It isn't sadness.
It isn't grief.
It isn't anger.
It isn't even unhappiness with my life.
One or more of these things may also be present, but my black dog of depression is something else all together. I've felt all these things and yet not been depressed. Even over time. And these days, I'm definitely old enough to know the difference. As an eight year old, I used to slump over the back of the couch and look out the window, into the carport and front garden and just feel grey and all wrong. I didn't know this passing feeling had a name but I wonder now if I learnt it from my mother. My mother who wore her blue dressing gown all winter and smelt of cigarettes and despair. She's fine now. I am not.
Nonetheless, I have to fight it. Other times extra attention to lifestyle have done it, you know enough sleep, cleaning the house, exercise, getting busy, new projects, more time with friends, healthy food and reframing my thoughts using Cognitive Behaviour Therapy or Rational Emotive Therapy. Along with going to the doctor and between sessions talking to the therapist in my head. This isn't one of those times. In the past when I was like this, I would have self medicated one way or another. I've left that life behind me now and that's a good thing when you're the mother of a small child. Probably it's a good thing anyway.
When I first received proper treatment for my moods in the mid nineties, I thought I may have bought it on myself. Too many party drugs, too many bongs. Not enough sensible living or healthy relationships. A therapist helped me to remember the eight year old girl, to look at the woman I've become and to see that it's more mysterious than that. Perhaps a mixture of genes and learned behaviour, a cumulation of life experiences, maybe some dodgy brain chemistry. Not helped by my past responses, but not caused by them either.
So it's medication time. I think it's beginning to work. There's a lot of people who seem to be against medication for depression. And for mild to moderate depression, I'd agree. Looking at me one may well think that I am just not sick enough to justify it. But as my doctor says, I'm a great actor and can hold it together in almost any situation until I absolutely can't. And if I let it go that far, it's really, really hard to come back from. I definitely want to come back, you bet I do. So I'm holding onto that thought.
There were signs over the last few weeks that this was one of those times when I wouldn't be able to drag myself out of it. Anyone who has been around this block more than once or twice themselves will most likely know what I'm talking about. One of my signs is that I'm prepared to consider medication as an option, for at least six months. Which is a long time of feeling blurry and way too level. Of wondering whether my feelings are real. Worrying about whether I am allowing myself to be altered on some deeper level, or setting myself up for an even bigger fall. Feeling guilty that I couldn't stop it happening this time, feeling like a failure because I'm not happy or positive. Resenting feeling that I should be. Sometimes thinking that it's a modern kind of wrong to think that you can fix yourself by taking half a pill everyday. And in a funny way, I'll kind of miss my mood swings and even the black dog himself, in his milder manifestations, that is.
Still, medication and talking therapy will mean that I can address some of the issues in my life that are all out of whack. More than one person has said that I seem to internalise alot of what is going on around me and take it on in a way that manifests as depression. This was meant in a kindly way and I take absolutely no offence, but there's some chicken and egg going on here. Depressed people are not easy to live with at home. This is not the first time I've acted badly, withdrawn or been unkind or erratic with the people I love most. Hopefully I've caught it early enough and that as I begin to act in a more positive way (like how I like to think I really am), things will once more spiral upwards.
I'm trying not to write about this black dog all the time. Which is hard because I love writing here, more than I can say really. And right now this old black dog sits on top of everything. Just made for black and white, you could say. Anyhow, for next week I have in mind something a bit cheerier. See more people in black and white here.