Kinds of Blue: An anthology about depression


I was familiar with depression long before I knew its name. Fortunately, while growing up, my brush with it was light: I didn't feel sad all the time, I had no trouble getting out of bed in the morning, and my grades were exemplary. But I would stay up late regularly, playing computer games, reading and dawdling into the small hours. I always had this sense that something was wrong, but I wouldn't have been able to tell you what it was. Nevertheless, the feeling persisted well into my university years, when I would read Sylvia Plath and listen incessantly to Radiohead's OK Computer.

My husband Ben was also familiar with depression long before we met. However, like me, he did not recognise it for what it was. In addition, like me, he functioned fairly well, and seemed outwardly fine to all who knew him.

Ben and I met at university, and were married in the Australian summer of 2000. The first couple of years were a little rocky as we struggled to adjust to one another, our respective moods and behaviours. But it wasn't until our third year of marriage that depression suddenly erupted like a cancer and was diagnosed for what it was. That was the beginning of some particularly black days—days of pills, pills and more pills; numerous counselling sessions (together and apart); and the occasional secret confession of suicidal thoughts. At various points, we would both be so down, we couldn't even help each other.

The crunch point came sometime during this time. We found ourselves faced with a choice: turn our backs on one another or persevere together as a united front. We chose the latter.

As a result, we learned a lot of skills we would not have otherwise acquired—things like how to love and care for one another when depression was in residence; how to be more patient, more compassionate and even more understanding than the average human being; how to interpret and explain the inner workings of our minds; and, most of all, how to practise good self-care for the long-haul.

At the time of writing, we have reached our 11th year of marriage, and have emerged battered and bruised, but quintessentially us. We do not claim to be victorious over depression—in fact, we expect it will remain a squatter with us for the rest of our natural lives. But we acknowledge that it has taught us a lot—about ourselves, about the humble state of the human condition, and about how to live in this fallen world.

The pieces in this collection are the product of some of our experiences and the experiences of some of my friends who have suffered similarly. Certain aspects of living with depression (for example, depression in the elderly and depression in the chronically ill) have not been covered here because we could not write about such things authentically. But instead of comprehensiveness, we have aimed for truthfulness—in what depression looks like, what depression feels like, and the small gestures, strategies and people that sometimes help.

Not all readers will find the contents helpful, and should note before continuing that they may encounter images and themes that will be disturbing and upsetting for them. We encourage those who feel this way to seek support from the organisations listed in the “Where to get help” section at the end.

This anthology could not have come to life without the contribution and help of a number of very special people. So let me take this opportunity to thank:

  • Melanie Boreham, for creating such a wonderful cover;
  • All the artists who contributed—Mike Barry, Tim Bywater, Fiona Darwin, Dan Gilmore, Jess Green, Kathleen Jennings, Nancy Malik, Belinda Stead, Jemima Trappel and Paul Wong-Pan—for their sterling work and patience in collaboration;
  • The Hive Mind—Rebecca Jee and Guan Un—for their wonderful pieces, their inspiration, their encouragement, their hard work and our more-or-less weekly writing sessions, which really spurred me on to actually put something out there;
  • My beautiful and supportive husband, Ben Beilharz;
  • The terrific professionals in the comics industry who make their wisdom and experience available for free on Twitter—in particular, CB Cebulski, Tom Brevoort, Ron Perazza, Jordan D White, Kazu Kibuishi, Scott McCloud, Neil Gaiman, Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, Tom Humberstone and Marc Ellerby. We are particularly grateful to Scott McCloud for promoting us during our crowd funding campaign;
  • Professor Gordon Parker, Executive Director of the Black Dog Institute in Sydney, for his feedback and support;
  • Pozible and our legion of terrific supporters, without whom producing this book in print would not be possible;
  • Finally, my great God and Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: without his love, mercy and strength to persevere, I would not be here today. Soli Deo gloria.

Karen Beilharz

Sydney, Australia
June 2011