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Tuesday 25 November 2014

A Manic Depressive Writes

It's rare that I find a connection between Corrie and my own life.  Weatherfield is a heightened world that exists outside the norm; I have no long-lost relatives, I've never had a baby or been divorced, and a tram has never fallen on my head.  Admittedly, I did once club an ex-boyfriend to death with a tacky statuette, but that was ages ago.

Steve's current battle with depression has hit home quite badly.  I'm suddenly seeing parts of my life on screen.  The doctor's questionnaire, the resigned looks, the fear of madness.  The sheer terror of that first panic attack.  I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety five years ago, and since then I've had it infiltrate every part of my existence.  Watching Steve go through the same symptoms as I did is strange; like seeing myself from the outside.

Depression is different for every person.  The way Steve feels though - the absence of joy, the lack of engagement, the constant desire to crawl under the bed clothes and stay there - it's really familiar.  Depression doesn't make you "sad"; it makes you nothing.  It hollows you out and leaves you empty.  The happiest experiences of your life become irrelevant, and you can't understand why people want to spend time with someone like you.  You're worthless.  Nothing.

I got help.  Thank goodness for the NHS.  I got regular doses of anti-depressants, and I saw a psychiatrist and a counsellor.  I had to give up work but luckily I had a caring partner who helped and supported me.

Which is where Steve's been let down, of course.  Michelle's complete lack of sympathy for Steve is heartbreaking for him and revolting for us as viewers.  Right from the start it's all been about her.  "Steve's not very talkative - it must be because he's going off me!"  She's motoring along in Michelle world and doesn't spot that there is something significantly wrong with the man she supposedly loves; she's not even suggested that he see a doctor.  No, as far as Michelle is concerned, Steve's just doing all this to annoy her.  I hope she stays kipping on Carla's sofa or, better yet, gets a job on another cruise ship.  That sinks.

More upsetting is Liz's attitude, which seems to come out of plot contrivance rather than actual characterisation.  I find it hard to believe that Liz wouldn't be more sensitive to her son's change in personality.  I'd be interested to hear what Beverley Callard - who's suffered from mental health issues herself - would have to say on the matter.

It's good to see Corrie deal with an issue that affects people across the country, but doesn't get the same levels of sympathy that other illnesses get.  "Pull yourself together" is most people's idea of how to deal with it and let me tell you, it's not that easy.  I'm getting better, and I hope Steve does too.

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Tvor said...

Thank you for posting, Scott, on a very personal issue! It's good to see it from your perspective. Did your partner spot the problem as it very often does get missed at first by people close to the situation.

Carry On Blogging! said...

Thank you for sharing your own experiences, very interesting to get your take on it all. I agree with you about Michelle's reaction in particular, very difficult viewing.

Anonymous said...

Whilst it is laudable that Corrie has undertaken a major storyline about depression, I'm very disappointed with its execution.

Depression is a slow-burning illness that in most cases takes extended periods of time to manifest itself in a myriad of different ways in the sufferer. This storyline with Steve has been running for what, 3 weeks now and he's already demonstrating symptoms at the more extreme end of the spectrum.

It's typical of what I would call soap operas' Solomon Grundy storywriting - characters experience in a week what most of us experience in a decade.

The thing is that Corrie does have some good form here with developing plots at the more natural pace when appropriate - see the Charlie mental abuse of Shelley story from some years back.

Unfortunately the manner in which they are expediting this Steve story - and the likelihood they will feel compelled to return him to his cheeky chappy comedy role at some point - means that he'll probably go from fine to manic depressive to cured in 6 weeks or so.

A good opportunity wasted here I fear.

Tvor said...

I would say Steve's storyline began back when he turned 40, then got involved with Peter and the affair secret after that, early this year. It really threw him after Tina was murdered and he felt responsible and Michelle and Liz reinforced that feeling of no self worth. It's been cooking pretty much most of the year, a little at a time, really.

Defrost Indoors said...

I don't see anything in this post to indicate that the writer is bipolar?! Anyway, depression doesn't necessarily need a defined cause. To put it in its most simple form, depression is caused by deficiencies in brain chemistry which don't necessarily need a trigger. Agreed that Michelle makes it all about her, as per; I don't understand why no one will call her out on it, unless they're setting her up to be the villain of sorts.

Humpty Dumpty said...

SB has said this will turn into a love story between Steve and Michelle. For dramatic purposes and also because it happens in real life, not everyone should be persuaded that Steve has a problem. It would be interesting if his mum couldn't accept it through feelings of guilt or family shame.

It's true that everything has been squashed into a soap time-line but I guess we have to accept that. Again, not many people would bump into their GP after hours and have a follow-up chat in the street. If this storyline is to be helpful, the writers must show that it can be a long haul back to good health.

Unknown said...

Michelle did suggest that Steve go's to see a doctor back when he had the moles on his arms, she does know that something is wrong with Steve and has been for sometime, but she's not sure what it is, I am enjoying the storyline so far as it has been brewing for a long time since he turned 40. I also enjoy seeing Steve and Michelle together as do others.

Ruth owen said...

I found it particularly sad when In the street, Steve called to his mum and said, 'can I have a word?' She replied, 'yes, love,' but went on to say, 'you can have more than a word,' then droned on about how we all have responsibilities. Come on Liz, you're better than that.'

Anonymous said...

if delved deeper, and with clever writing Steve's depression could go back to his loss of Karen.

