn’t go in. Today either. 2001 is back.

My manager, my Division Head and I have been working at work (wait, this sentence isn’t over, otherwise it’s the ultimate in tautology) to create a new job for me, one that will let me do the parts of my job that do I think matter, such as the payroll, while someone new does, well, the accountancy. I am grateful to them for this, it shows that they value me, otherwise they would simply have let me leave, but this is obviously going to take a while, not least because they’ll have to persuade others that my invented-out-of-nowhere job will actually be of value to the company.

It’s the light at the end of the tunnel, but in the meantime I’ll just have to struggle along. I will go in tomorrow, because staying out any longer will ultimately make me feel worse, and I will win the battle, because I’ve won it before.

A friend I’ve told about it suggests that it might be a mid-life crisis. If it is I’ll certainly feel happier about the whole thing.

It would mean I’ll live to be a hundred-and-twelve.

A Chink In Your Armour

It’s Monday evening and you are on the bus home. You’ve had a good time at work, you’ve laughed with your friends, dealt competently with your job and have walked to the bus stop in glorious, about-time-July’s-nearly-over-sunshine.

You have a post written (it’s not that good, forget about that part) and are going to transfer it from Word onto your blog as soon as you get home.

It’s been a good day.

Then something, just one thing, one tiny insignificant moment of your day creeps under the tent of your content like a wasp under the tent of, well, a camper. It stings.

The tiny incident – a look, a word, even a silence, becomes less tiny. It becomes a slight, or a threat, a problem. You are now in trouble.

You invent scenarios that will never happen, could never happen. In your head you carry on full conversations in which you are angered, or disappointed, or just plain hurt. Or you provoke these in the other person.

You know this is all rubbish. You try to think positively, to use common sense, you tell yourself to stop being a horrendous gobshite, but it’s too late. A black cloud now covers the sunshine of the real world.

It’s no longer a good day.

You reach home. You don’t bother with the blog-post, you don’t bother with your dinner, you go to bed. It is six-thirty in the evening.

It’s Tuesday evening now, and I am on the bus home. Today there was no slight, threat or problem. There was no rabidly offensive conversation. There was another day like Monday was, remarkably unremarkable.

You, my friends who come here, sometimes wonder at my imagination. It does indeed take me to the most amazing, fun-filled places, and I wouldn’t give it up for the world.

But sometimes it’s a real pain in the arse.

Still Here

I know that some of you get notified whenever I publish a new post.

I am not sure how this works. Perhaps an email pops up saying “I bring you glad tidings of great joy”. Perhaps your computer bursts into the”Hallelujah Chorus”. Perhaps it delivers its message and then self-destructs after five seconds.

Anyway, to those of you who have rushed here with bated breath (and indeed to those who are here thinking “oh God, what has the gobshite written this time”) I’d just like to say that I’m not (a) sick, (b) dead or (c) in prison, and shame on any of you who thought that (c) was even a possibility (they’ll never find the money, or even know that I’ve stolen it, it really was the perfect crime).

I just needed some time off, from pretty well everything, and I’m back now.

So today’s post is an explanation for you, but also an education for me. I don’t think I’ve ever had to write it down before, but if anyone had ever asked me “do you know how to spell ‘Hallelujah’?” I’d have confidently replied that I did.

And now, after four attempts and the eventual help of Google, I do.

Doing What You Do

I’ve posted this post after the one before it in the hope that you will read the one before it after it.

No, my medication is fine, thank you, I just reckon that most people will start reading a blog from the top post downwards, so I’d like say this about the post that will come later, or did come sooner (look, if George Lucas can do it with the Star Wars series then so can I).

I made a mistake over the last couple of days. I believed that I was too depressed and unhappy to write, which is what I most love doing.

Then I realised that doing what I most loved doing would leave me too happy to be depressed.

So this morning on the bus I took out my netbook and started on a story for Sidey’s weekend theme. I had no idea where it would go and I didn’t care. It ended up surprising me, as many of my stories do, but that wasn’t what mattered. It took my mind of my (needless) stress and it made me happy.

This is what is important. This is me.

Back Again

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how overwork was getting to me, and about how the long days and lack of sleep were causing me to slip back towards depression. I wrote that I was going to fight the problem head on, was going to take the following week off and all would be well. You all wrote words of comfort and encouragement and agreed that a break was just what I needed.

Things got better, I got better and once again I wrote posts of shining wit, or at least a Spoonerised version of that.

The problem, which I was embarrassed to admit here at the time, was that I never took that week off. Because I had too much work to do I felt I couldn’t take the break that I needed because I had too much work to do.

From all over the world I can hear all of you you saying “Jesus, Tinman, you big gobshite” (though in a far more lady-like way, of course). And you are all correct, because of course the problem is back.

