Monday, 28 November 2011


This weekend Stan Collymore took the brave step of tweeting about his experience of depression which struck a cord with many people, not least with me.  He writes eloquently and honestly and I found it a painful thing to read, chiming as it does with my own ongoing health.

Speaking up about mental health is frightening for anyone, especially as you anticipate there might be a negative reaction from some people, but I can’t imagine how it must feel if you've got well-documented incidence of adultery and domestic violence attached to your name.  

Not being a football fan, I have to admit these incidences passed me by, or at least I don’t remember the press coverage from 1998 and 2004, so when I tweeted earlier today “I might love Stan Collymore” I was taken aback to discover these things in his past and the subsequent implication that because of these things I ought to think differently about what Stan is doing. It made me pause. Can I really respect a man who cheated on his wife and beat up his girlfriend? Well yes, I can.  I’m not condoning what he did, of course I’m not, but do I have faith in the idea that people can change, regret and repent for their actions? Of course I do. What kind of a world would we be in if our entire personality and moral code was based on the very worst examples of them?  I doubt any of us would come up smelling of roses.  Just because you’ve done bad things in your past doesn’t mean you should not be valued and supported for the good things you do in the future.

To publically discuss your depression on  TalkSport radio and write about it when right in the middle of a bout is hugely commendable and an important step forward in the public comprehension of such a prolific and misunderstood illness.  

The overwhelming majority of people I see tweeting about what Stan wrote are people who either have suffered depression themselves or know someone who has, and this gives me real hope that with time, and the bravery of fellow sufferers famous or otherwise, we will someday reach a point where mental health is no longer stigmatised and we who suffer are given the compassion  we warrant and deserve. 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Man and The Mouse

He laughed at the brazen mouse, poking his head above the parapet of the platform.  The other people stood waiting for the High Barnet-bound train turned their judgemental eyes towards him and looked not at all at the mouse.

The mouse sniffed, looked about him and disappeared. The Edgware train roared into the platform and paused, for breath.  He hoped the mouse was not caught beneath its wheels.

The mouse shook.  The ache and grind of the the monster's wheels never ceased to scare him.  He was a sham of an underground mouse. Hardy, fearless, thumbing his nose at the Big People - the mouse had never been that mouse.  He revelled in the "art of the tube" posters, he gorged on the 1930s prints of London attractions gone by. If he'd have known what it meant, he would have described himself as an Arts mouse, an aesthetic mouse, a mouse destined to appreciate greater things.

The man on the platform shuddered slightly as he watched the mouse scuttle across the tracks, fearless and brazen;  the people on the platform entirely disregarded by the mouse.  Suddenly the mouse poked his small, inquisitive nose above the platform edge.  The man jumped back and involuntarily emitted a scared squeak of his own.   Ashamed, he glanced about him.  His fellow platform dwellers feigned disinterest. What, he wondered, is worse? Disparagement or studied indifference?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Sing, even when you're not winning

My earliest memories are of my mum singing. She sang doing the washing up, she sang doing the hoovering, she sang all the time and it’s something that’s rubbed off on me. Unfortunately I don’t have anything like the voice she had – she had the chance of a recording contract in her late teens but never followed it up; marriage, kids, life got in the way – but the love of it has always been with me.

I stopped singing when I auditioned for my sixth form production of Sweet Charity. I’d never sung on my own in front of anyone except my family and I was beyond nervous. Consequently the noise that came out of my voice was more akin to an elephant passing wind through a badly tuned bagpipe than Shirley Maclaine and I ran from the room, mortified and crippled with embarrassment, vowing never to sing in front of anyone ever again.

Fast forward a decade and the confidence that comes from a few too many teamed with a karaoke night in the local led to me occasionally getting up and belting out a bit of Patsy Cline to the late night stragglers propping up the bar. One of said stragglers was my then partner who, for whatever reason, found my getting up and singing in front of a bunch of drunks incredibly shameful and he’d often storm out in a mood.

Then in 2009 that relationship ended and my love affair with singing was re-kindled. I ventured along to a rehearsal of a new local choir. You didn’t have to audition, or be able to read music, or even think you could sing, perfect for an unconfident, shy and emotionally bruised woman such as I. The joy I felt on hearing and actually being part of a group of people singing together in harmony is one I’d never experienced before – falling in love, sex, getting my degree, becoming an aunty, nothing came close to the all-encompassing feeling of pure uplifting happiness I felt. I left that rehearsal feeling like I’d come home.

As someone with a long-term history of depression I can honestly say singing is good for your soul. No matter how bad I am feeling (and if you’ve read any of my other posts you’ll know that how I’ve been feeling over the past eight months or so is pretty fucking dreadful) two hours in the comforting, motherly arms of my choir on a Tuesday night is a balm to my aching, frayed mind.

When I sing now I still get the same sense of joy I felt at that first rehearsal even when I am feeling isolated, melancholy and crippled with fear. I’d love to syphon off that feeling, decant it into those old-fashioned blue-glass bottles and give one to everyone I know.