Friday 17 February 2012


I'm getting another tattoo. I appreciate that opening one’s blog post with such a revelation probably isn’t the best way to break this news to those who’ll disapprove (actually, who am I kidding – it’s the perfect cop-out way to break the news to those who’ll disapprove), but there we have it. It’s happening. The choice has been made. Get over it. Yes, that means YOU, head-shaking little brother.

It’s not happening yet though. It can’t. Not for physical or health reasons or whatever; simply because I’m just not quite there yet. See, my new tattoo is a bit of an instruction; a design for life; a mantra, if you will, penned by the hand of (who else?) my favourite Beatle. It’s the way I want to live my life. But, hugely frustratingly, it’s a way of life I haven’t quite figured out yet.

I’ll not tell you just yet what said ink is going to read – I’ll save that for the big reveal at the end of this post – because first, I think, I’ve got some explaining to do. Not to the brother/Mum/Dad (in that order) who’ll have tutted out a disappointed ‘Ohh, Li-sa’ with my opening sentence, but instead to anyone else who cares about me, or how I’m doing.

And so to another revelation: one which the above parties already know about but I’ve been too frightened to tell many others (including, even, some of the medical professionals charged with my care), for fear of how they’ll react, or of opening a box I’ll never again be able to close, or of being treated with yet more tilty-headed kid gloves. But enough of the preamble, and onto that insufferably wanky of ‘admitting-it-is-the-first-step-on-the-road-to-recovery’ tactics: my name is Lisa and I’m suffering from depression. (Hi, Lisa.) But don’t worry cos, hey, at least it might save me some shit on the tattoo thing.

Similarly frustrating for me in all of this is the terminology. ‘Suffering from depression’: a term that, thanks to the evolution of homo sapiens into intolerable, perspectiveless drama queens, has rapidly lost the seriousness of its meaning to whiny gobshites who are ‘depressed’ because they’ve seen the object of their affections copping off with someone else, or have spent up before payday, or have got to switch desks at work. These futnuckers have made it so much harder for the people genuinely suffering to be heard; to be taken seriously; to be understood, meaning that we’re embarrassed not just by the terminology (my parents have taken to calling it ‘low’; my best mates ‘going underground’), but by the suspicious sideways glances and invisible inverted commas that come with it. “Oh, right: ‘depressed’. Of course you are.” Well, futnuckers, I actually am. And here, if you’re interested, is how.

It began… actually, I don’t know exactly when it began. I’m tempted to say it was before I even got the first of my secondary diagnoses, back when there was that awful inkling that something was seriously wrong. Either way, I’d say it certainly started before the second of those diagnoses, with the added news about my brain tumour.

The mornings were the most revealing: the inability to get going, the heightened (and increasingly terrifying) panic attacks, the growing number of occasions on which I’d wake up and quite honestly wish I hadn’t – or, at best, would open my eyes to that ‘oh great, this again’ feeling, dreading another laborious day in a life I used to love that, thanks to The Bullshit, has now been turned inside out. I’m talking about all of this as though it’s in the past tense when, in truth, these things still remain, along with a lost interest in the stuff I used to enjoy, hopeless concentration, poor sleeping patterns (as I write this sentence, it’s 3.52am), a continual feeling of guilt and burden, and enough tears to fill a paddling pool. It’s been bad. Far worse than I'm letting on here. Yup, heaven knows I’m miserable now, all right.

So, as well as the psychotherapist and the counsellor and the visiting district nurse and the GP who doubtless had to send someone out on an emergency tissue-run after my visit, I’m now on antidepressants. And yes, longtime blog readers, I appreciate that after the Chemical Brothers episode, that’s something I said I’d never do again but, hey, I’m fast learning that not all flippant promises can be kept. (Rather like the one I made saying I’d get ‘oh ferfuckssake’ tattooed onto my forehead should I ever receive another diagnosis. Suffice to say, that’s not the body part I’ll be aiming at with the new ink. Nor do I recall any Beatles lyrics of the ‘ferfuckssake’ nature.)

I’m sure the above revelation has hardly come as a surprise to you. I mean, sheesh, of course I’m fucking depressed. Equally, though, you might be shaking your head just as much as I’m sure my brother still is about the tattoo thing (seriously, Jamie: get over it), thinking back to the wonderful news at the end of my last post and wondering what kind of a hopeless lost cause could possibly be experiencing such a shit time when they ought to be celebrating. And I did celebrate, as you’ll have read. For about two days. After which all I could see was the halting of The Bullshit’s process as an indication that nothing had changed; as a reminder that no amount of slowed cells could turn this from a terminal into a curable case; as something that had bought me more time in a life from which I’m taking piteously little enjoyment.

