Playwright Tim Grayburn provides a vital resource for those struggling with depression or supporting someone who is depressed. His brutally honest, conversational narrative describes a journey of sadness, humor and, ultimately, triumph. He discusses the dual nature of medications which saved him, but which also likely prolonged his condition. Grayburn emphasizes the lessons he learned, such as the importance of discussing depression and tackling its root causes, even if that requires changing careers. He reveals the importance of the support he enjoyed from his loved ones, especially the unwavering care he received from his creative partner Bryony Kimmings.
- Tim Grayburn experienced a normal, happy youth.
- At university and afterward, Grayburn partied hard.
- In his mid-20s, Grayburn plummeted into deep depression.
- Grayburn sought treatment and began his long struggle with depression.
- After meeting the love of his life, Grayburn faced his condition head-on, sought support and turned his life around.
- Grayburn created a play about his experiences, sharing his deepest secrets.
- Grayburn recovered, but he knows depression remains a risk.
Tim Grayburn experienced a normal, happy youth.
Growing up, Tim Grayburn had three siblings, a devoted stay-at-home mom and a supportive father who provided a positive, nurturing role model. Grayburn remembers having plenty of friends, some of whom would become lifelong mates. He enjoyed the freedom of bicycling, skateboarding, and exploring the streets, fields and empty lots of his small English town.
“Each case of depression is as individual as the people suffering from it – no one can judge or feel what someone else feels in his or her own head.”
Football, girls, recreational drugs, alcohol and fun times at the local pub characterized his teenage years. At 17, Grayburn decided to attend university rather than get a job and start adult life. He chose media studies with the vague notion of becoming a sports journalist and headed to college in Chichester with a friend in the autumn of 2000. Grayburn experienced his first encounter with depression and suicide when an acquaintance from school hanged himself, leaving no note or explanation. He recalls that people didn’t want to talk about what had happened.
At university and afterward, Grayburn partied hard.
Grayburn focused on parties, alcohol and good times, rarely attending class. He graduated and hit the road with three friends to see the world. For a year, the three traveled through Asia, Australia and the United States. Grayburn lost his passport and all his money, but he fell in love for the first time. He had the best year of his life to that point.
“My efforts to discover who I was and what I wanted to do with my life had failed at uni, so I thought perhaps traveling might provide the answers.”
Upon his return, Grayburn landed his first job as a media buyer for a small agency near Bristol. His girlfriend accompanied him back to England from Australia, and the pair settled into an apartment to start a new life. Before long, the romance ended, and Grayburn found himself back home, living with his parents.
In his mid-20s, Grayburn plummeted into deep depression.
Grayburn doubled down on sex, alcohol and fun. He moved into a flat with friends and tried to enjoy himself as much as possible. But he couldn’t quell the growing anxiety he felt about his future. He tried to crowd out his worries with drugs and alcohol, to no avail.
“Something changed completely in me, I just woke up different. I didn’t want to hang around with my mates anymore. I didn’t want to do the things I loved doing like playing football and seeing friends. I just thought, ‘I’m tired, and I just need to deal with it myself’.”
People didn’t talk about depression back then, at least not in Grayburn’s circles. He worried that if he ever mentioned how he felt, even his friends would consider him a wimp, so, he thought, he should just suck it up and carry on. He could not conceive of unburdening himself to his friends and spoiling their fun. Instead, he put on a show of happiness while attempting to deal with his feelings alone. In hindsight, he believes that if he had accepted his downward spiral, and had spoken with his parents or others about it, he might have stopped the progression of his depression and found treatment. Instead, he fell further into hopelessness. He became obsessed with the brutality and unfairness of the world and the pointlessness of his life.
His depression and insomnia turned to anger, profound sadness and thoughts of suicide. On the surface, Grayburn appeared to have a great life full of sports, friends and women as well as a promising career. But a full year of his debauchery took a toll on his housemates, so, at 25, he returned home to live with his parents.
His condition deteriorated rapidly. He got into fights and suffered a serious car crash while drunk and speeding. Still, Grayburn didn’t talk about his anxiety and depression. Instead, he quit his job and retreated further into feelings of shame and worthlessness. He couldn’t understand or come to grips with his depression. His fatigue, loss of appetite, sleeplessness and headaches baffled him. Yet in his world, “boys don’t cry,” and they also don’t whine about their feelings – especially Grayburn, who recognized how fortunate he was in most aspects of his life.
Grayburn’s parents saw that he was suffering, but they lacked the skills or knowledge to help him. He wondered why schools, the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), and other institutions didn’t educate parents and teachers about depression. That might reduce its stigma, allowing people to talk about it.
