The Candle and the Lighthouse

When the lights go out, you don’t always see it.

It’s not like being at the theatre, where the house lights zip down and the stage lights go up; where there’s always someone front of house with a torch to guide you if you need it. And it’s not like drawing a blind against the glare of the midday sun: a gentle shade against unbearable brightness.

Sometimes – when the lights go out – you don’t even know it’s happening until the darkness is so complete that you can’t tell whether your eyes are open or shut. Sometimes, they dim, a single lumen at a time.

Things that were bright and sparkling… they become that little duller, that little bit less shiny – as though a mist is settling between you and them. Polished glasses on a shelf. Stars. Moving water under moonlight. Wits.

What glittered becomes grey.

That’s when you see it. If you’re lucky.

That’s when you need a candle. And that really is all you need. One, single candle – however small. Because in the dark, a candle is a lighthouse. A candle casts shadows – and believe it or not, shadows will give you hope… because for there to be shadows, there have to be edges. There have to be ends. There have to be places where the shadows aren’t.

A candle is all it takes to remind you that the shadows end.

A candle can be your lighthouse, guiding you home. It doesn’t need to be big. It doesn’t need to be bright. It just needs to be alight.

Depression, if you’ve ever tangled with it, is like that. It creeps or it roars – you can never tell which it’ll be. It overwhelms you like a wave… or it sneaks up on you like a changing tide and you don’t see it until it’s up to your neck.

It’s the darkness that sidles into your life and snuffs out every lamp you lit around yourself as it goes. And although I’ve been taught to see it coming, sometimes – just every now and again – the darkness is too fast and too deep and it is a thing with teeth and scales that whispers from the shadows and locks the door behind it when it comes in.

I think, this time, I may have been sitting in the dark for a while. I’m not sure: I can’t remember when the lights started going out. All I know is that somehow, sometime, they did.


And somewhere in the darkness, I put my hand down and I felt the scales and I felt the teeth… and then, a box of matches.

A candle.

A lighthouse.

And that’s all I need.


Bring the Joy

I have flu. Yay. I made it as far as the afternoon of Christmas Day, and then it sideswiped me. By ten o’clock, I was hunched in the corner of the sofa, wrapped in three blankets and making pathetic “meep” noises. I was also watching THE BOURNE LEGACY, and I can tell you I have never empathised so deeply with a character as I did with Aaron Cross, sweating his virus-mojo out in Manilla. Brother, I was right there with you.

Anyway. Viruses and chems and festive woes aside, I wanted to say thank you.

Just before Christmas, I went all serious and emotional for a bit and wrote a blog about depression and therapy and medication and… stuff.  And I put it online and assumed that most people would be far too busy doing Christmassy things to notice it, but that maybe one or two would see it – and that maybe it would be helpful.

As it turned out, rather a lot of people saw it.

And rather a lot of people got in touch – many of them privately – about it.

I wouldn’t dream of directly repeating what anyone said, but I heard from far more of you than I expected. People who’ve been on medication. People just starting it. People just coming off it. People who’ve had long-term treatment. People who’ve had short-term treatment. People who’ve had, are starting or are undergoing therapy.

So many people.

While their stories and their experiences are their own – each as individual as the person sharing them – it proved one very important thing: if you are suffering from depression, if you are undergoing treatment or think you might need it… you are not alone.

Bearing that in mind, here’s an idea.

Like pretty much everyone else with a blog, I was planning on writing an end-of-year post. You know the sort of thing: this happened in this month, and I did this, and went there and… yadda yadda yadda.

But I’m kind of tired of talking about me. (I know, right? It’s the flu talking. Must be.) I’d like to talk about you. About us. So tell me about your year.

Tell me something good that happened to you this year. Something that brought you joy. It can be a big thing, or a little thing or anywhere in between. Personal, professional, sensible, silly… it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it made you happy.

Tell me what it was, and who you are, and I’ll include it in that end of year post. You can leave a comment on this entry, or mail me via the contact form, or tweet me (and if you can include #bringthejoy, that would be super-helpful). I warn you, if there aren’t enough, I’m just going to have to go ahead and talk about me anyway – and no-one wants that, do they?

You have until the morning of New Year’s Eve.

So let’s end the year the same way we start the new one.

With joy. With optimism. With hope…

… And with each other.