Having bathed himself in glory over his dismissal of the existence of depression, journalist, John Waters, returned to the pages of the Irish Independent last week. Defending his freedom of expression, he expounded his theory on the existence of two clear-cut Irelands: a media-elite driven Dublin, where having personal insults thrown at him on the street is commonplace; and the “real Ireland, where people have lots of different views and engage with each other all the time and see that as being OK”. That’s right, John. And The Quiet Man was a searing Pulitzer-winning documentary that drilled uncomfortably down into our national psyche.
A similarly crude and potentially wonky view could be formed on depression and the rest of our mental health; or Ireland, as I prefer to call all mental illness. Waters’s comments detonated an avalanche of personal accounts documenting the crippling effects of depression. Few (apart from John, and possibly people outside Dublin) could argue with the bravery and honesty of these men and women in contributing to raising awareness of a condition, which by its paralysing nature, is often impossible to articulate. They had my admiration at their opening lines for the ability to reconcile syntax with severed nerves and to talk openly about open wounds on their mind. I’d give it a go, but would end up referring you to the Blue Nile’s ‘Hats’ and a selection of cakes, preferably under fridge-light.
Meanwhile, in the rest of Ireland, there are people who have lots of different views and engage with each other all the time but are not OK with it at all. So many grown-ups fearing discovery of their winging-it status; the anxiety-ridden worker dreading another day in the office; the comfort-eating mother who has lost all confidence in herself; the lonely man who can’t stop himself muttering monosyllabic responses in the company of women; the women who wanted children, who would’ve made great mothers but didn’t get to be one; the single people constantly excusing their singlehood under the casual interrogation of company without boundaries; the ‘foreign national’ trying to fit in, the crazies, the drop-down pissed, the paranoid, golfers, oddballs, the managerial types, the misfits, the Mumford and Sons fans, those struggling to make ends meet, the lulas, the cheese-haters, the head-the-balls, the bonkers, the traumatised, the beige-wearers, the off-their-rockers, yer wans, yer man, and that one (eye-rolls). Beaten hearts and fractured souls, the reeling, the OCDs, the fuck-right-offs, the dreamless, the hopeless, the who-do-they-think-they-ares, the don’t-go-nears and the never-go-outs. And that’s just my own family. All the functioning folk hovering above emotional collapse who don’t belong under the cover of depression, of a diagnosis, of a word that helpfully nails it. Or who have to endure all the words and amateur diagnostics they could do without.
It’s doubtful there will be a National Hiding in the Toilet in Bewley’s From the World Day (true story) in my lifetime; respectability won’t extend to those chatting to themselves in the frozen food aisle in Tesco. There will never be a certain cachet attached to gymnastic mood-swings or to those so nice to people they’re in danger of giving themselves a groin injury from laughing at nothing. Saintly protection of the feelings of others won’t replace necessary banter and humour. Thank fuck. How weird would that be? We’re all too busy contending with life wherever we be on the spectrum. But maybe, along with rightfully acknowledging the gravity of depression, we might stretch to giving all of
them us a break now and again. With incentives, obviously. Bun, anyone?