But though it felt like it lasted barely twenty sodding minutes, I was able to celebrate, scant as that celebration was. That’s got to be something, right? And there’s the thing with depression. It’s like a Smiths record with all-too-infrequent (but nonetheless wonderfully appreciated) chirpy Johnny Marr guitar. And yes again, longtime blog readers, I know this is an analogy I’ve made before, but frankly (Mr Shankly) I simply can’t think of a better one either for or under the circumstances.

See, being depressed doesn’t mean I’m sobbing under a duvet in a dark room 24/7 (though it happens rather more frequently than I’d like), nor does it mean I’m completely incapable of making plans or putting on make-up or cracking a joke. Because, whenever I can summon the energy, I’ve got a pretty damn polished ability to hide whatever’s happening beneath the surface. In fact, lawks, I should bloody well win awards for it. ‘And Brave Face of the Year goes to…’

But, the way I’ve come to see it this past week or so – mostly thanks to the advice I’ve taken – depression is something that’s best kept unhidden. And so I’m kind of thinking of it as like starting Weight Watchers: it’s only going to work if you tell everyone about it. Which is ironic, since I appear to be gaining a kilo with each chemo, despite the unspeakable agony of shitting out a weekly brick of bulky concrete turd and puking with such prolific, projectile-spinach-from-my-nostrils panache that I’ve begun to score each upchuck as though it were a ballroom dance. (TMI? Darling, you are SO reading the wrong blog.)

Since we’re sharing, then, I might as well tell you what I think the problem is: I just haven’t found a way to live yet. I can’t understand how people do live when they’ve been told what I have. It feels like someone hit a pause button on my head back in October and I’ve achieved the sum total of nothing in the meantime, while everyone else’s lives have been merrily trotting along as normal around me. And how have they? How is that even possible? Everything has changed! Everything! So how, in the name of Zeus’s butthole, has the world just not sodding ended? Because, in so many ways, it honestly feels like mine already has.

But even despite the fog of depression, I still know deep down that there’s nothing I want more than to find a life. Yes, I know it’s going to be different; yes, I know it’s not going to be the one I’d necessarily have chosen. But I’ve simply got to find a way of taking enjoyment from more things than just my husband and my family – without whom I’m sorry to admit I’d have given up already.

You’d think, wouldn’t you, that upon being told you had a terminal illness you’d be seizing the day and making the most of each moment and squeezing every last bit of enjoyment from your life. But, as my mate Tills rightly pointed out this week, in that dream scenario you don’t have the illness to contend with and the limited mobility and the never-bloody-ending hospital visits and all the shite that comes as a side order with treatment. And so, in the negligible time there is to actually live your life as you’d imagined you would, well, you just don’t chuffing feel like it, okay? You feel like getting in a huff and stomping your feet and getting outrageously angry that you’re in this predicament. You feel like wailing and howling and shrieking out at the appalling unfairness of it all, and beating yourself about the head that, even after months and months of time in which to get used to your shituation you STILL JUST CAN’T FUCKING BELIEVE IT.

But is that how I want to live? Of course I ruddy don’t. I want to get pleasure from my life. I want to love it. I want to carry on as though I’ve got years and years left in me (because who knows? I might have). I want to go on extravagant numbers of holidays. I want to have sex with my husband in giant hotel beds on cheeky weekends away. I want to be good company. I want to be a better wife. I want to feel comfortable being left on my own. I want my husband to be able to go to work more often. I want to be funny. I want to look like I used to. I want to be ambitious. I want to write books – maybe even screenplays? – and leave a legacy that’ll make my family proud. I want to teach my nephew his first swearword (we’re getting there: he gurgled on the phone last night when I said ‘bollocksbollocksbollocks’). I want to feel lucky. I want to stop worrying my family. I want to be inspired. I want to un-learn the daytime TV schedule. I want to have a longer fuse. I want people to know how to act around me. I want to see more of my mates. I want to have a laugh. I want to wake up in the morning and think ‘come on then, let’s ’ave you’ and close my eyes at night with a quietly triumphant ‘ha, not today… and not tomorrow either’. I want to be more than the illness I’ve got. I want to live my life like you live yours: as though it’s precious and treasured and worth fighting for. Because, come on, if I can’t find a way to seize more enjoyment from the admittedly unfortunate situation in which I’ve found myself, what’s the point in putting up with all the crap that treatment brings?

Like I say, though, I’m not there yet. Whenever I am, I'll let you know in picture form (it’ll be stamped on my wrist) but for now I’ve got some work to do. I realise that I’m not going to ‘beat’ depression – just as I realise that I’m not going to beat cancer. But, hopefully, I can find a way to manage it; to cope with it; to stay one step ahead of it. Or, as McCartney once sang: take these broken wings and learn to fly.


Hannah said...

Thanks for the update. I've been checking for one which I know is bad because you've got a lot going on and shouldn't feel an obligation to post just to make people like me happy.

