Get A Grip, Love by Kate Lucey – Review
By Helen Johnston
We live in pretty depressing times. A cost-of-living crisis, broken health care system, broken railway system, and the constant threat of a climate emergency we’re told will finish us all off in the end anyway.
So, it’s no wonder we hear a lot more about depression and anxiety these days and are encouraged to talk about our mental health and seek help when we need it (although goodness knows how long the NHS waiting list is – more on that later).
Of course, there’s a big difference between feeling low and fed-up – and who isn’t in the middle of January? – and being diagnosed with depression. And that’s a theme of this book whose author has had years of wellmeaning but useless advice from others, such as “just try some positive thinking”.
Lucey was diagnosed with depression at 26 after struggling during lockdown and realising that the way she was feeling was more than just a low mood. She’s also keen to explain that depression is not just a mental illness affecting your thoughts, it also affects physical health. Her symptoms included shaky hands, chest pain, extreme lethargy, sensitivity to noise, and losing her libido. Her periods also stopped.
She went through various medical appointments and examinations before being diagnosed with depression and was prescribed antidepressants and a course of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy). Sorted? Not quite.
“Found some relief”
This wasn’t a magic combination of treatment after all. The Citaprolam wiped her out and the CBT proved next to useless, or a “crock of sh*t” as she puts it. It’s this kind of refreshing honesty that makes this book so readable. Lucey is a journalist and writes in a chatty style, using slang and swearing as she deems appropriate. She takes the reader through her search to find something to combat depression (magic mushrooms anyone?) and doesn’t try to do any of the self-help schtick which can make some books about mental illness a bit too preachy.
She makes a really good observation that, although we’re all encouraged to talk more about mental health now, it’s not always easy finding someone who’s prepared to listen. She cites the late Caroline Flack who, a month before taking her own life, was told by a friend that she found Flack draining. Lucey also had a friend who waited months for a doctor’s appointment (see my earlier comments about the NHS). She doesn’t blame individual doctors, but the system which can see people slip through the net.
She also doesn’t blame friends or family who might not know how to handle someone telling them they’re depressed, especially if they’re dealing with their own problems. Lucey doesn’t shy away from her own dark thoughts about ending her life and that it’s only knowing how much it would hurt her loved ones that has prevented her from acting upon those thoughts.
She has found some relief from counselling and although this account of her depression can be sad and scary in parts, she writes in such a way that shows she’s battling through it, determined to find the light-hearted moments, sometimes even funny moments, that will hopefully help those in the same boat. The book’s chapter headings set the tone, for example ‘Your boyfriend is so fit though, babe’ and ‘You should go for a run, mate’.
I’ve never been diagnosed with depression, but I’ve had difficult times in my life (as we all have) which have been a challenge to get through. A friend who has depression once told me every day can be a challenge for her. This book is worth reading if you have depression, or suspect you have it, because you’ll know you’re not alone. It’s also worth reading if you just want to know more about it, or to help a loved one who has it. Then you won’t be that unfortunate person saying “get a grip, love”.
‘Get A Grip, Love’ by Kate Lucey is published by HarperCollins, £9.99 paperback