Depression is crap. I know this because it elbowed its way into my lovely life in 2006 and made me very ill for well over a year. The worst year of my life. I haven’t been quite the same since. I’m back to the happy girl I once was, but one never forgets, do they?
There are still some people who have never experienced depression and think it is just feeling a bit sad. ‘What have you got to be depressed about?’ was something I got sick of hearing. ‘Nothing’ I would say. ‘I don’t know what is happening to me’ I would say, through tears to my mum/friends/helplines.
It made me passionate about mental health to this day, and my career as a charity sector PR has seen me waving the flag and challenging mental health stigma since.
I worked in the press team at the brilliant Time to Change for a while, a campaign fighting the stigma of mental health, and was staggered at how mental health conditions are still, even in this day and age, dismissed and misunderstood.
Because depression isn’t being a ‘bit sad’. It isn’t being ‘unhappy with your life’. It’s an illness, an awful, nasty, vicious illness. No wonder they call it The Black Dog.
For me, depression was a giant turd landing in my lovely life, scooping out my insides with a rusty shovel, leaving me empty, voiceless, lonely and incredibly tired.
I became a shell of the happy go lucky girl I was. Unable to feel any emotion at all, feeling like I was looking at myself through glass. Jeez, no wonder Plath called it ‘The glass Bell Jar’ – indeed it was, in its truest form.
Anyway, enough about me, but I needed to paint this stark picture to tell you about a girl. A girl I don’t know, but a girl whose stage production gave me goose bumps when I first saw it at The Bush Theatre in London a while back.
Brigitte Aphrodite is a performer, singer and song/comedy writer. She is beautiful, clever and talented. She also has depression.
In her show, My Beautiful Black Dog, she shares her story. The story of what it is like for her to live with depression. It is bright, brilliantly wide eyed, like the eyes of the depression that frightens us so. This show is hilarious, sad, colourful, vocal and clever.
It is, some might say, Brigitte’s ‘fuck you/love letter’ to depression, but there are moments in it that give you chills. Moments where the colour is removed. Where you suddenly see the girl who is wracked by depression. Where for me, I suddenly saw myself.
I went to see it last year, and remember thinking ‘where was this when I needed it, back in 2006?’ because it made me feel less alone. I wanted to drag my family to see it and say ‘LOOK! This is what it is like, this!’
Time moves on, but recently a few tweets from Broadcaster and all round top gal Gemma Cairney (@gemcairn) caught my eye. She was talking about My Beautiful Black Dog. Gemma’s own production company Boom Shakalaka is championing Brigitte’s quest to take this show to Edinburgh, Latitude and beyond.
Me being me, I wanted to know more.
Brigitte knows the power of her show. She knows it can create change. She has set up a Kickstarter, to raise the vital funds to get this show back on the road, to festivals, to theatres and into the hearts and minds of many. To say, ‘you know what, depression is shit. You cannot polish a turd, but you can certainly cover it in glitter.’
It’s an inspired idea. People can pledge as little as a quid to bring this show back to life. It is less of a show, and more of a mental health movement of change. It will help people. It will help you. It helped me.
People like Brigitte blow my mind. She could’ve stayed in bed, eaten her body weight in chocolate and succumbed to depression. I did, for a while, until a fire in my belly woke me up, and I slowly, very slowly started to get better. It took a long time, and I still have dark days. I had quite a bad recurrence last year, but I knew how to handle it.
I went to the theatre and I saw this show. The Black dog was still there, but this time, beautiful and covered in glitter.
I really hope you get to see My Beautiful Black Dog. I hope you watch it, feel it, talk about it and learn something. I hope you feel relieved that depression has never happened to you, or less alone if it has.
One thing I can guarantee though, if you pledge that quid, and get to see this performance, you will never regret it.
To find out more about kickstarter and my Beautiful Black Dog – go to https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/brigitteaphrodite/my-beautiful-black-dog or follow Brigitte on twitter at @bbbrigitte