The week that was: wringing the black dog’s neck

Well it has been an interesting week to say the least. It started with me writing about taking a metaphorical light saber to my personal black dog that had started barking and it draws to an end with the dog still barking a bit albeit less loudly.

To butcher a line from the 12th man: it’s a funny old game depression. Perhaps more aptly put: it’s a funny old game life! I say that because this has been a week where I have, on the one hand, been tested and,on the hand, been heartened. It is the heartening that I want to talk about more because to linger on the testing would be to allow negativity to win and, by extension, the black dog to rise.

So why have I been heartened this week: it is simple really … I have been asked by more than few people this week about my blog from last Sunday and also about my forthrightness in dealing with the black dog. That is heartening because, particularly in the case of men of my generation and those of earlier times, we do not talk about our own mental health enough.

Now I am aware that I am a talker and expressing what I am feeling is an important part of my own therapeutic journey. It is an approach that will not work for everyone.

My point is though that this is not a disease that should be pushed to shadows or stigmatised: simply, if you want to talk about your problems you should be able too.

Don’t just take my word for it though: I read an excellent article during the week by one of the greats of Australian racing Lee Freedman in which he talks about his battles with depression and the bottle and his new beginning having fought those demons.

Being able to talk about it helps me and, more importantly, starting a dialogue about it must help reduce the stigma that sits around depression. That is the big thing that heartens me when I see those who actually have a profile in the media and in life speak out (after all I am just a hack with a blog few people read).

I know I am going to keep talking about it (sorry if that bores you) and use talking about it is as a mechanism to wring the black dog’s neck however short term. Of ever you want to talk about it dear readers I am always happy to listen.

I repeat: we need to talk more about this disease. Too many people are suffering without a semblance of a light at the end of the tunnel because of the natural worry of by stigmatised. Please listen if one of your friends wants to talk to you.

Finally, to everyone who has reached out this week for a chat be it face to face, by text or on twitter thank you. Not just for being in contact but for sharing your stories too. Let’s talk more and talk loudly!

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 ….