Battling the Black Dog: the trouble with not knowing when …

I have been silent on this blog this week and have been nearly as silent on twitter. I commented that I had “lost my mojo” when it came to writing and had been busy with work. That is true but underlying all of this is that the black dog that is my depression had flared up again.

I don’t write this post to garner sympathy or to self aggrandise. I write because writing helps. If you don’t like that then click away now.

What has struck me this week as the barking dog has overtaking me is the unmistakable feeling of helplessness that comes with not know when the dog is, on the one hand, going to start barking and, on the other hand, going to stop. For therein lies the problem for me: I did not know the dog was coming. Nor do I know why he is visiting this time because things in my life have never, frankly, been better. I am healthy, happier than I ever imagined I could be in my personal life, working in a job that I enjoy and have a roof over my head.

Why then is the bloody dog visiting? Maybe I will never know. I know I am sick of hearing: “you have to let yourself be happy” and “you have it better than most people” because I know those things already.

Unfortunately my brain is telling me other things though because it is flooding my sub-conscious with the negative slant on everything and blocking up my thought processes with procrastination.

I should point out here that I have excellent professional help when dealing with the disease that is depression and have some excellent strategies to help me through these times of blackness. Fundamentally though, as my friend and psychologist Daz has pointed out to me more than once: sometimes you just have to ride these times out like a summer storm.

It does not get me away though from the problem of not knowing when the black dog is going to circle me. Why can’t my depression be like the flu or a bad back and give me fair warning that it is coming? Why can’t I hear the thunder on the horizon like a looming summer storm?

I don’t have an answer and, frankly, that angers me. Actually today I am furious with the black dog: for not only invading my mind with negativity and procrastination but for not letting me know it was on the way.

Feeling fury is oft associated with negativity but in this context I am going to go with something my father said to me once “Son, you were always at your best and worked your hardest when you had a bit of the red mist going”. I am going to, unlike Luke Skywalker resisting the urge to give into his hate, harness my anger at the black dog and try to use it as a way to make it go away.

Being passive hasn’t worked and I am sick of “riding out the storm” and if I can’t tell when it is going to hit me maybe using my anger to fight back at it is the next best thing.

So, black dog, ignore the metaphorical light saber in my hand and run at me today. After a week of trying to avoid you I am ready to face you head on! Let the battle commence ….

9 March: a difficult day for me BUT one that comes with a message

I have been a little bit quiet on social media and a bit introspective (I am told) and quiet in real life over the last 24 hours. The thing is this: 9 March is the anniversary of the day I had to face my mental problems and admit I had a problem. Doing that had some flow on effects that continue to effect me to this day. I remember that day two years ago when I faced what had been a building storm for a long long time like it was yesterday and the remembrance of it effects me no doubt. So that is why I have been a little quieter than usual.

Let me be clear here: this is not a “pity post” and I am not seeking sympathy. 9 March might have been one of the worst days of my life BUT it was also day that shifted my life for the better and was the start of the changes in my life that have helped me deal with the depression and anxiety that had crippled me. There will continue to be periods when my “black dog” is barking, some which will be longer than others, and I am resigned to the fact that I will have moments of anxiety daily that I will need to deal with BUT without 9 March 2011 I would still be mired in the undiagnosed black hole I had descended into.

I write this because it is important to reflect on the past and it is equally important to learn lessons of said past. The biggest lesson that I have learned is that it is important and cathartic to talk (or in this case write ) about ones problems. It certainly helps me to talk and I certainly wish I had have talked about my problems sooner.

So it is now one of my missions in life to advocate at every opportunity that anyone who has a problem, any sort of problem, talks about that problem. It can be through talking to a family, talking to a friend, seeing a professional or calling one of the help lines that are available. No one should be scared to talk about their problems like I was for so many years. Equally, if you are the recipient of one of those conversations, you should not be scared to engage with the person you are talking to: they will feel significantly better for having articulated whatever it is that worries them.

I implore you people: speak up or listen. It may be the best thing you ever do. I know, despite all of the difficulties that invaded my life having done so, that speaking up certainly is the best thing I have ever done.

Only 364 days to go till 9 March comes around again.