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Bryony Kimmings: “I am in splendid beautiful love with a depressed & anxious man”

Bryony Kimmings is an outrageous and fearless performance artist from London who, six months into the relationship with her now fiancé Tim Grayburn, found out that he suffers from severe clinical depression. He had kept it a secret for a very long time. Following this discovery, Kimmings created a new work about clinical depression and men, Fake it ’til you Make it, written by and starring Tim and her, all about their joint experience of his illness and how they deal with it. It is a wickedly funny, moving and brave show about the wonders and pitfalls of the human brain, being in love and what it takes to be a ‘real man’.  Here Bryony talks about loving someone with depression and how we all need to talk more…

“I am in deep splendid beautiful love with a depressed and anxious man.

Two and a half years ago I literally stumbled across Tim Grayburn in an absolute shit heap of a wanky pop up bar in Dalston. I was out of my mind drunk and both of us had been looking for a funny, like minded drinking partner to have a no strings one night stand with. What I didn’t realise, as we pretended to play imaginary cards with each other and gut laughed our way down Dalston Lane and home to mine, was that I had met the love of my life. 

Flash forward to the present day and I now live in a tiny thatched cottage in a village which should be called “the absolute middle of nowhere” with Mr Grayburn. We are engaged and 7 months pregnant and currently still touring the award winning theatre show that we made together this year about Tim’s journey into understanding and accepting his own chronic Depression and how we deal with it as a couple. 

I am a chick blogging for CALM because I want men to know something about how women feel about men with mental health issues… Because it’s really not the story you expect or are conditioned to believe

When I met Tim he was harbouring a great secret. One he had hidden away through shame, disbelief and probably lack of emotional vocabulary and dexterity, for almost eight years. At the age of 23 Tim had a nervous breakdown. The first time he had a depressive episode at that age he left it for almost a year before he asked for help. 

It began as insomnia and feeling very, very angry. This was quickly followed by the sort of niggling existential questions we might ask ourselves once or twice at that age (who am I? Why am I here? What is life for?) but for Tim these questions were on repeat, playing over and over in spirals, out of control, in his brain. Two months in, the tears began. He couldn’t, wouldn’t, believe it was happening. He told no-one; he says now he was so very ashamed and he felt no-one could ever understand. He also says he had no idea what depression even was.

It wasn’t until Tim hit rock bottom that a family member stepped in. He had been contemplating his suicide on daily walks with his dog for a few weeks. It was lucky he made it to the doctor’s alive. 

The doctor asked him to complete a questionnaire, and told him he was severely clinically depressed. The doctor gave him tablets. But that was it. No after care, no talking therapy, no real explanation. This unfortunately corroborated the shame and Tim vowed to not speak of it again. For the next near-decade he took his tablets, partied hard, tried to forget and ignored the darkness. Sometimes he just stopped taking his tablets cold turkey…not a good idea! 

I found Tim’s tablets in his backpack four days after he moved lock, stock and barrel into my flat. I was extremely shocked that he hasn’t told me he was taking strong anti-depressant and anxiety medicines. 

What I wasn’t was put off. 

What I wasn’t was in doubt of his masculine credentials 

What I wasn’t was “outta there!”

I was pissed off the little shit had lied. I was confused because he had presented as quite an emotionally dexterous person. I was mostly at a loss as to why he didn’t feel he could confide in me, as we seemed so close.

It was then I realised I didn’t actually know that much about blokes. They were suddenly alien to me. 

You see the thing about us chicks is that we could talk about our emotions until the cows come home (I actually view gender as an infinite spectrum but mean this in a presumptuous, simplistic and traditional binary sense). We learn it from our friends and mothers, we hear it on the TV, we are marketed, we are encouraged to do it at school. But we also make the mistake of often assuming men don’t do this out of choice, and it drives us to distraction. 

This is a common mistake. We blame men for not talking about their emotions by constantly corroborating the culture that keeps them silent. All of us are doing it. Every time we tell a little boy to “man up”, when we gender play to make girls passive and boys strong aggressors, when we teach our daughters that men just aren’t good communicators, when we laugh at boys for using girlish words to describe how they feel. 

I made Tim tell me everything. He assumed I would leave him the night of the tablet discovery. He assumed I would want someone stronger and more in control, when all I ever wanted as a girl (and I can speak for so many more women like me no doubt!), was a boyfriend who was able to talk to me emotionally… God, not just about how he felt about me (gross, this isn’t a rom-com!), but about the world ad infinitum. How the destruction of the planet made his soul hurt, how it was so brilliant that admitting he had mental health problems to his mates had made them infinitely closer, how having felt the depths of suicidal despair he could identify with people who had suffered great loss. This to many girls is a deep relationship. Not protection, not strength in situations (we often nowadays have that covered ourselves as feminists, thanks), but more an equal partnership of closeness and deep emotional connection. The person who knows your fears, loves your warts and looks after you … both ways round.

When I met Tim that night in Dalston I saw a rowdy funny twat, just like all the other media types who frequent that area on the search of cool.  What I got (after a long period of finding ourselves and experimenting with drugs and a LOT of talking) was both a re-wiring of what it took to be a man and what it took to be a woman. Turns out it’s exactly the same thing.

I know CALM is already always encouraging men to speak to other men but I also implore men to speak to women. We have years of loved experience and are crying out for you to let your guards down and do so.

It’s actually very sexy.”

Follow Bryony: @BryonyKimmings

Fake It Til’ You Make It is at the Soho Theatre, London from 22nd September – 17th October 2015 

BOOK TICKETS HERE

“Bold, Brave and very brilliant” The Independent

“One of the funniest, most charming things i’ve seen in an age” Time Out

“An unabashedly wacky sweetheart with a delightful anything goes air” The Times

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