Last Thursday, 29th May, was a bit of an odd ‘anniversary’ for me. Two years ago that day was one of mixed blessings and feelings – it marked the funeral of my much beloved Grandmother-in-law, Ruth and then the afternoon promised an unrelated celebratory Afternoon Tea. At The Ritz. With a celebrity.
Now let me start by stating the perhaps obvious: did I actually up and leave the Wake of a very special lady who I loved dearly to swan off and oh-so-politeley stuff my cake hole with dainty fare? Well, yes I did – and I’m sure to this day it is still a source of upset for my greater family. It is certainly still tinged with guilt on my part, but please let me try to explain why I left following the Crematorium service that day; exchanging one buffet for another (albeit served atop silver platters) and though a difficult decision, one I do not regret.
As I touched on in my last post, I have been struggling with/battling/wrangling/taming my Depression demons for many years (they are permanent residents but I’m their Landlord, for now). An essential part of my long term maintenance and recovery has been connecting with and meeting fellow soul mates. I am extremely lucky to have patience, understanding and big L-O-V-E in my life but sometimes these lovers need a break too – not more heartbreak. I’m a bit of a contradiction: I can be seen as outgoing and confident to those that don’t really know me (self-taught actress of sorts) but I don’t really have many friends (I’m not bringing out the violins here); it’s simply been more about quality over quantity and stemmed from my self-protective (mistrusting) nature. To move on though I needed to break that cycle.
A latecomer to Social Media, (I was probably the last person to join Facebook) it was my husband who actually suggested that I join Twitter as he’d read about something called ‘The Black Dog Tribe’ and thought I should check it out. At first I tentatively tweeted and spent time reading the personal accounts on the site. I did this privately, avoiding the ‘community’ aspect but finding huge parallels with others’ experiences. It’s strange how I’d felt so utterly alone, yet I soon realised- was astounded by – how common and varying that Mental Health suffering is. I pored over these accounts for days on end. It was utterly refreshing to read someone else’s perspective and escape from own tangled thoughts (by the way, Rule No1: Depression is a lying bastard).
Soon after publicly surfacing with my own ‘@’, by chance I won a competition via Twitter. I was literally the last seat at the table and all I had done to deserve my place was a simple #RT. At this point I hadn’t even shared my own experiences – all the other entrants had submitted these incredible pieces. Even then I felt like a fraud in the mix. Plucking up the courage to attend whilst leaving the funeral was incredibly tough. I vividly remember sitting on the train thinking ‘what the hell am I doing?’ It was only after chain-smoking (outside the grand hotel entrance – classy I know, but my only vice) and deep breaths that I felt able to ascend the stairs and past the dapper doormen. Aside from the overwhelming golden opulence as I entered, I was also soon met by the glowing smile and flash of scarlet lipstick that is Ruby Wax.
A small group of us soon assembled, together with BDT staff, and were escorted to the privacy of The Wimborne Room overlooking Green Park. The discussion that unravelled over tea and pastries was open and honest – everyone contributed, including me. In fact, I was reminded of how easy I found it to speak publicly (it used to be my day job) it’s just the content was altogether very different. Wind me up and watch me go! We chatted away about our stories, society and stigma – putting into place some actions for the development of the site and personal goals. There were quite a few laughs along the way thanks to Ruby. Not only was this experience very beneficial in itself, I also had the pleasure of meeting some amazing people – many of whom I’m still in regular contact with and have been there for me since that day. Special thanks to:
Laura – a Youthworker, globetrotter, volunteer and gentle soul.
Polly – the most beautiful writer and patient supporter through her husband, also a writer, Andrew’s illness. I only recently realised the connection that her daughter is the incredibly talented Rosalind (pen name ‘Jana’) who I have been following since her ‘Vogue Talent Contest’ win. It’s a very small world sometimes! Please take the time to read these stunningly raw accounts and Andrew’s book ‘Dip – wild swims from the Borderlands’ is available to buy here
Ruby – for bringing us all together, for campaigning for your Tribe and bringing joy to so many whilst doing so.
Most importantly I want to apologise to Ruth for not toasting her honour with her family that afternoon (I raised my teacup in tribute). As a woman who danced her way through The Blitz singing ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ and saw more of the world than I could dare to dream, I hope that by moving on with my life and living, rather than existing, will be my way of respecting her memory. Her spirit.
R.I.P Ruth Waller
PS: Hoping Liam, Anne, Robert, Kate, Allyson and the team from BDT/Whisper Media are all well!