Friday, 25 June 2010

Public service announcement: another rare personal post.

ETA Saturday morning: I've edited out some of the melodrama but decided to keep this on the net, because it doesn't do to be ashamed of one's mental health. This is not cross-posted at New Statesman, for the obvious reason that it's much more personal than anything I normally put out here. I hope you'll take it in the spirit in which it is meant.


Six weeks ago, three things happened in short succession: I broke up with my beloved partner of three years, my entire friendship group left London at once, and, relatedly, I became homeless. Slap in the middle of that upheaval, I have somehow acquired a blog at New Statesman; I've been living out of a suitcase whilst commuting to my other job at Morning Star, and I've been trying to finish my small book, the deadlines for which and several other projects are oh, just whooshing into view. Unfortunately, all I really want to do at this precise moment in time is find secure accommodation, curl up in a bed of my own and eat ice cream in the dark until I feel better. It's hardly bloody Basra. In the grand scheme of things, I'm still rather a lucky person, really. But it's getting harder to stay in touch with why I write and campaign in the first place. It's getting harder to stay angry. And that frightens me.

Writing, which at the moment I have to do at the rate of about 3,000 words per day, currently feels like dragging a large, wet rope out of my forehead, inch by torturous inch. My mental health has taken a turn for the worse. I'm struggling to care. I'm struggling to stay angry. That terrifies me more than anything.

There aren't many things that scare me. The centre-right have taken back my country and imposed dazzlingly punitive cuts to welfare and public services. Across the pond, the American right are winning the fight for ideological control of the world's only superpower. The planet is boiling; the rivers are drying up; the human race may very well be about to tear itself apart. None of that scares me one bit. Give me energy, a cause and a place to stand and I'll shout out against oppression until I'm old and broken and they cart me away. Put me in a room with my own depression and suddenly I'm small and scared enough that I'd rather accept despair than fight bigoty and injustice. That is scary. Compared to depression, Torygeddon and impending global climapocalypse are not at all frightening.

That's what clinical depression does, you see. It takes away your anger, piece by piece, along with every other drive and interest and emotion that ever mattered to you. It wraps you in a dry, stifling blanket of heavy despair and leaves you to shuffle about your daily business, swaddled against the joys of life, the frustrations, the pain. When terrible things happen - like a coalition government closing down your country piece by piece, slamming the door on the young, the poor, the sick, immigrants, women - you cease to really believe that anything can be done. You clam up, clamp down, try to conserve your energy for the monumental task of peeling yourself out of bed, washing your face, rolling a fag, things that were effortless yesterday but now feel like a bucket of iced panic is draining into your stomach when you contemplate them.

Fortunately, I've beaten this before, when the stakes were much higher, when I was younger and madder and battling an eating disorder too. I'm older and meaner now, and I know what to do. I might not be okay for a little while yet, but I'll be okay eventually. For now, I have to keep on battling these currents with all my tiny might.

So here's what you can do to help me. If you have time and energy in your own life, because clearly getting through the day is hard enough without some whiny feminist brat on the internet asking for your input, here's what you can do: send me your ideas. Send me your anger and truth, for the little space in time when I can't access my own.

Send me your rage, your issues, things that make you mad, things that make you want to run into the street and start a revolution. Send me tips, statistics, moments of hope and inspiration. Send me feminist news, socialist ideas, problematic pop culture, stories of suffering and resistance. If you're holding an event or a protest, tell me about it. Email me even just a few lines, to the usual address - It doesn't matter what's making you angry or whether you think I'll agree or be interested - I want to hear it. I will read anything and everything I receive (I always do!) and respond when I have the spoons. Send me your anger and understand that if the internet is made for anything, it's made for times like this. Because god knows, we're not alone in this big bad hyperspace world, however much it feels like it sometimes


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. I have something - transphobia and its acceptance in society. There have been three instances on twitter this year when I have called out well known people on twitter for using the word "tranny" - which I, and many others, regard as equivalent to the N-word. And these are supposed to be intelligent, with-it kind of people, who think nothing of casually using a slur, usually intended in a humourous way.

    I know racism and homophobia are alive and well, but they're in nothing like the condition of homophobia, which is almost universally ignored or indulged. We all know it's not just about words - our acceptance of derogatory terms for people who do not meet society's expectations for gender identity and expression betrays our ignorance and cruelty.

    I suggest also that if you write on this topic, the main focus should be on transmisogyny - with reference to how feminists have failed trans women. While trans men, genderqueer people and other transgender people do experience discrimination and abuse, it seems to pale compared to the horrors that our society inflicts on trans women.

