Marian @ Krysan


Planting Golden Seeds in Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, and Durham



Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined.

- Henry David Thoreau 



Draw Back the Curtain



  • To: Kindred Spirits (everywhere)
  • From: A North East Storyteller
  • Date: Friday, 1 May 2015 

According to Google Analytics who keep careful track of such things, people from 26 different countries, speaking 23 different languages, landed on this website last month.  Today, with love in the air, I am anticipating that a similarly discerning audience of Cybernauts will spring into being this month as I begin a series of blogs that will take me back in time. The first one (below) was written for the BBC's My Story Competition way back in 2010.  

This particular narrative was also successfully used as the digital backdrop to a series of talks given to second year trainee medical doctors studying at DURHAM University, this over several years.  The talks, in conjunction with the assistance of a senior psychiatrist, touched on the history of Schizophrenia, the Patient Journey, and the Life Cycle.  The aim was to allow 'the diagnosis' to be seen as simply a part of 'the whole person'.  

Even, a brave (and early) attempt, ' ... to place experience, narratives, and views of people with lived experience at the centre, rather than at the edge of the curriculum'. 

  • Word count: 2,000 words.
  • This, then, is digital storytelling. 
  • Enjoy ...


M Y   S E C R E T   L O V E


Marian Moore (2010)

A whiff of carbolic soap and a miner’s daughter is back where she belongs. 

Join her on a fascinating journey 


Born during the last war, a woman from the north east of England shares the journey of life-time from her childhood in a pit village to right now.  She stops by to revisit serious mental illness caused through stress and trauma and pauses to celebrate a miraculous recovery over a period of seven years, this through volunteer work in a mental health hospital near Sunderland.  Now, as a wellbeing consultant, a webmaster and a philosophy student with the Open University, Marian’s cup is definitely half full.

Key words

Paper ~ carbolic soap ~ secret ~ breakdown ~ recovery ~ volunteering ~   love ~ co-operation ~ joy ~ happiness ~ wellbeing


I’ve always had a hankering after being a writer.  There’s something about a blank sheet of paper that has galvanised me into instant action since I was a child.  After the war, paper was in short supply in the Durham pit village where I lived and my first scribblings were limited to the paper around each new tablet of green carbolic soap that cleaned the clothes, my small person, and much else.  Nearly seventy years on and I can still conjure up (at will) the memory of the soapy smell of that blank sheet of paper so lovingly salvaged by my mother for her spindly young offspring’s pleasure.  Should I tell you (as an aside) that my best present ever has to be the very slim and ever-so-elegant fountain pen which came via my coalminer father when I was eleven years old?  My father also had a hankering after being a writer.  But, this is not his story, interesting though that was.  His is for the telling some other day.

This is my story and, to get back to the subject of paper, I can also remember with clarity the very moment I discovered a supply of paper which fulfilled all the criteria needed for my future happiness and which was, moreover, within the range of my meagre pocket money. I would by this time be seven years old. The find was momentous. It was on one of my weekly excursions to Durham with Margaret, my elder sister.  Our Margaret would be all of nine and was very much the captain of the ship.  Along with the obligatory visit to the crypt in the Cathedral to dance on the tomb stones, we ambled along as all children do, quite oblivious to everything but the task in hand.  Our favourite shop was Woolworth’s in the city’s exotically-named Silver Street.  Wooley’s was en route to everything and everywhere. One memorable Saturday morning, something invitingly called ‘a quire’ of paper was discovered in the magic of Wooley’s and duly purchased by one small girl - me.  Twenty-five sheets of blank paper for next to nothing and the start of a journey of pure bliss.  I had found my secret love.  And, I’ve never told anyone this before.