I got home at a quarter to eight on Friday evening (a time at which I get home far too often these days) and was in bed at half-past, not the way in which anybody should spend a Friday night. I slept until half-past eleven yesterday morning, got up for four hours (just long enough to see my team get knocked out of the FA Cup) and was back in bed by half-past three. I slept again until about 2.30 this morning and lay there until six (on a Sunday, a time that I previously thought existed only for people who are employed to shout “six o’clock and all’s well” (a profession which I believe is dying out, like thatching, building giant rock-catapults and walking in front of cars carrying a red flag) and for mad people like my dad and brother, who think that it’s the ideal time to get up for golf.

So I got up and started writing this, since I have given myself jet-lag.

There are four people arriving at the office at 8am tomorrow to get answers to a list of questions which they sent on Friday, and which already prove to me that (a) they are totally up themselves and (b) haven’t a clue what they are doing. I will not offer these opinions in their presence because we need to keep them happy (I must stress that the company is not in any trouble, we need their report for various expansion plans that we have for the coming year). They will be here for a week.

Adding this information to the fact that I already face my busiest week of the month has had the same effect as the kid at the other end of your see-saw suddenly deciding to get off.

The blindingly obvious answer, of course, is to get another job, to accept finally that the one I have is no longer fun, it’s hell on earth. But I don’t know if there are other jobs out there, and leaving would mean leaving the girl who is the other half of my work-team, and also frankly my best friend, at a time when she herself is suffering. The neck-and-shoulder pains which kept her out for the month of December have turned out to be Degenerative Disc Disorder and arthritis of the neck. She is thirty-three years old.

And it’s a job and a company that I’ve liked for a long time and would like to like again, for all its flaws, its petty unfairnesses, its constant pressure and its debasing Performance Management regime (I got the highest score that it is possible to get for the last quarter and still believe that the system is intrinsically evil). So I’ll stick it out for a while longer, hope that things improve (we are supposed to be getting a third person, that’s all we ever needed, the acceptance that we needed help) and just come here when I need to blow off steam (I’ve found this quite therapeutic, though I doubt it’s been much fun to read).

My attempt at Sidey’s Weekend Challenge will follow later in the week, as will my Weekly Drawing Challenge (I’ve just looked up WorkPress’s suggestion, ironically it’s “Hope”) and I’m making you all a solemn promise.

The next time I book time off I’m going to take it.

Revolving Doors

Picture an old, long-closed hotel. Inside it is dreary, desolate and lonely, with deep black shadows and frightening scurrying sounds in the dark.

Imagine that the only things that work are its revolving doors and that sometimes as you pass the hotel you step into the doors and roundabout yourself in them. You catch brief glimpses of the dark as you whizz merrily by, but you always emerge into the bright sunshine.

Sometimes, though, you get it wrong and find yourself stepping out of the spinning doors into the darkness.

Now imagine that all of this is your brain. Or mine, at any rate.

Too many long days, too many work problems, too little sleep (I work up at three yesterday morning, which would sound absolutely dreadful were it not for this morning, when I woke at ten to two) have made me miss my stop, as it were, so I have stepped out of the doors on the wrong side.

Some people get lost in the dark of the hotel. Some even try to book in. I have always found my way out, and will do so again, although the doors are harder to push from that side.

I am taking next week off (yes, this is only my seventh day back at work after a whole ten days off, what’s your point) to rest and recover. 

It is January, so I am unlikely to feel sunshine on my shoulders, but I will yet again feel sunshine in my mind.

Onwards and Upwards

Nothing gets your day off to a bright start better than a 7.30 am visit to your psychiatrist.

I presume mine offers such an early appointment so that people can visit him and still be at work on time (I was in at ten to nine), avoiding explanations that they might have to give if they arrived later. “Sorry I’m late, I’ve been at my shrink” is a sentence which bosses tend to remember when the time comes for handing out promotions. As a career move it has the same effect as writing “I hate my job” on your Facebook page, or making one of the girls in HR cry (a long story, but she is actually a friend of mine and it wasn’t really my fault).

Anyway, we’re still working away, trying different techniques and medicines to see if we can crack the derealisation, the feeling that everything that is happening is slightly unreal, which I’m surprised to realise I’ve been suffering from for four years now (time flies when you don’t notice what’s going on).  It‘s the only real mental issue that I have left. My lying awake from 3.30 am each morning is gone (I wouldn’t say that I sleep like a baby, but since babies wake up every three hours and cry their eyes out that’s just as well), my stress levels are massively reduced, my unfounded fears now lie unfound and, touch wood (my superstition is gone as well), I haven’t had a bad bout of depression for over two years. So the derealisation is the only problem left, and as my shrink has said before it is notoriously hard to shift.

He told me this morning he knows one woman who has had it for 20 years.

Just as well I don’t get easily depressed any more.