Marian Keyes: Depression cannot be cured by practising gratitude or eating bananas

Sudden Wild Enthusiasms: Stonechat Jewellers and Aware

Stepping Stones from Stonechat Jewellers

Stepping Stones from Stonechat Jewellers

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This time nine years ago, my mental health took a sudden swerve for the very unpleasant. Out of nowhere, I was riddled with acute fear. Suicide seemed extremely attractive.

In those days, I used to do a monthly newsletter, but as I was incapable of writing anything coherent. I cobbled together a few sentences explaining that I’d gone a bit mad and that I’d be back as soon as I was “unmad”.

To my surprise, admitting I had depression triggered a small media fuss, including one article, of which the gist was, because I had “a handsome husband” and a well-paid job I had nothing to be depressed about.

I’d love if we could get to a place where we felt free to talk about a bad bout of mental health the way we do about, say, the flu

It made no odds to me – I was in and out of a psychiatric hospital, I was trying to stay away from knives. I had other things on my mind, shur, you know yourself!

But after a few years, I improved, and I began to mind on behalf of other sufferers who might have read that piece. Guilt, self-loathing and a total absence of compassion for oneself are core parts of depression. It doesn’t take much to stop an ill person asking for help. I still worry about people who might have read that irresponsible article and thought that because their husband still had his hair, they had no right to feel wretched.

Illness

Since then, though, Ireland has begun to understand that depression is an illness like any other. That sometimes it’s circumstantial but just as often isn’t. That it’s not a choice, it’s not self-pity and that it can’t be cured by practising gratitude/eating bananas/copping on/climbing the Sugarloaf/whatever you’re having yourself.

Silencing compounds the fear and loneliness of the grim illness; honesty and openness is the way forward. I’d love if we could get to a place where we felt free to talk about a bad bout of mental health the way we do about, say, the flu. (“Christ, I was dying there for a while, two goes of antibiotics, and it took me ages to feel normal again.”) But it’s never easy to just lay yourself bare.

However, the new range from Stonechat Jewellers might help. Called Stepping Stones, it’s inspired by people’s ability to keep moving forward, through good times and bad. Handcrafted rings, earrings, bangles and pendants feature precious stones, to symbolise individual events and achievements.

These pieces can be conversation starters, which is a great way to demystify this still-taboo illness.

Even better, 10 per cent from all sales of Stepping Stones is being donated to Aware, the organisation which does trojan work providing information and support.

Mental health exists on a spectrum. It’s not a binary case of being mad or “unmad”, but something that is fluid and can vary day by day. There are times when brushing my teeth is an impossible task and I’m grateful for any reminder that horrible suspended state passes.

More importantly, when I feel well (which is most of the time now) I want to celebrate it.

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