The rape seed flowers are brilliant; they cast a neon luminosity upwards – as if somebody had switched on a light somewhere beneath shallow soil. It looks – from where I sit in a small Northamtonshire village – as if somebody has tossed enormous yellow picnic rugs upon the countryside all around.
I’m here because Mum has been sick. I thought about whether I ought to write about it: about her illness. But I think not to – I think to sit upon it silently – would be to exacerbate the stigma that already clings tightly, parasitcally greedy, to mental illness; my mum has suffered from recurring episodes of debilitating clinical depression since I was only a little older than Hat is now. Depression is quite black enough without keeping it in the dark. So there it is – out in the open – the reason I’m here. In England. With Mum. Where she has been accompanied by this particular visit from the Black Dog since January.
I came to see if I could make a difference. I might have done. Fleetingly. I might occassionally, with my chat and observations and the energy I have brought with me (along with a small bag and a laptop that has lurked idle beneath the dining table since I got here) have lifted Depression’s suffocating shroud and let brief, brave illuminating shafts of vitality into Mum’s life so that by evening she has the courage, the necessary allied force, to snub Depression and laugh a little. Then again, I might not have done: Depression is persistent. It’s especially persistent first thing in the morning which seems grossly unfair: Depression makes life hard enough as it is without making getting out of bed and facing the day harder still.
Depression has been a part of my life for longer than it hasn’t. I think it defines me sometimes. But not mum – it doesn’t define her. She is Mum. Depression is Depression. I need to keep reminding her of the separateness of it all. When the illness floods her and submerges her joie de vivre and drowns out her happiness leaving her heavy with soggy lassitude, when she says, ”I’m being so stupid”, I need to remind her: it’s not you, Mum. It’s Depression.
My children understand why I’m here. We all call Depression by its real name in my house. No point in disguising it with euphemism. Euphemism is stigma’s best friend.
When I go, at the end of the week, I hope I might have loosened Depression’s grip by the tiniest degree. I probably won’t have done: the arrogance I once assumed that I’d be able to fix Mum just by bullying her to wellness left me long ago. But I have to hope.
And that’s what makes me lucky: because I can: hope.