    1. Like the hangover, where "tranny" was the punch line of the whole movie..
      TRRAAANNNYYYYYYYY,, AAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!! (cars speeds away and jumps over bridge)

  3. Mike From Notts26 June 2010 at 01:42

    Whilst I do disagree with you on many issues, I do hope you recover from this rut, as you do have considerable talent and this country does need people who are willing to shout out loud about issues today and I believe your talent will only improve with age.
    Good Luck

  4. Wonderful post. Wonderful. As someone else who has been living with recurrent depressive disorder for a long time I am so full of admiration for you. You are not alone. I will send you what rage I have. Good luck, Laurie. Thank you.

  5. I get a bit pissed off when the goat doesn't stand still when I'm trying to milk her. I hope that helps you rediscover your inner anger.

    Seriously what annoys me is that the left concentrates on being critical of what is happening in the world without providing any solutions. Lets face it there is not going to be a 'socialist' revolution when people think all you need to do is criticise and protest. There has to be some building involved. The chance of taking over parliament is very slim so what do you do? If 'left-wing' people are really serious about working together to make a better world then I think the commune idea is the way to go. It doesn't have to be a hippy free love thing but one with shared ideals, rules and responsibilities. A group commune can reduce living costs significantly and with shared money can accumulate enough wealth to set up other communes.

    At the moment the left is just screaming, there's no building involved.

  6. I kind of don't want to open mine own particular can of feminist anger at the moment because I'm afraid if I open it too often, I may never get it closed. However, all I really wanted to say was, I know where you are at right now. I've suffered from depression and anxiety (bipolar, ayo) my entire life and I know how it can sap your strength and take away everything you ever cared about. But I just wanted to say, PLEASE keep writing, even when it feels like wet rope, because the things you say - even the stuff you don't think is worthwhile (such as that World Cup post) inspire me SO much. You have such a way with words, you are able to say, with logic and compassion and confidence, things that I am unable to say without screaming my head off and driving everyone out of the room. Almost everything you write, I end up forwarding to friends, saying "THIS is what I meant to say, but said more eloquently then I ever could."

    So I'm sorry I can't help with the ideas front, but I'm hoping that some fanmail will help with the depression front.

  7. I'm working on and I'm so excited about it I can hardly sleep. I sense a Dirac-like near-quantum transform into a superior Gini coefficient.

  8. I haven't been regularly following your writing for long, but I've got a lot of respect for it in general, and for you writing this post in particular. I can relate to some of your difficulties (anorexia during teens, long term sufferer of depression and anxiety). Plus I am an incorrigible idealist, feminist and bleeding heart liberal. Your writing is right up my street, so please keep doing what you do :)

    Saying that, it is no surprise and understandable that after recent events you are struggling. I hope everything works out well for you.

    Are you part of the London Feminist Network at all? I am quite new to it, but they have many, many interesting discussions on feminist issues and are always flagging up events. Its really inspiring reading.

  9. Am not trying to be facetious but can you not request financial assistance from your parents?

  10. The other thing that pisses me off is that the left is always protesting about what I consider to be too many things. I think they should just concentrate on one or two things that capture the 'wishes' of the 'majority'.

    The one thing I consider to be pragmatically changeable is the amount of money spent on Defence. This concept should be at the forefront of the left's protest. The general population don't like the idea of money wasted by government. And then when you tell them such and such million pounds is spent on certain arms they start protesting, "Hey that's my tax.' And they can see it is a waste. But there is no big outcry on this. OK give us cuts but we want Defence to be cut by 80 percent. And list the things that they are using the tax payers money for.

    if you're going to make a blog left movement work you need to unify your voice. It's like confetti at the moment. And you need to be pragmatic.

  11. When it comes to your mental 'problems' my advice is to think there is nothing wrong with you. So what if you have been labelled with something? You know I have. But I've chosen to ignore it and try to find ways to 'have a good time'

    I get quite a kick out of playing soccer (I'm centre forward), getting stoned and going to the pub and speaking to some of my teammates. Many of them are coppers. And you know where I live?

    The way I see it entering new situations and going to new places is entertaining. Have you been saving some of your earnings? If so, why don't you go to India? It's a real fun place and will undoubtably give your writing a different twist and uplift. Why not write your blog from India?

    You are a dead lucky woman. You're free to do what you want. And you have a bit of dosh. And you're talented. Plus you've got nice lips. And I know that you'll be really god fun at a party.