Many people (me one of them) walk around with depression but to the outside world they never see it. Much like a laughing clown (or sadly Robin Williams) happy on the outside, crumbling on the inside.

I am very good with the mask I wear. My closest family (parents, siblings, spouse, children) don't know I have depression.

I have a few friends in whom I confide and I do go for counselling.

So for me it can be believable that Steve could be ok, or at times appear ok, even in the "soap land" time frame. As long as it doesn't become a forgotten thing like David's epilepsy or Nick's head injury. Depression is like the bogey man. It lurks in dark places and can jump out at you at anytime.

As for Michelle -personality disordered woman- she, like some of my family, make it all about them. I don't correct my family- too much energy on my part and really, if they are that self centered they can call it a day.
I could see Steve thinking the same thing. High maintenance woman equals too much energy out of me.

Thanks for being candid Scott. I agree depression makes you nothing. So engaging in the "no it's not you it's me" debate isn't worth it because you don't feel you are worth it. It is a mind set that is not easily fixed.


Anonymous said...

Scott thank you so very much for sharing your story. Stay strong my friend.

Anonymous said...

I really feel that I need to jump in here and stand up for Michelle. Yes, she has been awful at times. But Steve has been awful to her too, and has been irresponsible many times recently. And yes, Michelle IS doing all the work!
Don't forget people, we are in on Steve's secret, but Michelle is not (yet). And as mentioned above, she DID suggest Steve go to the doctor.
We can (and should) all feel sympathy for Steve, but let's not lump all the blame on to Michelle.
And no, I don't really like Michelle as a character, I just feel that many of the comments above are unfair.

Anonymous said...

Great that Corrie is tackling this but I've been surprised by how quickly Steve was offered counselling. I've long-term depression and have been offered anti-depressants and to be put on a waiting list for counselling - great in theory but not much use when you need help right away.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, Scott. Appreciate your perspective on this story-line.

I agree with hayli, I think it's possible Steve's suffered varying degrees of depression throughout his adult life. He's been imprisoned for some of his silly, even stupid behaviour; he was dealt a violent and heavy-handed father that he's had to protect his mother from; his mother lost a child (his sibbling) which can't help but impact him, too; he's had a number of failed relationships/marriages; he had a terrible fight to gain custody of his child, Amy; and, I agree with Tvor, he took a heavy toll over the Peter/Tina affair and subsequent murder of Tina.

As for Michelle, well, Steve is not blessed with a caring partner like you were, Scott. She's been obnoxious and unloving since the beginning. Though it was a joke and somewhat funny when, on holiday with Eileen, he got caught up with Shania, Michelle dragged it on and on, even keeping the photo up at the bar to dig at Steve. She tossed the engagement ring in the bin (symbol of tossing Steve in the bin?). She behaved like it was Steve's fault that Peter murdered Tina (believing that Peter did, indeed, murder Tina). Her petulance knows no bounds. I just cannot find her compassion or kindness anywhere in their long-term relationship, let alone her relationships with just about anybody else in the community.

I too am surprised by Liz's negative take on what Steve's going through. She used to be much more supportive of her boys.

Anonymous said...

I do agree that the storyline is being done very well, I think Simon Gregson is doing an excellent job of portraying the sense of loneliness and despondency that you feel.

However, whilst I'm no huge fan of Michelle, I do think her and Liz are being harshly judged. Steve, like many people suffering with depression, is doing his utmost to keep his true feelings quiet. I find it plausible that the women in his life are angry at him. without the audience's snippets into Steve's frame of mind when no one is watching or at the doctor's they only see a grumpy Steve who is shirking his responsibilities and pushing those closest to him away. Of course I'm not saying that's what he's actually doing, but as someone with a partner who suffers with anxiety and depression, I can confidently say I t's easier to offer someone help when you know what's wrong.

I'm reserving judgement on Michelle and Liz until they find out about Steve's illness. I'm hoping there will be some redemption for them then.

vicky said...

Okay, I'm also speaking as someone with a considerable experience of depression here, so bear that in mind.

The portrayal of Steve's depression so far has been quite good. I particularly liked the fact that he couldn't really explain the feeling for a long time to himself or anyone else.

But I couldn't disagree more when it comes to Michelle. The fact that depression is having a horrific effect on Steve doesn't actually mean that Michelle isn't affected by his disappearing act or his sudden car fixation. She's just as entitled to be cheesed off by this as anyone else in a relationship should be.

This is what I particularly like about this storyline - when you're depressed, you behave in ways other people can't understand and it's not because they're too intolerant or selfish to understand, it's because they have no way of understanding it (especially when Steve himself has only just had a diagnosis). If it was easy to spot someone else's depression, then there wouldn't be this huge societal stigma about it. So actually, Michelle has no reason to give Steve the benefit of the doubt over his behaviour and that's one of the tragedies of depression - you can't really articulate it yourself so getting other people to understand is impossible.

Shan said...

The thing about depression is it all affects us differently. The way our families react is different. How much we share is different. I'm glad they're taking on this storyline, but it's one that not everyone is going to see their struggle reflected in.

My husband comes from a culture that doesn't understand mental health. It's very much "suck it up." So while he was great at taking on responsibilities such as cooking and picking the kids up at school, in no way was he able to emotionally support me. I was left to deal with all that on my own. Of course, I wanted more support in that way but I didn't get it.

So while I have always felt that Michelle is not that fantastic a person, I can see why her attitude wouldn't change just because of Steve's illness.

Thanks for sharing you story Scott. The more we speak about mental health, the better we will all be able to deal with it.


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