To cut the story short, paper by the quire was eventually replaced by paper by the ream – five hundred sheets at a time!  And, the years passed.  I trained as a secretary (unsurprisingly!) and then one day I was ‘in charge’ of a typing pool. To my delight, a stationery cupboard full of paper came with the territory. The location was an office on the banks of the river in the town of Jarrow-on-Tyne in the early 1960s.  This was the time when new ships from the old Hebburn yards sailed gracefully past the windows and out to the open sea for trials.  I can see them now.  I was by this time a young ‘police bride’ and in seventh heaven.  Words fail to describe my feelings when, ten years later, I found myself – the mother of two small children – again ‘in charge’.  This time, I was a teacher of typewriting in a grammar school in the north east of England.  Many a tree in a foreign land bit the dust to accommodate the passion of hundreds (if not thousands) of teenage girls for my subject throughout the 1970s and 80s.  Their heart-warming enthusiasm to learn the ‘qwerty’ keyboard knew no bounds.  This, coupled with their teacher’s life-time love of paper, and you would have thought the joy would have been complete.

And it was for nearly twenty years – I taught, I studied, I looked after my family.  I lived life to the full.  Then, things changed.  In 1989, when I was just 47 years of age and just entering ‘my prime’ as a senior teacher, fatigue, stress, trauma, together with a wrong career move (‘wrong’ being an understatement), led to a complete collapse of my psyche.  Out went my job, my income and my friends – and, of course, the paper.  For twelve years, I never touched the stuff.  Anything at all to do with paper was just a reminder of my ‘failure’ to maintain the dream.  Like a puff of smoke, all was gone. The wardrobe of beautiful clothes and the mountains of paper pertaining to ‘school’ were bagged in stout black plastic and stored in the loft.  The sacks of paper were finally dealt with years later – ignobly consigned to the bonfire. The designer suits are hanging pristine in the closet waiting for any taker interested in the highly stylised clothes of the 1980s.  Mental illness can affect the best (and worst) of us.  And, it could even happen to you! 

Fortunately, after twelve nightmare years of voices, delusions and paranoia, I started to recover in 2001.  In fact, I recovered so completely and utterly that I am now among those survivors of the system who describe themselves as ‘weller than well’. The first accolade for this miracle must go to my husband and family; the second to a mental health hospital which accommodated me (and my love of paper) for seven whole years.  Thanks to a lot of quiet support, I recovered my cool and became, by default, a writer.  This metamorphosis from caterpillar into butterfly was in partnership with the most unlikely team. All were, like me, out-patients at CherryKnowleHospital near Sunderland.  For the social historians amongst you, this hospital – built in 1895 – was known in times past as ‘Ryhope Lunatic Asylum’ and – of course - also by other names of which you’ll be able to hazard a guess.  But, it was there, in an unlikely setting, that I became a writer and it would be no exaggeration to say that I have unashamedly used writing as a form of therapy every since.  My hankering was over.

And, so began my connection with a mental health hospital’s astonishing Patients’ Circle.  It was a new beginning. The group was set up in June 2001 when the idea of patient involvement in NHS services was first mooted at government level.  Patient involvement was interpreted locally to mean exactly what was written on the tin and money was found to fund the production of a magazine for patients on the wards.  This project would be driven in every aspect by people who were being cared for in the community, but who were also seen as needing a bit of extra peer support.  For me, the invitation from a concerned psychiatrist to join the Patients’ Circle at CherryKnowleHospital was a life-saver.  And, I was up for it.  This was November 2001.  At another time and in another place, I’ll tell you exactly how I returned to love.  Suffice to mention here that the power of love to heal all sorrows was something I was reminded of by a three-year old girl in April 2001.  Again, I know the exact moment.

From this small child, and in an instant, I learned that in the verb ‘to love’ lies the very essence of life – and with this realisation came eureka, the moment that saved my life.  For seven years, I thrived on belonging to a group and I adored doing all the things that were involved in producing a magazine from scratch.  Our core team of five produced seventy-seven issues of a monthly, 24-page document in glorious Technicolor.  Our subjects ranged from history to laughter; from sexism to racism; from Charlie Chaplin to Laurel and Hardy.  We rarely missed an issue throughout that seven year period and always met the deadline. This adventure in grass-roots publishing was as fulfilling and engaging as anything I have ever been part of in my entire life.  As editor of Reality News, I touched the heartbeat of life and learned many things about love.  What I gained from this experience of voluntary work at CherryKnowleHospital is more precious than gold.  

