I begin by describing how I was an Oxford graduate, working mother and Times journalist who went from feeling mildly anxious to being completely unable to function three days later. I was married with two children and a husband who worked at Goldman Sachs. I didn’t know that this kind of depression could happen so swiftly, least of all to someone like me. This anatomisation of a privileged high-achiever’s sudden descent into mental illness is new and terrifying to read about.
I then describe my slow climb to recovery, through drugs, prayer, my family’s love and especially the healing power of poetry. I analyse in depth why poetry can be a huge comfort to someone with depression. Poetry is free and has no side-effects. As well as my personal story, the book is also an anthology of consolatory poems.
Seven months later, I seem to be fully recovered. I return to my normal life, working full-time until I get pregnant with our third child, then I become a full-time mother, and have two more children. Years pass, but my anxiety levels remain high: now I push myself hard to be the best mother I can, as well as wife and homemaker, while still feeling I should also work. I still have not made peace with trying to “have it all”. I succumb to a second collapse even worse than the first.
In the last quarter of the book I describe my journey from containment to change. I embrace therapy and gain insights about myself and my past behaviour, about the need to challenge my own expectations and those of society about a woman’s role. Poetry becomes even more important to me and I get involved in making a poetry app. I attempt to be a different, good enough person. In the words of George Herbert, my ‘shrivelled heart’ has ‘recovered greenness’. Still married, with five healthy children, and a new future ahead - this for me has become the meaning of “having it all”.
Rachel Kelly is a former Times journalist who is now a mental health campaigner, public speaker, and writer.
In her early thirties, Rachel was diagnosed with serious depression and subsequently suffered two major depressive episodes. These two episodes have become the defining events of her life. Since then, she has written about the condition, and how she has recovered, in books that have been read by tens of thousands of people. Her memoir about her experience of serious depression Black Rainbow was a Sunday Times bestseller .
Rachel now speaks publicly about her experienc...
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