In a Word . . . depression

At the bed’s edge, beaks poised and ready to pick at my fragile psychic threads

I didn’t so much wake up as emerge slowly from a grim thicket into consciousness. Trapped. As though a great weight lay across my body, pinned to the bed.

And there they were, the peckish ones. At the bed’s edge, beaks poised and ready to pick at my fragile psychic threads, unravelling them one by one to expose my carefully concealed foul rag and bone shop, within.

All my anxieties on show, about to escape, the better to dance on my inert body. They, and that great mass that kept me pinned as though held by a powerful magnet to the mattress.

Then it dawned on me. "This must be depression", a dopey inner voice whispered, " the worst disease", I recalled being told once. "And this lying across me must be the black dog, as described by that great Englishman but no friend of Ireland's, Winston Churchill, " I told myself.

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"And by Dr Samuel Johnson of 18th-century London who said we Irish are a fair people, we never speak well of one another."

I have such great conversations with myself sometimes.

I began to felt better. Inspired, you see. I could write the book, Me and My Depression. Go on TV and radio, talk about it. To help other people, of course. Just like all those celebrities.

And certainly better than Elvis, on whose death in 1977 a Hollywood mogul was said to have remarked that it was "a good career move".

Soon, however, I realised such lustrous destiny would not be mine.

The sheets were wet, as were the pillows. A horror dawned, so much worse than pecking beaks picking at my touchy innards; worse too than a black dog of depression lying across my chest suffocating the air out of me; and an explanation soon emerged too for that awful dip in form the previous evening.

Yes, it had to be true. I had the dreaded man flu, of which there is no worse disease known, well, to man.

Nothing for it then but drag myself to the bathroom, have a shower and face bravely into the next days of fevered fret, feeling like Captain Oates as he ventured to his death, saying, "I am just going outside and may be some time". Though I would be staying inside.

Depression, from Latin depressare; to press down, depress.

inaword@irishtimes.com