Me and My Shadow…

Unfairly once labelled the Poster Child for Depression..

I’d been debating for a while whether or not to write this particular blog, because there are some issues on which people can have very strong opinions one way or the other. Depression is one of those things. But I’m not here to offer statistics or scientific research and dazzle you with medical journal entries or pop-psychology pontificating. I just felt like writing a small piece about my own experience; purely personal, purely my own opinion, and you can make of it what you will.

I’ve battled with some form of depression or another for about 16 years now, but I didn’t actively seek help until I was around 23 after a particularly bad episode which resulted in me indulging in a fit of cutting my arms in a frenzy just to relieve the build-up of rage and frustration I felt at the situation. It had been a simple argument with someone, and other people looking at it would have maybe taken a walk, or simply just said “F**k off and stop bothering me” and made themselves a nice cuppa. My choosing a serrated-edge kitchen knife out of the drawer was a good indication that maybe my coping skills weren’t top-notch at that time in my life.

I wasn’t suicidal by any means, and anyone who is reading this and has been in the same situation knows that there (generally) is a huge difference between self-harm and genuinely wanting to end it all. Sometimes those who are suicidal will have been self-harming, but the reverse is not the case. Not all who self-harm want to kill themselves. Sometimes lines get blurred and tragedies happen, and I understand that. In my case I’m a stubborn gowlbag who has way too much to do and I know too many people who would willingly raise me back up for the sole purpose of kicking my supernatural ass if I ever did the unthinkable.

For me, the cutting was simply a physical and visual manifestation of the shit I was going through emotionally. I could look at my slashed-up arm and think “Finally I look like how I feel.” But I never wore the scars as badges of honour. There are people out there that do, and they bug the shit out of me. They’re in the same category as those halfwit kids who wear excerpts from Kurt Cobain’s suicide note printed on t-shirts. Yup, you’re right dude, nothing says more about your intellectual status like wearing the line “I hate myself and I want to die”. Idiots. But I digress.

Anyway, that type of incident for me was the last of its kind after someone very close to me verbally and emotionally shook the shit out of me. In what I like to call a ‘Limerick Intervention’, she force-fed me a large dose of Cop-On and threatened to cut me out of her life completely if I ever did it again. In an ironic twist thereafter, I feared for my personal safety if I ever even thought of doing such a thing again. It worked though, and I haven’t done it in 8 years. They should adopt this type of treatment in Hollywood. The results would be well worth a look.

Apart from that, depression itself is a very misunderstood and misused form of mental illness. It’s often used and bandied about as a cop-out in a lot of cases, or to excuse errant behaviour or justify laziness. It’s used by some people who are simply indulgent of a low mood swing, or by those who think it adds to their own inner or outer sense of mystique. I suppose they think sure if it’s good enough for Sylvia Plath then why not? Well, because she ended her own life face-down in an oven to end her misery, and you’re just listening to Morrissey and stirring up your own negative emotions to feel something other than bored.

For me, the whole idea of what depression is seems to be a mixed bag. Its root causes seem different for everyone. Brain chemistry is a factor, as are traumatic events, hereditary factors as well from what I understand. But like I said, I’m not a professional; I only know my own experience. I think mine was a combination of my brain chemistry, life events and the fact that my coping skills were not as well-developed as they needed to be. Funny thing is, I could always cope with the big things. Bereavement? Huge crisis? Break up? House burning down? Not a bother, let’s get down to the wire and sort these bad boys out. But fill out a stupid form or have a day where I have to do 2 or more different things in different places?? Somebody find me a burning house to deal with please..

Over the years, I’ve been on anti-depressants and also off them, done therapy and also gone it alone, hidden out in my house for months on end and also taken off every night and been anywhere BUT home. For me, the key is keeping my mind active. This blog certainly helps, even if right now you’re cursing the day I ever found the ability to type. Keeping in contact with friends is paramount. You can’t expect to sit around in your big depressed state sending out magic mind bullets in the hope that your entire Facebook friends list will come a-callin’ armed with HobNobs and Barry’s Tea. Send a text to someone close to you, tell them you feel rather shite and THEN demand they show up at your door with the HobNobs and Barry’s Tea.

