Saturday 29 June 2013


Thursday was the school's performance of Oliver.  This was the same day I was admitted to the clinic.  I had spent most, if not all, of the day in tears.  Not for any good reason only that mostly I just wanted to die and couldn't.

My son had a role in the chorus so it wasn't like I was going to be missing his lead performance.  But for him, being in the chorus was a big deal.  It was one of those moment that I looked into the future and could see him telling his therapist in 20 years time how his mother was so ill with depression all the time that she couldn't even come see his breakthrough stage performance.

Suitably tranquilised and against doctor's orders, I made my way to the theatre.  My daughter had planned her own special little party.  Laden with a vast quantity of sweets with her best friend in the seat next to her, we all sat down and watched the tremendous performance unfold before us.

The interval was excruciating.  When one is depressed, one wants nothing more than to be invisible.  I didn't have the energy, the courage, or the desire to talk to any one, even the people who love me more than their luggage.  Luckily, those people understood that.  I was given some soul engaging hugs and hand squeezes.  I was given encouraging winks and nods.  My efforts to keep my head down and my gaze averted did draw numerous stares but those seemed to unsettle my husband more than me.  You can't see what you can't see.

Back in the clinic, my night's sleep was interrupted continuously with nightmares of people crushing me, sitting on me, pushing me, suffocating me.  I yelled out numerous time.  By 5 am I had given up on the idea of restful sleep and started the morning off with a good long cry.

I've managed a shower today.  I managed to go to the art class.  I have eaten all three meals today.

My back pain is being alleviated by anti inflammatory and pain meds.  My whole body itches and I keep scratching until I bleed.  This is probably anxiety related.  The anti depressants haven't kicked in yet but they will soon.  I hope.

What I can tell you is that the outpouring of support and love is overwhelming.  Don't take this the wrong way and sufferers of mental illness will understand, it doesn't really help but it is nice to have.  I really appreciate the flowers, the chocolate, the biscuits, the STRAWBERRY shower gel, and the words of encouragement and motivation.  I am most grateful for the unconditional love.  Thank you.  You know who you are.  xxxx

Thursday 27 June 2013

The Seat Beside Me

Depression is always sitting in the seat just beside me.  I’m told it won’t always but here I am, nearly 2 years after my first depressive episode and the darkness is always chasing me, gaining on me, trying to push me off my seat.   I ran out of breath running from it and a few weeks ago it started to win.

Some days I can’t run quickly enough to get away from it.  It tends to be the days I don’t get out of the starting gate straight away.  Those are the days when I find that I've not showered or accomplished anything beyond getting out of my bed and yet it is time to do the school run to pick up my daughter at the end of the day.

Of course, some days are better than those days when I couldn't manage to even get out of bed.  But these days aren't nearly on par with those days when I used to go mach 10 with my hair on fire.  Neither extreme is particularly healthy.

It was 30 years of those mach 10 days that knocked me down into my hole.  That’s not entirely accurate.  It was 10 years of doing mach 10 and being metaphorically smacked down daily for doing mach 10 that caused me to trip.  And fall.

I’d gotten myself back upright and standing.  But beyond standing, I rarely manage more than a couple steps forward before the doubt and fear sets in and I sit back down before I fall down again.

I’ve got myself surrounded by people, supremely qualified mental health professionals, a loving family, and an army of generous and kind friends, who help keep me out of the darkness.  They listen.  They hug.  They encourage.  They medicate.

But much of my day depends on me.  And therein lies the trouble.  I am fearful of the depression.  I can’t remember a day when I didn't think about it.  It is always sitting in the seat just beside me.  I can feel it's cold hand and searing heart.  Everywhere I go even when I stay put. 

I miss the old me.  The miss the sharpness of my mind, the ability to gather tremendous data and make sense of it all so I could define a clear course of action.  Now I listen to instructions and get lost in the words.  I make mistakes.  I stammer.   My brain stutters.  I live in a constant fog.

I can’t plan meals.  I can’t help my children with their homework.  I can’t explain to my husband why I get things wrong all the time.  I can’t describe to anyone why I can’t get a job.  My friends want to help but I don't know how to ask for what.

A few weeks ago, as an act of desperation, I took myself off of all my medication.  I knew we couldn't afford the annual prescription fee and I thought that my cocktail of daily pills was responsible for making my head feel confused.  I wanted to help my family out of the financial hole we are in.  I thought if I could get back to the old me I could help.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to those who suffer from this debilitating illness that this didn’t work.

Instead I am in the pit of darkness from which there feels there is no escape.  I have precisely 4 days of private medical care left before the policy expires and we can’t afford to buy more.  I will then be in the hands of the NHS and we know how that it likely to end.

My husband is now left angry and disappointed and betrayed.  My children are left frightened and anxious.  My friends are befuddled and helpless.  And I sit in the darkness wishing it would all end whilst depression has decided to sit in my lap.  Again.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

A Call to Life Model in Edinburgh

Edinburgh residents (and beyond) are being given the opportunity (and encouragement) to try life modelling! Multi-life modelling organisation, Spirited Bodies, will hold an extravaganza at The Arts Complex on Saturday 21st September 2013 from 11am to 5pm. Spirited Bodies are looking for about 40 models who will each pose for a couple of hours, most of them for the 1st time.