Grayburn sought treatment and began his long struggle with depression.
In October 2008, Grayburn received an official diagnosis of clinical depression. Doctors put him on a course of citalopram, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). The prescription was an easy way out for Grayburn and for the NHS. No one offered him psychiatric treatment or therapy to address the root causes of his depression. Still ashamed of his condition, Grayburn accepted the pills but hid them in his room. Relying on meds made him feel worse about himself, even as they began to work.
“You can’t selectively numb emotions; you can’t say I don’t want to feel sadness, loneliness, vulnerability, but I’ll have the good stuff. When we numb, we numb everything – joy, purpose, real happiness.”
As his brain chemistry achieved something of a balance, Grayburn started living again. He took a job in a pub and met Maddy, a new girlfriend who had been through mental health challenges of her own. Despite Maddy’s willingness to reveal her story, Grayburn couldn’t bring himself to do the same. He concealed his experiences and his dependence on antidepressants.
The next year, Grayburn quit his job to work for better pay in a call center. Even his pills couldn’t overcome how much he hated his new job. His depression reappeared. As his relationship with Maddy unraveled, his doctor increased Grayburn’s citalopram dosage. This eased his depression but exacerbated the drug’s side effects – dry mouth, recurring headaches and upsetting dreams.
Despite his misery, Grayburn sought and secured a good job in London. He felt that a fresh start and the excitement of the city would lift his spirits. He enjoyed living in what he felt was “the best city in the world.” He started feeling so good that he decided to stop taking his meds. His depression and anxiety returned almost immediately. Grayburn went back on antidepressants at his original dosage.
He found a new girlfriend but still refused to talk about his condition. At 29, having fun and partying nightly remained his primary goal. His lifestyle affected his job performance and caused him to lapse in taking his meds. The situation worsened after Grayburn and his doctor decided to wean him gradually off the drugs, so he could avoid their side effects. Approaching 30, and hoping to put his life on a more mature course, Grayburn finally decided he should talk to his current girlfriend about his depression. She wanted no part of it and ended their relationship.
After meeting the love of his life, Grayburn faced his condition head-on, sought support and turned his life around.
Live art performer Bryony Kimmings, who lived her life fearlessly and to the fullest, attracted Grayburn from the moment he saw her. They became inseparable and moved in together after only three months. Grayburn kept his secret, but life was a constant high – so good that Grayburn thought he might be able to cope without his pills. Abruptly quitting was a problem, though. When Grayburn was on meds, his body ceased to produce dopamine, a crucial feel-good neurochemical, because the drugs replaced it artificially. Grayburn decided to wean himself off the meds gradually while cutting back on alcohol and exploring the root causes of his depression for the first time.
“Alcohol seems to be your best friend and your worst enemy at the same time when you’re suffering from depression.”
In September 2013, Kimmings found Grayburn’s stash of pills. Because her relatives suffered from depression, she knew what they were for. Kimmings gently confronted Grayburn. Now, facing the need to confess to a person he knew he could not live without, Grayburn nervously told his story. Kimmings immediately came to his aid. She helped him in his quest to wean himself off the drugs and to do something more about his condition.
She asked Grayburn to take time off work and let his bosses know why. He did so, and they were supportive. But Grayburn’s suicidal thoughts returned when Kimmings left to go on tour with her performing arts company. Grayburn came to grips with how much he hated his job. He understood that to heal, he needed to eliminate the aspects of his life that contributed to his anxiety.
Grayburn began therapy sessions, but they didn’t turn out to be useful. He turned to Kimmings for therapy. She helped him, and when she suggested that he quit his job, he agreed.
Grayburn created a play about his experiences, sharing his deepest secrets.
The two decided that Grayburn would join Kimmings in producing and acting together in a play about his struggle with depression. They would tell the world – and in doing so, they hoped, reduce the stigma around mental health problems and help millions of people struggling with depression.
Grayburn and Kimmings reached out to her art world connections and, based on her reputation, they lined up funding and performance venues throughout the United Kingdom and Australia, including an appearance at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Around this time, comedian Robin Williams took his own life. This tragedy led many people to finally talk about suicide and mental health.
“It is sad that it took Robin Williams to die for depression to make the news – someone dies by suicide every 40 seconds of every day, and you never hear about it.”
The play earned awards and sold out throughout Australia, capped by a best-in-show award in Adelaide. There, Kimmings announced that she was pregnant. An elated Grayburn proposed, and the pair got engaged. Success soon followed in the United Kingdom, even as Kimmings struggled to maintain a crushing performance schedule while battling pregnancy-related illnesses and fatigue. Grayburn was on a high that no latent depression could touch. Performing the show turned out to be a positive form of therapy for him. He knew that, for him, the most difficult aspect of battling depression was discussing it.