Thanks for coming out and saying you're living with depression. You're right it isn't easy to do and it's something we trivialise or dismiss in people a lot.

My dad has incurable cancer and is depressed. My mother thinks the way to deal with it is with boundless optimism so my dad puts on a brave face for her. When I got to chemo with him I let him talk about whatever he wants, sometimes it's tv, sometimes it's cars and sometimes it's cancer is a b*stard. We even made up a cancer is a b*stard song.

I wanted to take my dad on an amazing holiday to Asia but with his treatment, mobility problems and stuff it looks like it isn't going to happen. In his words "a couple of years ago I would have done it, I'd have raced you there, but I'm f*cking sh*t now. We'll figure something else out.

I HATE tattoos, but I'm not mad with you, if it will make you happy even for a couple of days like the last news did, I'm all for it.

Claire said...

if anyone can manage it, you can. you have a zillion cheerleaders right here x

Hannah said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lauren said...

I really have to remember to stop wearing mascara when reading your blog.....

Bloody love the new tattoo lyrics - I look forward to seeing a twitpic of it very soon!

With the stigma of depression, I understand. I was diagnosed a few years ago after the sudden death of a friend, and the first thing I felt after the diagnosis was guilt. I mean, I wasn't the only person to lose her - was I the only one unable to cope? Why wasn't I strong enough to move on like everyone else seemed to be? But the label helped. It gave me an answer to the darkness that seemed to surround me at the time. And whilst it is incomparable to your situation, I can say that there were times when the darkness became a bit brighter, until it became grey, and then white, and then pink (!), and hopefully you'll find that too. xxx

LyleD4D said...

Wasn't "Broken Wings" Mr Mister, not Mr McCartney?

janjan said...

As ever, thank you for being so honest. Heres hoping that when depression lifts it will leave you in a better place than it found you xxxxxxx

Paul McLean said...


As a depression sufferer of 22 years, can I just say you have every right to be fecked off! Having read your blog for quite some time, I'm surprised it has taken this long! Sweet mercy woman, you've been through so much, you should be canonised a Saint right now!

Depression is a bastard. I was 14 when I was diagnosed as Bipolar, which was then followed by a shrug and a "beats me!" attitude from my doctor. I wasn't allowed the drugs to help fight it as they weren't really for kids... I didn't realise at the time, but all of the things I was going through, were triggered by the depression. And I didn't know how to hide any of them.


I'm not gonna bore you with my story, but I'll give you one piece of advice (cuz you never get that, do you... No! Haha!)

Tell everyone. Put the information out there. Hiding the depression helps it grow. Seriously. I'm all for a brave face and a bit of show at times, but only around people who I can't tell. At home and with friends don't put the pressure on yourself to 'deal' with it yourself. That just makes the depressed you resent people for not knowing!

Once again, dear... You've blown me away with your openness. You are an absolute star. If I had half of your kahunas, I'd be happy... Someday, maybe.

In the meantime, anyone who says "Chin up!", just feckin' chin them!!!

Love ya!


Mean Mr Mustard said...

Depression is a cunt.

I think you've hit the nail on the head about what it's about - it's not sobbing and wailing and Sylvia Plath dark poetic gobshite (Oh that it were) - it's just the sludge of not being able to fucking do anything. It's the feeling that all the things you've learned to keep you going, to bring you joy, just taste like ash and mean nothing. It's the feeling that you're just stuck, derailed, burned out.

And it's bullshit. It's your brain fucking with you. You're not your depression. You're not your cancer.

You're Lisa fucking Lynch.

Writer of The C-Word.

Inventor of 'Futnucker' (my heart skipped a beat when you used it in that post btw).

The web's top cancer bitch.

The one who can sit up at 3.52am in a dark miserable fun and write a blog post that's honest, moving and eloquent. Smartarse.

You're one of my best mates. And you're not on your own.

Let's write that book.

Fletcher of the Day said...

I think your tattoo will be lovely. Never a truer choice of words.

Keep on groovin Lisa.

xx Lori

gemmak said...

I have done the depression thing, the real stuff like you, not the 'the shoes don't match the dress' kind, hospital time yada, yada and if a lightweight like me can sort it a girl of your calibre sure as hell can! :) xx

AnnaGoAnna said...

Thanks Lisa... For saying my thoughts out loud too!!

Although no tattoo for me... It might hurt!

Love you lady

Ps I'm in New York (running away)...want any shopping? Tweet me x

laura temkin said...

Love your honesty. And vulnerability. Scary to share that with friends, let alone make it public. I also write a cancer blog if you're interested:

Fen said...

Getting a tattoo can be therapeutic, go for it and enjoy the process x

Fiona said...

Depression is horrendous. I am glad you are trying anti-depressants because the right one can help.

