Author Marian Keyes, whose new recipe book Saved by cake is out this month, writes movingly about depression and how baking proved to be the magic that helped her.

I don’t know what I’d have done without Come Dine With Me. And Glee.

The medical profession call it “a major depressive episode”, I don’t know what to say because I still don’t know what happened to me. What I do know is that I was knocked sideways by a multitude of feelings, nit just depression but agitation, anxiety, terror, panic, grief, despair and an almost irresistible desire to be dead, and it has gone on for a very long time.

Description: Author Marian Keyes

Every day for six months I had to try to stay alive. I got through each day hour by hour, trying to hang on until the sun set and it was time to close the shutters and I’d feel, “Okay, I’ve survived another day” It was such a horrible winner and it felt like it went on forever, but when the clocks went forward I felt worse, as there as an extra hour of daylight to last through.

I know I’ll be criticized for saying all this, I know it sounds horribly selfish when life is a precious gift and many people desperately want to be alive and and denied it, but honestly, I’ve had no control over it. Wave after wave of black agony has been rolling up from my gut and I’ve been powerless to stop it.

I’ve heard people descrilbe depression as feeling like they’re living behind glass, unable to experience anything, but for me, it’s been different. It’s been like being poisoned, it’s felt like my brain is squirting out terrible black toxic chemicals that poison any good thoughts. I’m well aware that I have an enviable life and there are bound to be people who think, “What the hell has she got to be depressed about?

Description:  Marian Keyes has written many books

But whatever has been wrong with me isn’t fixable by an attitude shift. Believe me, I’ve tried (mindfulness, cognitive behavioural therapy, gratitude lists…). Another thing about depression is that you’re supposed to be catatonic, but it hasn’t been that way for me, it’s been the opposite. I’ve been waking way too early, arriving into the day with a terrible jolt and shaking with anxiety.

I’ve been so agitated and desperate to escape how I feel that I’ve had very few days when I’ve been unable to get out of bed. It’s been the total opposite; I CAN”T stay in bed; it’s too frightening. Instead I’ve been running around like a hamster on a wheel, wildly looking for distraction. But despite the constant activity, I don’t accomplish anything.

I haven’t been able to talk to people; at times I’ve gone mute and I haven’t been able to concentrate. Reading has been impossible as by the time I got to the end of a sentence I’d have forgotten the start. All I’ve been able to do is watch stuff – I don’t know what I’d have done without Come Dine With Me. And Glee.

I was offered hundreds of very practical suggestions for which I thank everyone. Some of the things I tried include acupuncture, antidepressants (now on my fifth type), cognitive behavioural therapy, crying (until I burst blood vessels in my eye), fish oils, giving blood, hill walking, mindfulness and meditation (couldn’t hack it), praying, psychotherapy (an utter godsend, I have a great therapist who I trust completely), reiki, vitamins B, C and D, and yoga (couldn’t stay with my own poisoned thoughts)

Then I started baking like a complete maniac. It’s something I haven’t done since I was 12, but now I want to do it ALL THE TIME. It’s like a compulsion and it transpires that I’m quite good at it. For a while, I ate everything I baked and that was okay as I’d lost tons of weight on account of my stomach having shrunk to the size of a walnut. But now I’ve ricocheted in the opposite direction and I’m the size of a house again, business as usual. It’s such a bummer (pun! Entirely inadvertent! Maybe I haven’t lost it!) because I was proper skinny for a while, and too aghast and afraid to appreciate it. Now I’ve  taken to making the cakes for others. The worst thing is that I’m still not able to write. I really miss it but I’m powerless. I just have to wait it out.

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