I didn’t write this as a ‘Godhelpus’ kind of article, or to put myself forward as a spokesperson / martyr / pontificating do-gooder in the field of mental illness; I guess I just wanted to show that some of us live with a Shadow, but it’s not always the stereotypical image of a depressed person (hence the Eeyore pic). There’s a lot of us out there who laugh, dance, sing, go out, make lots of friends and have the time of our lives, but sometimes the world gets a little too much to deal with…

Giving my age away…

This evening, I was having a conversation with a friend of mine about music and gigs, and in the course of the chat, I used the following phrase ‘He still does a bit of The Rap..’ It was out of my mouth before I could even tinge it with a bit of humorous irony. I said it, and apparently, I meant it. I used the word ‘The’ before a genre of music. Like an old person would. And it scared the shit out of me. It also scared the shit out of my poor friend who had the misfortune to hear me speaking like an 86 year old from the village of Ballygobackwards whose idea of modern music was having their own Compact Disc of Daniel O’ Donnell that their eldest got them for Christmas.

I couldn’t believe it. My own brain had betrayed me. To me, it was the intellectual equivalent of wetting myself in public. This phrase, ‘the Rap’, coming from a person who used to write ‘2Pac Lives!’ in my journal, a person whose friends were too afraid to tell that he had been mown down in a hail of bullets for fear I may become paralysed with grief and refuse to sit my Leaving Cert in protest. A person who knew all the words to ‘California Love’ and most of Snoop’s ‘Doggy Style’ album (and still does…word.). And in one fell swoop I had become an ‘auld wan’. Kill me now.

Over the years in the arrogance of youth I had taken the piss out of people who put the definite article in front of certain types of music… “So is your grandson still listening to The Heavy Metal then?? Sure you know if you play it backwards you can actually make out the words ‘kill your parents while they sleep’…I read it in Ireland’s Eye.”And so now here I stand, also guilty of this abominable crime. Karma, you’re some gowl…

To erase this disgusting and shameful spectacle from my memory, I must now go and dig out my 90’s rap and hip-hop back catalogue in order to re-group. I will also sit and watch Menace II Society, Friday, Juice and New Jack City while drinking buckets of Kool-Aid and hollerin’ at my homies from my front porch.

Catch y’all on the flip side home skittles….

Life as a Home-Groaner..

To be fair, at least I ACTUALLY left home first.

This is a brief look into the life of an adult child who, for one reason or another, has decided (and been allowed) to return to the homestead from which they came. There’s a lot of us out there, in our twenties and thirties who, due to money reasons (or in my case, that plus a complete U-Turn in career choice), have ended up living back at home with our parents.

Don’t let their eye-rolling fool you…they secretly LOVE it. Why pass up another opportunity to lay down some Home Rule? A second chance to say those immortal words ‘Not while you’re living under MY house, young lady..’ Every day that passes is another day to ask ‘are you going to wear a jacket with that?’ with a sly knowing smirk as they watch that little vein in your temple throb to a crescendo as you scream “I’m a grown-up!!”. The fact that you’re having a tantrum about being said grown-up only serves to bring their point home. Oh they’re skilled creatures these parents..

Living at home as a grown-up puts you in a strange position. You’re eternally grateful for the down-time while you figure out your next move in the big bad world, but you’re also aware that you have stepped into a sort of time warp. Or a loophole in the universe. For in the years between when you first left home and forged your way into the land of the grown-ups and the time you return battered and bruised and needing a time-out, somehow you survived all by yourself.. Your clothes were cleaned on a semi-regular basis, you got yourself up, dressed and out the door to work or college all by yourself more or less on time, if you drove you hardly ever mowed anyone down on the road or went through a windshield due to non-wearing of seatbelt…and most of all, you didn’t starve. Either you developed cookery skills or managed to have all the local takeaways on speed dial. Either way, you did okay. And then you moved back home.

