The Day I Discovered My Fiance’s Depression

Depression

by Bryony Kimmings |
Published on

Comedian Bryony Kimmings felt certain she knew her boyfriend inside out. Then a chance discovery cast doubt on every aspect of the life they’d built together...

The night I met Tim – three years ago, in a pop-up bar in Dalston – I had hit East London with a burning desire to get drunk, dance and, to put it bluntly, get laid. As with all one-night stands, it was the alignment of lucky stars that made us meet. I had demanded that the boy my friend was snogging find me a boy, too. Tim was telephoned. He says he spotted me straight away, whirling around the bar like a dervish, and had hoped I had been the girl he was summoned for. I don’t remember much, but I woke up next to him the day after and couldn’t believe my luck. He was gorgeous and funny and, after only a few hours, I was smitten.

On paper, Tim was my polar opposite. His career-minded ad-man to my arty-farty idiot. But something just fitted. He told me how much he wanted children, which made my heart sing. He got mad at the world’s injustices, just like me. And when he put his arm around me it felt

like we had been friends forever. We spent our first months just laughing; those next-level, silent laughs you do in school assemblies where you can’t catch your breath. I am not a lucky-in-love lady; so

I finally felt my ship might just be coming in. We spent the summer lolling around parks and staring at each other while walking into lamp posts and, by the end of it, he had moved in and we were quite able to read each other’s minds. Or so I thought.

As the nights drew in, a change came that rocked our world. One morning, about six months in, I texted him to ask if I could borrow his backpack. After no reply, I naughtily nicked it anyway. As I unzipped the front pocket, I spied a packet of Citalopram tablets. I recognised the antidepressant instantly from a family member’s past. I was totally confused. Had he ever mentioned these? I tried to call him, but knew he was in meetings all day. I couldn’t get my head around it. My Tim was always so strong, so happy. Was he ill? If he’d lied about this, then what else? Who was this man living in my flat?

Tim tells me that as soon as he heard my voice, he knew the game was up. He came home late that night; I waited desperately in our little attic room. He said he dragged his feet because he was sure his bags would be packed and on the front step. As he came through the door, he looked like a shell of a man. His honest eyes full of tears; frightened beyond belief. We fell on the bed in a heap as I begged him to tell me everything. And so unravelled almost a decade of shame. One desperate man silently coping with an illness he knew little about but that had nearly taken his life. He had severe chronic depression and I was the first to know.

It turned out that Tim had kept quiet about what he was going through because of his deeply entrenched fear that people would think him less of a man. It was hard for me to understand, but it became clear that to come to terms with his depression, he had to undergo a period of ‘coming out’; that the shame would only disappear if he could be proud of who he truly was. He wanted to come off his tablets (he felt fine, largely because he’d been on the tablets for 10 years, we later realised) and to tell his mates and inform his work. And slowly but surely, we tackled these great hurdles together. When he told his male friends, two out of five of them admitted they also suffered with mental health issues. It was beautiful, and also quite ironic. It was an intense time and everything about life changed. We grew closer, we fell deeper in love and learned to talk like we had never talked before.

Then, six months into this new life, Tim relapsed. I was on a comedy tour in Australia and I watched as my soulmate wilted over Skype. His speech became monotone, his eyes dark, his thoughts darker. And for the first time, I saw how debilitating this illness could be. Depression was a black hole, sucking everything into it, making Tim disappear. I wanted to come home as soon as I realised – the decline was so quick – but I was committed to stay another couple of weeks, which made me feel guilty, and made him feel guilty for making me feel bad.

On my return, in May 2014, I swore I would never go away again. Our lives had changed and he needed me. I joked in the car soon after I got back that I would stop making shows unless he would agree to be in them. The look in his eye told me he was up for something reckless!

He wanted to go on a bit of an adventure, I’d secured the money to pay him for six months and his employers were supportive when he told them he was leaving. Now, when I look back, it was a ridiculous, romantic idea, but it meant we got to see each other every day.

We spent the winter writing, holed up in Tim’s parents’ shed, having given up our flat. He told me his story and I turned it into theatrical scenes. We recorded us chatting too, which makes up a large portion of the show. We laughed and we cried. He went from a bloke who didn’t

speak about his depression to the most honest, open and eloquent man I’d ever met.

Flash forward two years and we now live in a cottage in Oxfordshire with our new baby, Frank, who is three months old. We are engaged (Tim proposed in Rome the day after he quit his job) and we’ve just completed a mammoth tour (much of it while heavily pregnant!). F_ake It ’Til You Make It_ is Tim’s story. We tell it through recorded interviews, silly dancing and home-made songs, combined with the facts we learned along the way. It has won awards in Australia and Edinburgh and soon we’ll pack up tiny Frank and head out on a UK tour. Turns out a man talking about his darkest emotions is surprisingly funny and enlightening. My proudest moment has been watching Tim talking about his depression on BBC Two. Now, Tim has been off his tablets since the summer and he’s not had a relapse. He seems very happy as a father and we’re writing a book together, called Boys Don’t Cry.

We have a family motto. If something feels like it shouldn’t be said out loud... it undoubtedly should be. Because a problem shared is a problem smashed to smithereens! We both know the depression may return but, if it does, we’ll deal with it. Not a day goes by when I don’t see Tim and myself dancing in that crappy bar in Dalston and thank my lucky stars that something, somewhere brought him to me.

The Fake It ’Til You Make It tour starts 19 February: visit bryonyandtim.com

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us