Living Around the Blues

When the people around you suffer.

Depression: A Perspective

As the Outsider, what value has my Perspective?

I have accumulated - as bystander of more than three decades now - a semblance of understanding of Depression. As the outsider at any rate: the perspective, outside not in, isn't enough to warrant anything like the same point of view. I absolutely know that inside it is much colder and darker and more isolating than it is on the outside. But as witness I have amassed some sense of the condition. Some slippery comprehension.  Some compassion.  Some, sometimes, courage.

And the experience - especially when compounded with my own, as a mother,  who trips carefully along a similar path to the one my mom has taken though I aspire - with obvious and exaggerated caution - to sidestep the milestone that floored her - has prompted words and thoughts and an opinion. That perspective again: but remember, it's mine, as an outsider. I do not, never will, assume to know what it feels like on the inside. And I hope to God I never know for sure.

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And so I collated those thoughts, experiences, opinions as a book and approached several publishers.

Some - on receipt of my manuscript - were very kind; There is a wonderful openness and honesty to the writing. Some less so: Many thanks for sending this memoir to us. I enjoyed reading it and admired its honesty and the memorable voice. I agree that the memoir of living with somebody with depression would be a very important book to publish, and the feminist or female aspect of this book is particularly attractive. I am sorry but I did not fall in love with it. I felt that the structure was a bit too schematic with good times and depressive times alternating each other and, for me, the contrast between the two was too great and somehow didn't ring true to me.

But that's just it: living with - loving - somebody who has battled Depression renders life one big fat contrast: light and shadow, black and white, happy and sad. The fact of Depression is this: it changes a person so fundamentally that their life - and the lives of those around them - morph as distinctly different dependent on whether the beast is in residence or not.

Last January was bleak and mom was unwell and unable to get out of bed and engage or think or smile or plan lunch. This January and she is back: delivered intact from the jaws of the Black Dog and she is well and up at 5am to Skype with smiles (I can hear them as I could tears this time last year). She is making plans. She is going out to lunch.

Reading is subjective (all writers are told that every time they are floored with another rejection); not everybody is going to like everything you pen.

But not all publishers know what they are talking about: the good times and the depressive do alternate sharply and it is in that acute contrast - bitter cold, enveloping warmth; smudgy shadows, bright sunshine - that the disparity is most, most striking.  When Depression descends it obliterates the light like a wet finger to a candle. When it dissipates, the dazzle is startling. Blinding. Brilliant.

Trust me on that.

Anthea Rowan is a British journalist based in Tanzania.

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