By moving back home you are unaware that you signed a contract with Father Time. This contract wiped clean any of those skills you developed outside of the home – in the eyes of your parents. So now you are nothing more than a big old twenty or thirty-something menace in their kitchen who is going to burn the house down if left unchecked. I could write an entire blog on the choreography my mother and I engage in while we both attempt to cook dinner. How I was ever left alone near electrical appliances without my mammy coaching me while I lived in Cork for 6 years I’ll never know.

“It’s starting to boil now.”

“Yup, I know. I can see bubbles..God bless Junior Cert science.”

“No need to be smart..”

“Yes there is, I’m making ‘BOIL in the Bag’ rice. It’s in the name!! If it was ‘Lukewarm in the Bag’ rice I may need you to intervene cos obviously the power’s gone straight to my head”

“I’m only trying to help..*sniff*..”

Ah, that sniff…it’s the universal symbol for mothers the world over. It can mean many things. In this case, it meant “I had nothing else to say on what you were doing but I walked all the way out here and I hate wasted journeys. I’m going to act hurt now because my attempt at mothering you ended in disaster.”

My favourite has to be the wake-up call. Not the symbolic ‘moment of clarity’ one, the actual rising from one’s slumber.

*knock knock*

“I just wanted to tell you that it’s ten to two.”

(groggily looks at her alarm clock, then her phone on the bed) “Yup, I know, thanks.”

“Okay so, I wasn’t sure if you did.”

Now I should point out it’s a Sunday. And I’m 31. But here’s where the mother’s skill comes in. Rather than burst in with a lecture about how I’m wasting the day and I’m sleeping a lot lately blah blah, she comes back 20 minutes later with this.

*knock knock*

“Do you want a cup of tea?”

“Okay, okay, I get it, I’m getting up…”

“No, it doesn’t matter, sure I’m heading away in a few minutes anyway.”


It was pretty sweet to be lured out of bed with a cup of tea, I’ll admit. But why if she was going away did she want me up?? I’d happily have slept all day! And that never happens. Because as much as I love my mammy, she’s a bit of an insomniac who wakes at all hours..and not quietly. I call her the walking drum kit. Well worth the slap I get for it!

So I get up, and there’s my lovely tea..

“Did you put sugar in for me as well? You didn’t have to do that..”

“Course I did, my little sugar plum..”(I added that bit :P)

“How many did you put in?”

“2 teaspoons”

“Oh, sorry I only take one and a half” (have done for a few years)

“But this is the way you always liked it!” (see what I mean about the loophole in time??)

For all the adjustments made on both sides when a grown-up child comes back home to the nest they once flew out of, you can’t beat putting the key in the door of a place you can always feel like yourself in, with someone there who knows instinctively when to make you a cup of tea just by looking at your face as you walk in the door. You drink it gratefully, and even though there’s too much sugar in it, it still tastes rapid cos it’s made with love. And I am eternally grateful to be allowed back home while I finish the mammoth task of forging a career for myself, and we’re both glad of the company because to be honest we’re so flippin’ odd I don’t think anyone else would understand.

*braces herself for a clip around the head*

It’s good to be home.

Off The Rails 2: Enjoy your trip…

How to make sure you get a booth to yourself on a train

Pretend you’re having a text chat with someone, and every time you look at your phone, laugh out loud like a crazy person watching a Carry On film. Stay as serious as a funeral parlour the rest of the time.

Make up a mock cover for a book and call it ‘Hijacking for Dummies’, place it over whatever book you’re actually reading and make sure you read it with the cover visible to all. Every now and again put the book down and make little sketches in a notebook.

Wear headphones. Without them being connected to anything. Leave the open end on the table for people to see. Bop along to ‘the music’. Every now and again shout out ‘I LOVE this song!!’ To bring it on home take out one of your earpieces and ask the person across the way if they’d like a listen.