Life models are one of the best means by which artists learn how to draw; the human body providing the ultimate complexity as well as being alive and energetic. Experienced artists keep in practise by drawing life models regularly. Usually a life model poses alone, sometimes with another model; however at this Spirited Bodies event models will pose in a group of up to 20. Some poses are timed with longer poses offering plenty of stretch breaks; others are freestyle, with models choosing for themselves when to change pose.  

Spirited Bodies have done 12 events so far, all of which have taken place in London. This is their first venture beyond! They are extremely excited to be invited to Edinburgh by Ragged University. As well as the main event, a run up of preparation events during a visit in late July and just before the September date are being scheduled. A presentation of what Spirited Bodies does will take place on Tuesday July 23rd at 7pm (venue tbc), and a life modelling and drawing workshop will take place at The Arts Complex on Thursday 25th July (Room 518), 7 – 9pm. All events are free and women-only meet ups (just to ask questions and discuss the life modelling) as well as practical workshops will be available (please ask).

Artwork and photographs from a similar event last year at Battersea Arts Centre can be seen here:
It should be noted that photographs of models are never taken at workshops, and at events it is only with models’ consent.

People come to model with Spirited Bodies to experience being nude with others in a relaxed but ritualised environment, for the creation of art. They want to embrace their own nudity, face body issues and feel the warmth of human bonding in a way our society rarely offers; to be seen as a work of art and have the opportunity to express oneself in moments of silence and stillness.

From overcoming eating disorders, celebrating the joy of losing weight, adapting to a post-teenage body, rehabilitating after illness, addressing ageist stereotypes, rediscovering one's beauty post-divorce and making new friends to being a part in the process of creating art - Spirited Bodies offers something for everyone.

Models aged 18 upwards are accepted, from all backgrounds and ethnicities, and differently-abled people are welcome. No previous experience or skills are necessary. Life drawing shows well how beauty is in the diversity of the human form. Spirited Bodies is a powerful antidote to the familiar bombardment of media doctored images, by bringing real people to the fore. Led by 4 professional life models Spirited Bodies offers preparation workshops where participants are guided through a series of short poses (up to 15 minutes), and pose with one or two other models. Posing technique is discussed in a more informal setting than the actual event, and posing clothed is fine too. Artists are also invited to attend workshops and events to draw, and everyone is encouraged to draw at a workshop when not posing. It does not matter if you ‘cannot draw’, it just helps to understand what the model is for, and appreciate that trying to capture the human form on paper is not easy. Drawing materials are provided.

More information is available at  DSpirited Bodies Facebook page as well as Spirited Bodies on Meetup  -  - (useful for signing up to workshops). Contact info.spiritedbodies@gmail for inquiries.
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A crowd-funding project for this series of Edinburgh events will be created in due course.

Links to press about Spirited Bodies:

Sunday 23 June 2013

Cupboard Chicken Caccitore

When I was a child my mother used to make this amazing chicken caccitore.  Now maybe I am wearing those rose tinted glasses of childhood memories and to be fair I can't really remember what it tasted like.  But I do remember that we got to eat with out fingers.  Meal time in our home was a fairly formal affair.  All had to sit at the table and our cutlery.  And napkins.  Burping and farting was frowning upon.

Chicken Caccitore was a different affair altogether.  Mom would heat up flannel wash clothes and put them next to our plates.  This was a meal to be slurped as you ripped the chicken off the bones with your hands and the juices ran down your arms.  We loved it.

I have asked my mother repeatedly for this recipe.  Now I don't know if she wants to keep it a secret or if she has genuinely lost it but it has not been forthcoming.  So today I decided to make my own.  I did some google searches and was disappointed with what seemed to me wasn't going to produce anything like my memories.  And would require a trip to the supermarket, which is my very least favourite thing to do in the whole entire world.

So I headed to my cupboards.

Slow Cooker Cupboard Kitchen Caccitore

5 chicken thighs (bone in is more fun at scarfing time)
5 onions (more or less), sliced
1 tin of whole tomatoes
1 Tablespoon sundried tomato paste (or not)
20 cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup water
2 cups of red wine (I used Rioja because that's what I wanted to drink later)
Healthy dash of black pepper
Healthy dash of garlic salt (would have preferred fresh garlic but we were fresh out)
1 bit of salt (you decide how much)
1 tin of greens beans (to help us to our 5 a day)
1 jar of red roasted peppers (because that jar has been in my cupboard for a very long time and needed to be used)

Fry thighs and onions til browned

Throw everything into slow cooker on low for 7 hours or high for 4.

You can thicken up the sauce with a bit of cornstarch if you want to just before serving.

Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, or noodles.  Or even just with crusty bread and lashings of butter.

Do NOT forget the warmed flannel face clothes and NO cutlery!!!!!