I was wondering what was going to kick Libby off the front page. Turned out I was my little black dog, Sooty. I don’t want to bang on about depression, all the laughs about depression are in retrospect, and they’re small and they’re wry.
Still Sooty pushes for space. She fills up the bed with her small frame.
I’m meant to be writing my second novel – I am writing it – but the writing has been slow. The novel is about Post Natal Depression.
Post Natal Depression is a bloody rip-off. It’s no joke having a new baby and being unable to love it, to be scared of it, to know that your baby is running rings around while it’s snuggled into the crook of your elbow. I’ve been wanting to write about this for years, the baby in question is ten now, but fear stood in the doorway, hands on hips, ‘what do you think you’re doing?’
My reluctance in writing PND was mostly fear of the baby in question reading it. Back in the day, the few times I said the truth, I don’t think I love my baby, grown up adults with lives and experience couldn’t deal with it. How was my son meant to manage?
Still, this novel, I’ve given depression to somebody who should be able to handle it. This character, Ruby, she’s balls out, headstrong, ‘confident’ isn’t her middle name but it should be.
I wrote the first draft, it took about a year, with many months off between chapters because I wasn’t feeling it. I finished it on August the thirtieth, one day ahead of the deadline I set myself. Go me! First draft done I put it away for the school holidays and Sooty moved in.
For the best part of the last three months I have stayed in bed for fear of getting out of it and doing the wrong thing. I went to work, I know the job, and I feel supported by the girls I work with. I didn’t type one thing, I couldn’t read, and found myself addicted to The West Wing. I ate way too much junk food and the recovery from that is another blog post. I stopped riding, stopped talking, stopped going to Platypus Rock. I miss Libby and it hurt too much to think about her. I lived for my sons and their dad, for cuddles, and lunchboxes, permission slips and, can you turn that down?!
About a month ago, I was in the shower, depressed as I’ve been in a long time, thinking terrible things I don’t want to write down lest they get their legs and come right back.
I had two realizations during that shower. One, that the character, little Ms Confident, doesn’t get anywhere as depressed as she should, she feels sad but she doesn’t want to be dead. I washed my hair, thinking, remember this, remember how this feels, this is depression and you should be writing this down. I didn’t write it down, not a sentence.
It was when I was drying myself (door locked because there is nobody who is gonna see me like this) that I knew if nothing else I could rely on experience. Nicki, you are crap right now, crap. But you have been crap before. Let it be, stop fighting it, give it its time. You will be better.
The worst of it lasted three days. That might not sound like long, but you try finding reasons to live when you live in a house of love and laughter and cuddles. Depression doesn’t make sense and suicidal thinking is scary as fuck. I stayed in bed. I waited it out. It was smart, damn smart, but at the time it was survival. It’s only now I can see it was the right thing, waiting, staying in bed, sleeping if I could, because asleep nothing hurts. Back then, it was Sooty or me.
I’ve been back to the manuscript this week, and not too soon, either. I said I’d have something by Christmas. I said I’d give my editor the best Christmas present ever. Now, it might be something she’d like to exchange, but she’ll get it and we’ll take it from there. So I’m deleting, making changes, giving Ruby’s black dog plenty to chew on and hopefully walking away from my own black dog, one backward looking step at a time.
Jerry says, ‘there ain’t no space for you, Sooty. if that’s your real name.’