  12. Having no anger or drive or emotion has almost become a religion now. It gets to a point where you believe it so much, everything you do heralds a round of self-questioning about why you're even bothering because it's all fundamentally pointless anyway. Like writing this. Why am I writing this? What a waste of time.

    That said, your paragraph starting "That's what clinical depression does" set off a little flare of excitement in me. You know that thing that comedians do when they make some everyday observation that everyone takes for granted and you're thinking "YES! FUCK YES! SO TRUE!". It's like that, only more sombre.

    For me, blogs like this are more about battling depression than all the injustices of the world. When I got linked to this blog the first time, your fire and your passion managed to pull me above the surface, to feel something again. Something to believe in, something to fight for. For that I thank you deeply.

  13. I thought the World Cup post was good! Specially the ending, very nicely done.

  14. A p-funk album, a rivette film, a cezanne painting, an arabian nights story - gets me over the hump if just for a while

  15. Why are you so keen to be angry all the time?

  16. Depression is evil. I see you have some other fellow sufferers have already commented here. I keep coming back to "Get It Done When You're Depressed" by Julie Fast, I found some very helpful techniques in there.

    As for sending you anger, I think recently the engagements I had on Football Manager Live online game regarding sexism and homophobic language really angered me (you can find the posts on my blog if you want to know what happened with them - suffice to say that male-dominated environment wasn't friendly to my objections in either case!) Getting riled up at the colonialist/racist framing of FIFA World Cup matches by TV commentators (especially ITV, but the Beeb seem to do it too). I don't really have a lot of angry to share at the moment, but those were plenty to start with. Some of the other things (like the budget) just seem too big for me to feel about them at the moment :-(

  17. Hello. I too suffer from depression. Mine came after I was struck down with an industrial desease and lost my job and career - I used to be a precision engineering craftsman.

    I'm still not sure if it was just that event, or combined with my experience in Commando Forces where I had to kill several people whom I did not know.

    Lastly, what is the meaning of 'tranny'? When I was a boy it meant a transistor radio; my sister had one, she listened to Radio Caroline all the time.

    Get well soon x

  18. You're obviously being ironic here, "When terrible things happen...slamming the door on the young, the poor, the sick, immigrants, women", as it's just the blinkered and foolish attitude, perhaps coupled with short-term memory loss, that shows how Labour have not understood the lessons of the election campaign & result. Consider what Darling was intending - the difference is in the order of 1% - insignificant compared with the cut-backs necessary and unavoidable to escape the fate of Greece, etc. An adult attitude must prevail if Labour are to regroup and become the voice of the weaker members of society again, something they forgot over 13 years of being nice to bankers.

  19. I'm sorry you're going through this right now. With writing deadlines closing in, I've felt the growing despair of knowing that in the time it takes me to finish writing, millions of men around the world have paid money to rape a child. Writing goes from being a process of creative exploration to feeling like a small and pointless way to try and make things better.

    But writing can and has changed the world, and not just those Big Important Books. As I believe the most significant social progress happens more when people speak to each other every day than in top-down decrees, so do I believe that everyday writings of people speaking to the everyday people around them is what really shifts individual opinions and consequently everything else.

    When I get to feeling burned out I read re-centering quotes to buck up, so that's what I'll offer here.

    "It is part of my job as a radical to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable" - Finley Peter Dunne

    "No single raindrop believes it caused the flood." - some poster in a store

    "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead to where there is no path and leave a trail" -Muriel Strode

    "She flies with her own wings." -Oregon state motto

    (International feminist law dictates that I include this Susan B. Anthony quote)

    "Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences."

  20. Just popped by to say, stay angry. I've just started to follow your writing thanks to New Statesman taking notice of you. That's looking good.

    As for ideas for how to stay angry, this one might seem odd. A crumpled-up note found in a loo:

  21. Idea for a post #1: Why do you feel it important to be angry all the time?

    Idea for a post #2: Why do you always presume anger on the part of left wingers is always righteous and well-meaning, whereas the anger of the right is a mere manifestation of their entrenched nastiness?

    Your fatigue could be some trace of your rational mind stepping in to prevent the rest of your brain collapsing under the weight of the cognitive dissonance you carry with the grace of an Anvil.

    Give it a rest for a bit. Don't watch TV. Don't read the news, anywhere.

    Making a living out of being perpetually outraged on behalf of some notional 'other' was always going to be a tough gig, irrespective of how uber-trendy that other is perceived to be.

  22. And whilst you are at it, go and get a proper job and stop sponging off society.


Comments are open on this blog, but I reserve the right to delete any abusive or off-topic threads.