Tag Archives: depression

The Girl Who Dreamed The Drowning

Alone in wanton daydreams sits
A maid so fair and clever,
Alone she walks, alone she dreams,
Her visions fading never.
Too young to live, too old to die,
There’s no discrimination,
For all’s foretold, in heartless truth,
Borne with determination.
This poisoned gift, this precious curse,
Is not a gentle guest,
But eats away her fractured heart
And tears her tender breast.

Beneath a canopy of leaves
Her lover sits a-writing,
The day grows warm, impending storm,
The water so inviting.
She sees the lake, she feels the heat,
The water so inviting,
She sees her lover’s letters home
But cannot read the writing.

A sudden breeze disturbs a nest,
The sky all darkened flutter,
The writer pauses, pen in hand,
To hear the cries they utter.
The young man lays his papers down,
To cool his burning skin,
The writer is a swimmer now,
The vision growing thin.
A wayward bird, blown from the West,
Hops boldly to the water,
And hoarsely cries his warning wise
‘Beware the gypsy’s daughter!’
And at the water’s edge, the swimmer
Gazes skyward, frowning.
‘Beware’ the darkling Raven calls,
‘The girl who dreamed the drowning.’

Dead Woman’s Knitting

The neighbour said

In a brief moment of empathy:

‘The shoes are the worst.

They lit a bonfire when my mother died

They threw her slippers on the pyre

And I cried.’

Two weeks later

Stir-crazy amid non-stop rain

I stand, unravelling a dead woman’s knitting

Waste not, want not

Salvaging every scrap to make it my own

My mother’s toil

Rescued from the fire

Re-wound, recreated, renewed,

Added to my palette of colours

A woollen nest of memories

For the needles’ rebirthing.

A Change in the Weather

A trio of swans

Criss-cross the canal,

Their beating wings

Dopplering their way across the moor

Heralding a change in the weather.

I need to be in the open air

To bend like the withies

With this season’s passing.

Nothing stays the same,

And this long while is at an end.

I turn, and fix my gaze on the bend in the road

And I know it is time to go.

Ninety-two Christmas Trees

I want to live long enough to forget your name.

To smile, simply, to say ‘I know you, don’t I?’

To hold your hand without quite knowing why,

To take a gentle walk down a distant memory lane,

And be home by lunchtime.

How I want the short straw of growing old;

Ninety-two Christmas trees and cards on Mothers Day.

I want you, all grey and wrinkles, crows-feet and arthritis

In the chair next to mine.

I want to fade, gently, you alongside,

With lilies, iris and lanterns

To light my way.

Some kind of requiem

The first day of winter; the leaving of the year

And now, more than ever, I feel my mortality;

Life’s fragility.

My body aches, and my heart misses

The reassuring presence of you.

I am a half-person

And this, my half-life.

The day sets, edgy, with the promise of storms

Yet here, surrounded with white roses,

I acknowledge my loneliness

Fend off the night-time thoughts

The fear of you not-wanting.

I long to tell you the depth of my love,

But hesitate, hold back

For fear of chasing you away.

And I am so, so grateful for the tenuous chance

That brought us together;

For the giant of a man you have become

And for the knowledge that you hold me

In your heart.

So this is some kind of requiem

Memento Mori

For the girl so sad for so long.

Lasciatemi morire

I shed these tears now

Not for grief, nor loneliness,

But for gratitude, and wonder

At this late-found love.

Links in the Circle

This article first appeared in 2005 in ‘Among Friends’, the newsletter of Long Sutton Meeting; and was subsequently published in Speak Up Somerset issue 29, September 2005, as ‘Links in the Circle’.

A Quaker’s experience of depressive illness.

Speaking at Meeting is a very brave thing to do; especially for a shy person like myself. So I have stayed safely and securely seated and not dared to speak, even though at times I have replayed in my mind those things my heart has wanted to speak out loud.

I had known about the Society of Friends for a long time, but not necessarily by that name. Nine years ago I sought out the Quakers and Long Sutton Meeting. Since then, life for myself and my family has seen many changes. All but one of our parents and elder relatives has passed on. Steve and I have watched our two eldest sons grow into talented yet challenging young men who will, eventually, eat us out of house and home; and son number three was born and blesses us all with his happy spirit, boundless energy and ability to wake me up at six o’clock every morning. I have been reunited with my biological father, and as a consequence found a lovely sister and brother I had never met. An extended family. I have made a study of my family history and am finding my genealogical roots. My life is full of clutter, noise, crowded rooms and boys’ socks. At the root of all this I struggle to find the stillness and silence; to hold on to my basic beliefs and to live my life accordingly. Hopefully being a good example to my children and treating others with the respect and acceptance I would wish to be treated with myself.

Mental illness. Nervous breakdown. Depression. Whatever name you give it, it’s a tricky thing to deal with. There are no bandages, no bumps or bruises that you can show people and say ‘look, this is what’s happened to me.’ I have found that people tend to react in one of two ways. Some will treat it as an embarrassment; a thing to be ashamed of and not to be spoken about, other than to imply that I should ‘pull myself together’ or ‘snap out of it’. It can be the people you expect to understand who sometimes put up the biggest barriers. Conversely, some people I would expect not to understand have been amazingly kind and supportive. These are usually the ones who have been through a similar experience.

In both my professional life and my home life I have encountered both reactions. I still decide carefully before telling anyone that I take medication, visit the Mental Health Service or see the psychiatrist.

I am deeply grateful that Meeting is one of my few ‘safe’ places. Having said that, I also find it a frightening place; a challenging place. Escape to Meeting is a luxury which has been difficult to afford; not purely from a family point of view, but also because it takes emotional strength. For most of the past nine years this is the thing I have lacked the most. At Meeting my heart, my soul, my spirit, whatever you want to call it, is very near the surface. It is fragile and exposed, and easily damaged or frightened away, deep down inside again.

In this morning’s Meeting a Friend talked about circles of love, understanding, support, accountability and forgiveness. In my own life this has been reflected in my childhood experiences, my ability, or inability, to forgive and the understanding and support of my amazing husband Steve. This links to another circle which is made of our behaviour towards each other and towards our children, who in turn make their own circles. For most of the time I am living surrounded by a dark fog. Sometimes the fog clears and I am able to see where I am and where I am going. The rest of the time I am smothered inside its murky greyness. I take high doses of anti-depressants. I have a lot of migraines. I have little self-confidence; no self-esteem. I weep easily, and often. I am insecure. I am a damaged child. I worry about the links I am forging in the circles. Today my mood has careered from euphoric to intolerant to tearful and back again. It is day four of cutting down on my current medication before introducing another one in the hope that it will be more effective in turning me back from a destructive spirit in to a human being. This process is frightening for me, and it is frightening for Steve. Neither of us knows how I will feel from one day to the next. I might function normally, or I might fall to pieces again. I do not know what effect this will have on my sons. They do not like to talk about it. One of them has little self-confidence; little self-esteem. He weeps easily, and often. He is insecure. He is only a child. He is just like me. Another link in the circle.