How often do we meet up with people who will stick by you through thick and thin; who do not ever judge; and who allow you to leave and return without questions being asked?  And that latter condition, written into the original constitution of the Patients’ Circle, gave me the security I needed when I again became sorely distressed back in 2006 during a visit to New Zealand.  This relapse into the pure anguish of mental illness caused me to be completely out of commission (and my mind) for three months, but my friends were there to welcome me back into the fold ‘without any questions being asked’ when I recovered from this blip in my psyche.  This was again brought on by trauma and powerlessness.  That aside, together and unaided, we five volunteer mental health service users ran as a model social enterprise with co-operation as the key and love at the heart.  Everyone had equal status, everyone had a meaningful job, and there was never one cross word in seven whole years.  Furthermore, no money ever changed hands.  Those stalwarts of the NHS who provided the funding for the project looked on in wonder.  We were never again to be invisible patients, friendless and living on the margins of society.

I’m nearing the end of my story and know I have given you a mere glimpse into another world, a hidden world outside the ken of ordinary, everyday folks.  Without a shadow of doubt, my seven-year stint as editor of Reality News provided me with a life-line to the future and the space to recover from an illness of the mind as serious as it can get.  In 2001 when all seemed lost (including hope), a doctor had stepped in with access to real, meaningful work and the people with ‘the cure’ – others who had been in the same boat. Never had I felt so safe, protected and loved.  By August 2008 I was ready to leave the nest.  One reason for this was a growing unease that producing 250 copies of Reality News a month was using paper – and tons of it.  Now, there was the carbon footprint to consider – even the very survival of the planet.  Also, by now, I had recovered my sense of joy and happiness completely and absolutely.  Surely that’s as good a yardstick as any for measuring wellbeing.  I had taken a tailor-made cure and it worked.  It was time to move on. 

It’s now two years since I said my last farewells to my friends at the Patients’ Circle.  In the interim, I’ve set up my own happiness and wellbeing consultancy and my own website.  More importantly, I’m as involved with the world as ever I was prior to 1989 when I first became ill.  It’s taken twenty years, but I’m teaching (and learning) again and this despite advancing years and silver hair.  The teaching has taken me to universities around the country thanks to my friends at Shift; the learning is continuous thanks to the Open University.  And, all that’s yet another story.  Finally, I should mention that I still ‘do paper’, but only when absolutely necessary. As for carbolic soap, I still experience the occasional whiff and know intuitively that in a pit village, in a child’s love, and at Cherry Knowle Hospital, I was given gifts – enough for a life-time.  

So, I have told you a story about the road less travelled, but I wouldn’t have changed any of it – not one single bit. There were lessons to be learnt and I learnt them.  If there is one word I could take with me into eternity, it would be ‘give’ for herein lies the one kind of love you can always count on. 

Take my hand. 

Marian @ Krysan (2010)




  • Cherry Knowle Hospital, Ryhope, Sunderland (1895-2014)
  • The Patients' Circle (2001-2008)
  • Reality News

Next time, look out for A STANDING OVATION when I will again draw back the curtain to celebrate happy memories of people and times past.  Meanwhile, click on PUBLISHING | REALITY NEWS for another blast from the past.


The goal of the recovery process is not to become normal. The goal is to embrace our human vocation of becoming more deeply, more fully human ... to become the unique, awesome, never to be repeated human being that we are called to be. - Patricia DEEGAN 



'Strength is not only in the similarities, but also in the differences.'

Download The Woman Question.pdf 

Reality News : April 2008 : Issue 73



Reflection 255


Built For Loving

We are built to die for each other, to disappear in each other’s favour. We are built for loving.

(Douglas Harding. Face to No-Face.)





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