“I realized that my weakness hadn’t been my depression, it had been my inability to talk about it.”
The Edinburgh Festival, the largest in the world, proved a huge success. The couple’s fully sold-out shows often ended with standing ovations. Audience members approached Grayburn after the play, thanking him for his bravery and honesty, and hundreds of others wrote appreciative emails. Grayburn and Kimmings again won best of show.
Grayburn recovered, but he knows depression remains a risk.
The imminent birth of his child drove Grayburn to get off his medication. He succeeded, but his depression returned, though in a milder form. Herbal remedies helped a little, but the old urge to isolate himself became stronger. Grayburn held on by contemplating the joy of his life with Kimmings. On November 8, 2015, their son Frank arrived. The trio moved into a quiet, charming house they had purchased while on the road performing their play.
“Depression is universal, it swirls around all of us, the ones lucky enough to escape it will more than likely be close to someone who hasn’t.”
Since the birth of his son, Grayburn has had occasional down days, like most people. But he has remained depression-free while staying aware that his illness lurks. He has come to understand that depression is a healthy way for your brain to tell you that something’s wrong, and you need to address it and fix it.
Grayburn lives one day at a time. Worrying about things, including the state of the world and depression itself, only worsens his condition. He advises people to read and learn about depression, to acknowledge the link between mind and body, and to stay fit and active. He believes in eating well, getting sufficient sleep, embracing the everyday beauty of the world, and feeding your soul, not your ego. Grayburn urges you to talk about your feelings, stay honest and show empathy for people who suffer mental health challenges.
About the Author
Tim Grayburn is an award-winning playwright.
The book is a memoir of Tim Grayburn, a former advertising executive who suffered from depression and anxiety for years without telling anyone. He reveals how his mental illness affected his personal and professional life, and how he eventually decided to seek help and share his story. He also describes his relationship with his wife, Bryony Gordon, a journalist and author who also struggles with mental health issues. The book is divided into three parts: The Secret, The Truth and The Future. Each part contains chapters written by Tim, as well as some by Bryony, who gives her perspective on their journey.
The Secret: Tim recounts how he grew up in a loving but strict family, where emotions were not openly expressed. He excelled at school and sports, but felt insecure and inadequate. He developed a perfectionist and workaholic attitude, which led him to a successful career in advertising. However, he also experienced episodes of depression and anxiety, which he hid from everyone, including his girlfriend, Bryony. He coped by drinking, smoking and self-harming. He felt ashamed and isolated, afraid that he would lose everything if he admitted his weakness.
The Truth: Tim reveals how his condition worsened after he moved to Australia with Bryony for a new job. He suffered from panic attacks, insomnia and suicidal thoughts. He finally broke down and confessed to Bryony, who encouraged him to seek professional help. He was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, and started taking medication and therapy. He also decided to quit his job and return to London with Bryony. He faced the challenge of telling his family and friends about his illness, as well as dealing with the stigma and discrimination that he faced from society.
The Future: Tim describes how he gradually recovered from his depression and anxiety, with the support of Bryony, his family and friends. He also found new ways to express himself, such as writing, performing and campaigning for mental health awareness. He married Bryony and became a father to their daughter, Edie. He shares his hopes and fears for the future, as well as his advice for other men who are suffering from mental illness.
Boys Don’t Cry is a brave and honest book that sheds light on the often overlooked issue of male depression and anxiety. Tim Grayburn writes with humour, warmth and vulnerability, sharing his personal experience of living with mental illness. He also gives voice to his wife, Bryony Gordon, who offers her own insights and struggles as a partner of someone with depression. The book is engaging and easy to read, despite dealing with difficult topics such as suicide, self-harm and stigma. The book is also informative and inspiring, providing facts and statistics about mental health, as well as tips and resources for coping and seeking help.
The book is not perfect, however. Some readers may find the writing style too casual or conversational, lacking in depth or structure. Some may also feel that the book focuses too much on Tim’s personal story, rather than exploring the wider issues of male depression and anxiety in more detail. Some may also question the validity or reliability of Tim’s memory or perspective, especially since he admits that he was not always honest or aware of his feelings.
Overall, Boys Don’t Cry is a powerful and poignant book that challenges the stereotypes and expectations that society places on men regarding their emotions and mental health. It is a book that will make you laugh, cry and empathize with its author. It is a book that will make you think, feel and act differently about yourself and others. It is a book that deserves to be read by anyone who cares about mental health.