The Black Dog

I’ve written before on my battles with depression. I’ve been in some incredibly dark places. I’ve had suicidal thoughts. My anxiety has overwhelmed me like an ocean of grief and melancholy sometimes and, well, I’ve done some things I’ve now come to regret. It sucks, suffering from depression, and it’s not an illness that can be fixed like a broken leg or a dodgy heart – depression is with you forever. There is no cure.

But you can manage it. And you can have really good periods. Periods when you feel like you’re on the top of the world, as cliched as that sounds. The thing about the good periods – when you suffer from depression, the good periods are amazing. It’s like a weight has finally been lifted, and the fact it’s only temporary you put in the back of your mind. The good period brings its own joy and happiness, as it would to anyone, but because you no longer have that black dog hounding you, it’s even more sweeter. It’s brought to an even higher state of freedom and pleasure. People who suffer from depression can be the happiest people you know – if you catch them in a good period.

But nothing lasts forever. And when that time of happiness subsides or fades, it’s back to normal. And even if it just a natural fading out, there’s a sadness. There’s dread, even. Because, for people who suffer with depression, you know that small voice in the back of your mind is going to return.

I sometimes liken depression to addiction. It’s something out of our control that can be managed, but never goes away. But people who have depression, or anxiety, aren’t addicted to the sad times. Or the desperate times. It’s those those good times that we want back. Moreso, I think, than most people, people who don’t suffer, who are happy to plod along in their lives. Because people with depression have experienced Nirvana, and they’ve experienced hell on earth. And all we want is feeling of a high back, and when we can’t, we sink even further into that pit of despair that malevolently succors us.

I’m not in a great place these days. February to May, for some reason, has historically been a terrible time of year for me. I’ve been given diagnoses of ill-health in this period. Many of my relationships have ended in this 4 month time-frame. My birthday is in May, and my birthday reminds me not only of my mortality, but often my loneliness, and how long of a life I have left alone. Yeah, I’m a real hoot at birthday parties!

It really does suck that depression has returned to cripple me. In my last post on this, I wrote that routine has helped me manage my anxiety and mental ill-health, and it’s so true. Because I’ve had a significant change to my routine lately. I’ve had to adjust my life accordingly, and despite wanting to actually go ahead with this change, my depression had decided otherwise.

It’s time for me to cry myself to sleep at night. It’s time for me to struggle to breath because of the anxiety. It’s time for me to lose my appetite. It’s time to retreat into my room, and into my inner shell. Work, family, friends … such important things to me, but I just can’t deal with anything now. It’s time for me to almost abandon my responsibilities, and all because of the dreaded black dog.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m one of the lucky ones. I get desperately sad and alone when I’m depressed, but for others it’s far worse. I said it was an addiction earlier, and it is, and it feeds other addictions too. People with depression can end up with substance abuse issues, with gambling addictions. An addiction to infidelity. I’m one of the lucky ones, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less real for me.

So some people drink when depressed. Some take drugs. Some cheat. Others self-harm. And, regrettably, some decide to die by suicide.

I self-harm. Not physically, I’m not too comfortable around blood, but mentally. Emotionally. I abuse myself. I torture myself every waking moment of the day. I contemplate suicide. I imagine what it would be like if I never existed. I go over every single mistake I’ve made in life. Every time I’ve harmed someone. Even when I haven’t harmed someone, I imagine I have. I conjure a reality where I am hated and vilified. And I wonder whether things would be different if I wasn’t here.

I like to walk when I have these feelings. Along the river, or the canals, or to the sea to look at the water. Water is amazing. It has the power to shape and to change. And it has the power to heal and wash away. It’s destructive and comforting. It both gives and takes away life.

Writing is also a catharsis for me. It’s an outlet I have to get my feelings out there. I listen to sad music and I write. It probably isn’t the best way to deal with things, but it’s how I deal with it. I need to get my feelings out there because, to me, if they’re out there – wherever there is, I don’t know – then they’re not bottled up within me, continuously feeding the dark and dangerous shadow looming over me.

But yeah. I’m not in a good place right now. And it’s no one’s fault. This is just who I am. I suffer from depression and anxiety, and I’m having a rough patch. And that’s the ‘reality’ of the situation and the easiest way to translate for people who don’t suffer from this. People who do have depression, though, will know that a rough patch in ‘reality’ is, to me, the end of the world. It’s a pain I can’t explain and it is, truly, crippling.

Please don’t ask me if I’m ok. God, I hate that. I’m not ok, but I can’t make you understand. Plus I’m just conditioned to tell you that I am anyway. And I don’t want to lie to people. I’m not ok. I don’t know if I will be ok. I’ve got through it before, I’m confident I will again. But I don’t know how long that will be.

Please don’t tell me to ‘just’ leave the house, or to ‘just’ get over it, or to ‘just’ get out and exercise like one certain “motivational speaker” likes to tell people. It doesn’t work for me. It’s way easier said than done. I want the earth to swallow me whole. Sometimes I really do want to die. A few jumping jacks are not going to change that. Just to be clear, at time of writing I don’t particularly want to die, I’m not quite at that stage yet, plus there’s a busy week in work ahead. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

This is a very depressing post. I won’t apologise for that, it’s how I’m feeling. I have mental ill-health, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Some people  have physical ailments. This is a mental one, and it’s no less debilitating. I’m going to talk about it until I feel better. And I’m not writing this post to help other people, I’m not saying anything helpful, but if it does, great. I’m writing this to make me feel better. I’m not well, and I am allowed to be selfish until I am. And I’m not going to apologise for that either.

3 thoughts on “The Black Dog

  1. it’s such a cruel illness
    when you’re in the good times you feel like the bad times have gone for good and you’ve beaten it
    and when you’re in the bad times you feel like the good have gone for good and you’ve been beaten

    I’d swap my black dog for broken legs or something physical I could point to when people ask what’s wrong

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