Wednesday 20 September 2017

Marian Keyes on her depression: 'It was as if I was locked in a car boot with a Rottweiler - I felt extreme fear'

Marian Keyes on RTE's Late Late Show
Marian Keyes on RTE's Late Late Show
Author Marian Keyes with her husband Tony Baines
Writer Marian Keyes
Caitlin McBride

Caitlin McBride

Marian Keyes has opened up about her lengthy battle with depression, describing her experience as a feeling of being in "extreme fear".

The best-selling author (53) has been vocal about her experience with depression, which she said came on abruptly in 2009.

"I was at a barbecue on a September afternoon in 2009, I was talking to a  woman I really love, who is so nice and I just became aware of extreme anxiety. I couldn't understand it because everything was good and that was the start of it," she said on the Late Late Show.

When host Ryan Tubridy asked her to articulate her experience, she said she was reluctant to go back to such a dark place, but said: "If I start to remember how it was, if I even get a whiff of it, I can’t bear it. I swear to God, this isn't self pity – it’s like if you have a broken bone and you don’t want to touch it. It was really confusing, I couldn't understand it, it was an extreme fear. It was kind of like the fear you have when your life is in danger. If I was locked in a car boot with a Rottweiler, it was that sort of fear – it was primal, it was survival need. It wasn't fear of ordinary stuff.

Writer Marian Keyes
Writer Marian Keyes

"I couldn't understand it, everything was lovely in my life. People naturally enough thought I was just whinging – not people close to me, but because I have a public presence - I swear to God I had no control over it."

Keyes, who has been married to husband Tony Baines for 22 years, touched on her battle with alcoholism earlier in the interview, but it was her candid description of her depression that struck a cord with Tubridy and viewers, with many taking to social media to praise her honest account of one of the darkest times in her life.

"I think depression is an illness just as alcoholism is an illness," she explained. "People, when they hear you had a bout of really bad depression, they wonder ‘what happened? what brought it about?' Sometimes for some people, something does happen to trigger it. But for some people, nothing terrible happened to me to trigger it.

"It happened very dramatically and very suddenly I’d like to say to people out there, don’t blame yourself fi you can’t find the cause. It’s an illness. I understand so little about it."

She was proactive in her approach to improve her mental health, trying anything she could that might boost her, saying "I would have stood upside down in a bucket of blue paint".

"I went into a psychiatric hospital, I tried all kinds of antidepressants known to man, meditation, mindfulness, CBT, exercise, going on a holiday, hobbies, reading, not leaving the house – everything."

Eventually the "sun came out" as Tubridy said and Keyes said her depression went away as quickly as it came, after nearly five years.

"It was May 2014, nothing had changed – I was still pushing away at it. The suicidal thoughts had gone, the fear was there and time had slowed down so much, I felt so disconnected," she added.

Author Marian Keyes with her husband Tony Baines
Author Marian Keyes with her husband Tony Baines

"It was literally like being on the ocean floor, starting this ascent and I cannot describe to you the joy…I still feel like that. I am very agin to this very American thing of, ‘we must reconfigure every tragic thing or disaster into a wonderful opportunity’, but I do seem to be far more capable joy since.

"I felt so happy and I felt so much love for all the people I had been disconnected from. I feel the beauty in the world and the goodness in people. In the horrible times, time passed very, very slowly, now I lose track of time. I could wander and not care."

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