I’ve never been able to relate to The Black Dog metaphor, for depression. Perhaps it’s because I had a black dog growing up – those memories were some of the happiest I’ve ever had. Perhaps it’s because he always seemed to run away from home and that is something I would gladly welcome from depression, rather than it being the dark doppelgänger of my collective being. Alternatively, perhaps it’s because I see this debilitating illness as more of a parasitic creature that’s invaded my body, sabotaging my brain and slowly eating away at every last morsel of positivity in me, breeding negativity in almost everything I do. Enshrouding me in a blackness, languor and despair that can almost feel impossible to shake. Making it difficult to even get out of bed on a morning, the feeling can be comparable to having a one tonne weight on your chest; holding you down, crushing your spirit, your motivation, your love, your life, you…
To quote Stephen Fry, on one of his many blogs on depression:
“If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.”
I like to think of this quote as a basic, albeit integral part of what depression may be like for the sufferer. It gives a sense of duty almost, that that person may need you more now, than ever before. And, I believe it gives an insight into the stigma and lack of understanding that still surrounds depression and mental illness as a whole.
Regrettably, I’ve experienced the ignorance towards this mental illness first-hand in the past, by being asked and told such things as; “Why are you depressed?” “You’ve got a job, you’re in a relationship and you own a house. There are plenty of other people out there worse off than you!” I’ve never quite understood why stating the bloody obvious is meant to help you feel better or snap you out of your perceived ‘mood swing’.
As I reached the threshold of my sanity, there would be days where I would do nothing more than sit on the couch, almost paralysed, for hours at a time. My mind had become trapped within my own body, the cerebral fighting with the physical. My senses dulled by the parasite within. Ironically, my concentration and focus had never been better; however, it was the depression that took centre stage, absconding all other things that once may have been important to me.
Fortunately, I was introduced to a fantastic life-coach and qualified Hypnotherapist, just before the righteous indignation of one of my many suicidal thoughts was put into practice – I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Due to the fact we were able to bond comfortably in the first session, the results were almost immediate; I fed on the teachings with an insatiable hunger I’d not experienced in a long while. I absorbed the positivity, willingly being offered to me, like rays of sunshine. Slowly but surely, my life began to change in exciting new ways.
I used to have the mindset that the depression I suffered from was mine, as if I owned it. I would refer to it as ‘my depression’ and whilst every situation is different and individual to the person suffering from it, it was not mine to own. I would’ve gladly given it away at the first opportunity, had the chance presented itself. However, it never did. I was too busy thinking about how the depression had become an integral part of me that I’d forgotten to realise it was an illness – unwanted and reviled. This acknowledgement was key to my recovery, whereby I became confident enough to appreciate the fact I could discard this ‘depression’ like an old pair of shoes, when the time became right.
It no longer controlled me, consuming my every waking thought. I controlled it. I found the strength within me to fight it. Even so, I would have never been able to fully overcome the illness without the love, support and kindness offered to me by my partner, family and friends.
One in five people suffer from depression at some point in their lives. Try to look past the physical, people hurt on the inside too. Some people may be screaming for help on the inside but show almost no signs on the outside. Say hello, pay them a compliment, tell them a joke… It makes more of a difference than you will ever know. Depression is never something somebody wants to have and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. It can be a killer and it’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to live with in my life (apart from perhaps living with my partner).
You are not alone in the fight against depression. I’m making a stand against it, who has the strength within them to stand with me?
Depression: Acknowledge it, confront it, beat it, discard it.
For more information about depression and mental illness please visit:
Please feel free to learn more about the illness yourselves if you find it difficult to understand or live with a loved one who suffers from depression and you are struggling to cope.
‘If life is an uphill slog, imagine the view from the top’ – Anonymous