Use the following script and apply it to an imaginary phone call:

“Hello? Hiya! Yeah, I’ve just come out of the surgery now. Fairly contagious all right (cough loudly). More airborne than anything (cough louder). Yeah, the weeping and scaly skin should go in about a day (scratch arms and head furiously). Well I wouldn’t mind but I don’t want those antibiotics to affect my other meds….you know, the ones the judge put me on after the ‘nightclub’ thing. Exactly. Sure isn’t that always the way?? (laugh maniacally) So I decided to just take the antibiotic today. (pause) Ah, not too bad so far, but you know how I get in confined spaces!! (twitch head) Thanks for ringing! Talk to you later, Father O’ Reilly.”

Let it not be said that my blog doesn’t offer solutions for easy living…

Off The Rails: Notes from a train journey

Before I begin…here’s a short letter;

Dear fellow train-goers:

Headphones are the universal ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign. Please observe accordingly. Or I’ll punch you in the eye.



Old people ALWAYS bring sandwiches on trains no matter what time they go on trains…it could be the 5.35am service to Limerick Junction and they’ll have a stack of Brennan’s finest White filled with some sort of compressed meat product ready to be devoured.

They will also ask the first person they see on the carriage if this train is going to their chosen destination. Because, as we all know, every passenger is telepathically linked both to the national rail service and each individual who uses it.

I’d happily spend the day on a train. It’s the only mode of travel where you feel you can even slightly interact with your surroundings. You see the countryside, cities and towns in all their glory, you can pass through unnoticed but still be a voyeur and watch life go on outside a window. You have the freedom to get up and walk about a bit, and even better, you can buy a sandwich and pretend you’re an old person!

One of the best advantages for me is the fact that I never get travel sick on trains. It’s not a nice feeling when the Pukey Monster comes to visit.

There’s a small sub-section of the population who will empathise with me here. A lot of you won’t. And I hate you for it. You will never know the panic of being trapped in a confined space made of tons of metal that’s being driven / flown by unnamed assailants, who care not a jot for you. The rising panic when you realise that the sickly feeling is starting and they’ve only just shut the doors. The scramble for anything that will bring any kind of brief respite – some cold water, maybe some chewing gum,  a hard blow to the back of the head – but you forgot to buy the first two; and no matter how much you beg the nice old lady next to you, she refuses to put you in a sleeper hold. Selfish cow.

But I digress. On with my ‘train’ of thought – see what I did there?(I’ll see myself out, thanks.)There’s a drunk guy sitting across from me and he’s got that thing where he dresses really young but his face doesn’t match?? You know what I mean…like a bad artists’ impression for a court case. This guy is a peach among the many mad eejits that I have come to attract in seating arrangements over the years. His question to me? “Can you sort phones?” But in a really strong Scottish accent so more like “Can yee saaarrrt fonez???” He sounded (and looked) like an extra out of Taggart. So of course, I decided ‘what the hell’ and told him to hand it over. He wanted to change the wallpaper on his Nokia. Hilarious. I asked him what picture he wanted. He replied “The one of Paul Gascoigne when he played for Rangers.” Of course it was. Silly of me to ask. He said all this while sipping regularly from a boozy-smelling Irn-Bru bottle. I’m not making this up. So I got to look through a drunken Scotsman’s phone. Who DOESN’T have that on their Bucket List in all fairness?

Unfortunately all I saw were two very blurry pictures of what I hope were of his HAND or an accidental click of a button. I gave it back having been unsuccessful in my attempt at his handset enquiry. Then he passed it on to his friends. Couldn’t have done that earlier?? And got it sorted. It was in ‘received files’, apparently. So glad he told me. I wouldn’t have slept well that night at all otherwise.

I honestly wonder if I have the aura of a psychiatric nurse about my person? Is that why The Crazies are drawn to me? Maybe I’m channelling the wrong nurse. Less Kate Beckinsale in Pearl Harbour and more Louise Fletcher in Cuckoo’s nest. I’ll know better next time.