10 October 2019, The Tablet

My friend, John Henry Newman

Newman Canonisation

My friend, John Henry Newman

Newman’s shrine at the Oxford Oratory


A writer with a long history of depression unexpectedly found herself before the portrait of Newman tucked into a corner of the Oxford Oratory. She lit a candle, knelt and prayed for help. And then something remarkable happened

In the winter of 2014, I was depressed. This wasn’t a new development. I had a long history with depression, starting with formal diagnosis at the age of seven. (I always was an overachiever.) But the thing about the familiar ailment, the creaking joint or the complaining organ, is that it can become too familiar. You adapt to it. You work around the pain.

Sometimes that’s enough, and you limp on as you are: not quite well, but not sick enough to warrant intervention. But sometimes it isn’t enough, and you wake up one day and realise that you haven’t lived normally in years, and it’s much worse than you thought, and you don’t know what to do about it. That’s what happened to me. That’s what it felt like.

I don’t know what brought on the crisis. Perhaps it was moving back to the UK after years living abroad. Perhaps it was resentment at my then-husband’s flourishing career, while I didn’t seem able to do anything. Perhaps it was the troubled parents I had failed over and over again to soothe. Perhaps it was my hormones, my serotonin levels, the weather. Perhaps it was all of these things or none of them but, whatever the cause, I realised with a sudden clarity that the thing had got so bad that I no longer wanted to live.

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