My friends will bear testimony that I am very fond of children. But I was bitter because, aged 39, I had no partner, no prospect of a partner and, more significantly, no prospect of motherhood. Maybe the party felt harder to cope with that day because my hopes had just taken a severe knock. I had been told by an unsentimental doctor’s receptionist that I was peri-menopausal (ie approaching the menopause) and the possibility of my bearing children was lodged somewhere between zero and infinitesimal.
The “what is the point?” conversation is the one for friends and family to look out for as a first clue to depression. This is not the “what is the point?” response of a child to doing homework or cleaning a bedroom; it is, rather, “what is the point of my being alive?” For depressives the feeling is often heightened when the reasons for depression are not obvious to themselves or, more importantly, to others. This leads to the cajoling (or worse, hectoring) question: “What have you got to be depressed about – you have a great job/partner/house/body?”
I come from a small, loving, middle-class family. I was not brought up to follow a particular religion, although as a child my grandmothers took me, and my only sister Amanda, to Sunday services at the local church in the Surrey town where we spent all our youth. What my parents did adhere to with near religious fervour was the observation of good manners. A framework of politeness in all situations was my firmest mould. Now, grown up, approaching a milestone of middle age, it was safe to say on paper I had more than most: a well-paid, challenging job in the media, to which I was virtually married, a lovely house without an enormous mortgage, often exciting relationships, great friends and I remained close to my stable family. And yet by August 2000 my predominant talent was for crying.