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BettaKultcha Talk, York, March 2012


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Slides from my #BettaKultcha talk (York, 28/3/2012) sharing my experience of my recent recovery from depression,

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BettaKultcha Talk, York, March 2012

  1. 1. My name is Helen, my twitter id is @iamcreative and I’m afraid that my talk containsmoderate to strong social taboos and some fairly epic oversharing. But don’t worry, italso has a very happy ending so you can relax a bit. 1
  2. 2. My talk is dedicated to a cat called Keith who saved my life last week. As you can see,he’s pretty camera shy. 2
  3. 3. But I’m getting ahead of myself – all my life I’ve been an over-analytic, over-sensitiveworrier. These photos are 30 years apart but you can see the worry etched on myface. 3
  4. 4. For more than 10 years I’ve had an almost daily battle with dark thoughts, which Inow realise was actually chronic depression. In February this year I wrote in mynotebook: “my feet and eyes feel heavy as I drag my despair through the snow.” 4
  5. 5. This drawing was inspired by something Mark Millard wrote in an article about thelink between creativity and depression: “Creative people, like those with psychoticillnesses, tend to see the world differently to most. It’s like looking at a shatteredmirror. They see the world in a fractured way.” 5
  6. 6. I had lots of names for what I was experiencing: melancholy, neurosis, narcisism, self-centred, artistic temperament, existential crisis ... The list goes on and on 6
  7. 7. After 10 years of trying and failing to fix myself I realised I needed help and in July lastyear I typed ‘suicide help York’ into Google. 7
  8. 8. That led me to the Tuke Centre just up the road and I’ve been seeing a fantasticcounsellor there every Friday since then. I also felt hopeful that I would no longerwant to kill myself. But in December I had to accept that I was even more at risk and Ireluctantly went to my GP for the first time. 8
  9. 9. She was brilliant and prescribed a low dosage anti-depressant which gave me aglimpse of how wonderful life without depression could be. Unfortunately thingsstarted to get even darker and as a last resort I contacted the Maytree Respite Centrein London which is a sanctuary for people with suicidal thoughts. 9
  10. 10. After several conversations and being assessed over the phone by two of their fulltime staff I was offered a place and I arrived there last Tuesday for a 4 night stay upon the 4th floor of a beautifully ordinary terraced house near Finsbury Park. 10
  11. 11. And that’s where I met Keith the Cat who was huge and slightly aloof and saved mylife. 11
  12. 12. Of course Keith didn’t save my life alone – he had a lot of help from humans, squirrelsand pigeons. These are just some of the names and they include my husband Mark,my best friend, my twin sister, my cousin and my boss who all knew where I was andsupported me from a distance. 12
  13. 13. The Maytree is run by a small team of Directors and almost 100 volunteers. Betweenthem they provided 24 cover to help me during my suicidal crisis. But they are not‘people savers’, they simply provide warmth, kindness, space to just be and time toreflect on how I had arrived at their door. 13
  14. 14. I still have no idea how they worked their magic – on Saturday morning I felt veryunsure that I was ready to go back to the real world and I desperately wanted to stayjust one more night. 14
  15. 15. By Saturday lunchtime I was totally ready to head home and I felt a level of safety,happiness and resilience that I had never dreamed was possible. Somehow they hadhelped me find the missing jigsaw piece that I had been desperately hunting for mostof my life. 15
  16. 16. I’d arrived at the Maytree feeling very little at all but thinking that I was almostcompletely alone and unable to see a way out of the dark thoughts that I was losing abattle against. I had been fighting against depression for so long that I had know ideawho I was underneath the depression. 16
  17. 17. During the 5 days I spent at the Maytree I went from seeing myself as fragmentedand broken, exhausted from the effort of holding myself together, to seeing myself asa sparkling and vibrant kaleidoscope or a glittering spirograph. Not broken butconstantly changing and perfectly imperfect. 17
  18. 18. If you are thinking of killing yourself then this Emily Dickinson poem is for you: Hopeis the thing with feathers - / That perches in the soul - / And sings the tune withoutthe words - / And never stops - at all. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporaryproblem so please hold tightly to your hope and look for help, and never stop lookingfor that help until you find someone who will simply bear witness to your pain. 18
  19. 19. Both the Maytree Respite Centre in London, and the Tuke Centre in York areregistered charities. I will never be able to fully repay them for helping me save mylife so if you can please consider making a donation, even if it’s just some super fluffytowels or some books for their libraries. 19
  20. 20. I want to finish by saying thank you to Keith the Cat and everyone else I met over thepast week. My hope is that one day every town will have a sanctuary for the suicidalnamed after a tree. Maybe York could have one named after the Wayfaring Tree, theWild Service Tree or the Purging Blackthorn Tree. 20