Have you hear of 'How to be sick,' by Toni Bernhard? I have no idea if it will be of any use to you; it is aimed at people with chronic illness so it's quite probably not right, but it might be worth just giving it a quick read and seeing if there's anything there which helps.

And you have NO need to worry about your legacy. You have absolutely made your mark on this world in the most positive way.

Nonamoose said...

As someone else with depression who said that she'd go back on happy pills when hell froze over (cus they were such a bitch to get off) then a year and a half later hell really *did* freeze over - I relate such a lot to your post.

I don't have anything constructive to offer except to say that I hope we all learn to manage not just it, but the multitudes of stuff that seem to come along with that particular diagnosis.

Love and hugs chick xx

findit13 said...

Its a hard thing to admit, cheers to you for doing so. No one will look at you differently for it, it would be an impossible task to not be "low", "sad", "underground", or depressed if anyone was in your shoes. I like to crank up the MP3 player, and stomp through the park at the fastest walking speed possible. The only danger in this, is not noticing the stags fighting within feet of me, as I couldn't hear anything due to the blaring Rihanna remix streaming in my ears. You'll find something that helps, maybe it will be in the form of a pill, or words inked on your skin that make you remember how you want this life to be.

NealVanMurf said...

What you want out of life is like what most of us want. We all think we have a lifetime to do these things but the difference is that some of us think we have plenty of time to fit it all in. And often we are as equally unsuccessful at cramming it all in. The phrase, ‘less is more’ rings true.
The proportion of ‘Lisa’ that you reveal in your blog is beautiful. That’s the only ‘you’ that I know. I don’t see any broken wings when I read your blog. I see a wonderful spirit, an amazingly insightful person who is skilled at putting their observations into words. I see a woman with a big heart. Of course from one moment to the next your situation may be easier or harder to deal with, you may be easier or harder to deal with, yet still a beautiful woman shines through in your blog.
The main reason I look forward to reading your blog is not to learn more about you. What you have to say reveals more about me. And you help me understand more about the Bullshit, and now depression and all that comes with the territory.
One way or another, we’ve all got broken wings – although it’s true that I wouldn’t willingly swap mine for yours, sorry. Sitting around waiting for new wings is a waste of time, but learning to fly is an awesome response.
Grace and peace to you.

speccy said...

Good god woman; I've been reading here since the very start and you never cease to amaze me. I LOVE the tattoo idea.
Your disease is not who you are. Your illness does not define you. You're the one and only. Fabulous.

Gabriel said...

Thank you for your honesty. Your admission just makes me admire you even more - if that were possible.

Love Gabriel's Mummy

kelly said...

I think it is really frustrating to be depressed but totally understandable. This is some seriously heavy shit right here. But you have support, you have love, you have a great heart; I expect this is but a horrible stage in the process and you will overcome it.

AlwaysStriving said...

I'm with Paul, say it loud, don't let it fester inside, depression thrives on isolating you and keeping you from the very people and things that can lift you out of it, it's a clever little fucker, but you my dear are WAY smarter. Take whatever help is offered to you be it pills and counselling and if you do it will change, it doesn't have to be like this and nor does it have to take an age to be put back in its box x massively recommend Depressive Illness Curse of the Strong by Philip Cantopher, was a game changer for me x

Anonymous said...

Depression sucks. Tatoos rock (except stars, butterflies and yin yang symbols of course). One of the best tatoos I ever saw was also on a wrist - it said "savoir vivre" - ok the wrist it was on was attached to a woman who was a dead ringer for Giselle Bundchen but I saw her in a supermarket alone, doing her shopping, looking serene.

But I think about that tatoo - because as you say, what exactly are we doing with our lives? And what should we be doing with them, when we're healthy and think we'll have loads of time later but we're too busy right now? And what about when we have lots of "free" time imposed on us because we're sick and we can't do all the things we dream of doing?

I've just been downhill skiing with my 82 year old father. He only retired 4 years ago at the age of 78 and retirement seemed like the end for him. It took him more than a year to find his new normal. But he did - obviously he's very lucky because he's very healthy but he goes to a funeral a week on average - and his take is he just does what he wants until he can't. He drives me crazy in a lot of ways because he's the same as ever ("I don't understand why all you Europeans PAY for water in a bottle when it comes out of the TAP for FREE!!!") but basically he doesn't give a damn if the clock is ticking more loudly.
Go tatoo!

Anonymous said...

"I want to live my life like you live yours: as though it’s precious and treasured and worth fighting for."
You don't want to emulate me; I developed a chronic illness at fifteen and three years later had finally ended up with severe depression, which I still cannot overcome. I do not treasure my life and find it difficult to keep fighting. I am fortunate because my illness is not terminal, but more and more I wish it were. These thoughts make me feel like the lowest of the low, when I consider that many people do not have my life expectancy and here I am wishing it away. Depression is an awful thing. I hope that you find peace and calm and that the medication takes away the black dog.