Archive for the ‘From my life’ Category

We give some advice on mental illness…

March 29, 2017

I was asked whether my own experience provided any guidance for a friend whose daughter, a student, had returned home from university apparently suffering from depression:

I did indeed suffer from severe depression (accompanied by anxiety) 30 or so years ago when you used to kindly come and visit me in the hospital in [a place] whose name I’ve forgotten. Since then, I’ve suffered from it  more mildly on a few occasions.  (I think I the most serious episode was when I had five days off work while waiting for the pills to take effect.)

I personally find that antidepressants have always worked for me.   Apart from that, a lot of the process of getting through mental illness (indeed illness generally) is finding someone who you can talk to, who will listen to you and take you seriously.  I had a very nice lady doctor in [a place] who managed to sell me me on various things by saying that especially if you were clever you could convince yourself that depression was all kind of terrible things but it was just depression.

It’s important to reach the stage of understanding that this is it, which means that it’s not going to go away but also it’s not going to turn into something fantastically worse.  I think it’s useful to have contact with people in the same kind of situation as yourself, but I believe (this may be a London thing) that nowadays inpatient mental health facilities are often occupied largely by dual diagnosis cases (drug use and mental illness) and so aren’t particularly pleasant.  Actually, that’s not only London but also NHS, so probably beside the point. In my day, a lot of the clientele were nice young women suffering from bipolar disorder and as long as they were taking their lithium they were perfectly charming.

I have no real experience of either talking therapies or ECT, so can’t say much about therapeutic possibilities outside pills. It’s certainly the case that whatever the  underlying mechanism is, severe episodes are initiated by stress of some kind, so it’s worthwhile avoiding that.  I think that something like a rest cure in a simplified, predictable environment ought to do some good–it did some good in the days when there were no effective specific treatments.  One should avoid alcohol and other recreational chemicals–at best they impede the process of things getting better naturally.

I hope this answers your questions, as far as my experience is relevant.  What strikes me from re-reading your letter is that you say [your daughter] had been self-harming for years as of a year ago.  That suggests something starting in adolescence, which is a different mechanism from the one I am well acquainted with of having a severe initial episode as a young adult and less severe recurrences through adult life.


I return to work after three weeks away

July 11, 2016


0527  Wake up.  Where am I?  In Warsaw? I can recognise the picture and the bookcase, but the room is green and my bed is surely in the wrong place. Do I have a lecture to go to?  Stay awake and worry.

0904 –Where is that smell of stale sweat coming from?–The man sitting next to me is reading The Sun.

0927  Jon catches up with me as I cross the road and asks what I am working on.  I have no idea, I mutter something about operational projects and evaluation.

0950  My desktop icons have disappeared.  I ring up.  They reappear.

1015  I ring up.  They find some very old email folders.

1110  Not much in the inbox.  A demand for a quarterly report and a slide for a meeting on Wednesday I declined some time ago.

1120  OK there’s some crap about Performance Management and the slide to do this afternoon.  I may be OK.

1127  Carly says that cherry liqueur chocolates are her favourite.

1200  I can go to lunch.  Maybe I will feel better after.

1245  Lunch was nice.  Let’s go out for a bit and see how much a new computer costs.  Sofia’s meeting will take up part of the afternoon and I can do some of the other crap in draft and fix it tomorrow.

1417  So I miss the Programme Managers’ meeting because I am doing a Programme Slide.

1525  Maybe I can just put the requirements in the PM thing and fill it in later when I have some time.  I can go home in a couple of hours.

1603  When can I go home?

1630  I must last out to going-home time. That’s what matters.  Concentrate on that.

1713  Prepare to start packing up to go home.

1723  Go home.

‘On my hip I find there is no mole…’ (Larisa Dobrozorova)

January 11, 2015

On my hip I find there is no mole.
Everything is in its place when I wake
but that mustard-coloured flake…
Now, without distinguishing marks, I am whole.

Where is it? Did it flee? Was it kissed away?
Was it charmed away? Displaying your fidelity
at least to it, I suppose it’s likely that you may
not acknowledge in the public morgue a living me.


Просыпаюсь – а родинки нет
на бедре. Все на месте, а эта –
как снежинка, горчичного цвета…
Я теперь – без особых примет.

Где? Сбежала сама? Сцеловали?
Сколдовали? – Ей верность храня,
ты теперь опознаешь едва ли
в общем морге живую меня.

Protected: Letter to Irina

December 27, 2014

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