About Sally Brampton

After studying fashion at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art & Design, Sally started her career at Vogue, moved to The Observer as fashion editor, and then launched Elle in the UK, where she was editor-in-chief. She has published four novels and a non-fiction memoir of depression.

Posts by Sally Brampton

Secrets and Lies

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Last year, I spent a month in hospital, which was fine by me, or as fine as any severe illness can be, but it was a psychiatric unit and the moment you utter those two words, a hush falls across the room and then, like the faintest breeze, the whispers begin.

I have been in four psychiatric units, so I know those whispers well, although they bewilder me, because I am very open about my illness, which is bipolar disorder. If I have already spoken the words, what is there to talk about, what is left to say?

This time it was different. I tried to take my own life because the depression had deepened and deepened until my very existence became unendurable. It was hell, but so was waking up to discover that I had a different identity. I had become A Secret, despite being the least secretive of people. I never lie, unless that lie serves to protect somebody else. Read More…

The Inner Critic

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I was standing in a changing room the other day, struggling to get into a dress. It was one of those changing rooms in which high street stores seems to delight – the fat mirror imported from the funfair; the harsh, overhead light that picks out every lump and bump and dimple of cellulite. You know the ones? I guess every woman does.

So I’m looking at myself and saying, “You’re so fat. Your arms are disgusting and that jelly roll around your middle is revolting.” Now, if somebody had walked into that changing room and said those words to me, I would have probably decked them with a swift right hook. But me saying it to me? I averted my eyes and said humbly, “Yes, you’re right.”

I can turn into a bully at the blink of an eye; one glance in a shop window and that mocking inner critic kicks into action, sneering at me like a kid in a playground. Some days she simmers down a bit and I can look in the mirror and think, “huh, not bad,” but it doesn’t take much to upset her and she’s off again. Read More…

Kindness Makes The World Go Round

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Here is one of my favourite quotes from the always irrepressible, Mark Twain. “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up”. I love it because it’s so simple and so true. Or perhaps that should be the other way around. No matter, whichever way you put it, it works.

I am a great believer in kindness. It is the virtue I hold dear above all others. Besides being central to Mark Twain’s cheering-up philosophy, which has to be the ethos of a happy society, it is also one of the best ways to individual happiness. Win, win.

It might sound too nauseating and saccharine a Pollyanna outlook, but let’s put it another way. If you ruin somebody else day, you ruin your own. Nobody walks away from a bruising encounter thinking, “Well, that was nice. Glad I did that.” Read More…

The Aunties

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You know the way Gill gets over excited when she loves something and immediately turns into a happy lunatic? Of course you do. Well, this month I’m going to join her. Not about the cutting-edge health and beauty products that she constantly discovers for us, (as divine as they are) but about cutting-edge art.

And I don’t mean glass cubes suspended in a glass cube suspended from a glass ceiling but a series of portraits of women, called the Aunties, which are just as radical in their own way. The first time I saw them, I laughed. They looked like they were having such a fine old time, I couldn’t help but smile.

The radical part? They are naked. And they are old. Read More…

We Are Good Enough

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I’ve decided I’m going to be A Whole New Me. Just kidding. It’s taken me years to get used to the old me. I admit there’s room for improvement (which I always think sounds rather like redecorating the spare room) but, here’s an old-fashioned notion, I really quite like myself.

I know we’re not supposed to say that – and certainly not out loud, because god forbid anybody should think we’re arrogant. I said it to a friend last week who, quite frankly, looked stunned. It was as if I’d said a rude word but perhaps we might show ourselves a little respect. We celebrate our friends. Our friends celebrate us. We don’t sit around saying, hmmm, she could do with some Botox or look at those thighs! We love each other, lumps and bumps and all. We don’t try to change each other.

But we’re awfully good at trying to change ourselves, usually by way of constant insults. We’ve all been in a changing room, spot-lit by the unforgiving glare of neon, and been really, really mean to ourselves, after which we run screaming from the shop to hurl ourselves into a vat of chocolate. Or wine, depending on what our sedative of choice happens to be. Read More…

Suicide

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Suicide. It scares people – both those who are not suicidal, and those who are. It’s almost impossible to talk about unless you are with somebody who understands, because they have been there themselves. When I am suicidal (or have suicidal ideation, as it is more benignly phrased by psychiatrists although it all comes down to the same thing; you want to die) I call a friend, who I met in the loony bin, ten years ago. We have been close ever since, not bound through mental illness, but simply because we love each other. Anyway, I call him, sobbing that I want to die. Most people panic, which simply makes me feel worse but his words are always,” What method are we choosing today, darling? Which makes me laugh. As black as it sounds, we discuss our various options. He is quite keen on cars, smashing into a wall, or driving off a cliff. I am vaguer in my options. All I know is that I want to die or, rather, that I don’t want to be here any longer. There is a difference as anybody who has ever looked into the black abyss of severe depression will understand. We do not want to be dead. We simply want to go to sleep for a very long time and, one day, wake up and feel the sunshine on our backs, and breathe the cool, still air and hold life in our hands.

Read More…