Black dog

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.


Vanessa said...

you are sure to spiral upwards. you seem to have a clear enough perspective of what needs to happen from here. so I'm sure it will. i'll check back in on you -cheerier posts or not- and send you smiles.

Waspgoddess said...

this is my first visit, so i don't know you at all, but nevertheless i feel an urge to send you strength and eventual joy. it sounds like you are on the right path.
the image is great, serious yet full of life and i love the sunglasses.

elsewhere said...

All the best with your current path of action. I have a friend like you who goes through these periods. I wouldn't have known anything was that dramatically wrong, either, unless she told me, she's so good at concealing it.
Difficult to know sometimes whether it's a good idea to blog about the hard stuff.

karen (girlfriday) said...

It's difficult to know how best to acknowledge the black dog. I think you know yourself best. Here's hoping the upward spiral is already starting.

bazl said...

Wow, I could have written this post, except I haven't gone back to medication yet (probably just around the corner). It's a bitch isn't it!

Girl on The Avenue said...

Don't feel at all guilty about taking medication (which I presume is an SSRI?). You're still you if you take the right dose. Only a calmer you.
It's no "worse", neurochemically, than drinking coffee or alcohol, according to Teh Literature. In fact it's probably better. Apparently it helps with short-term memory improvement, if that's been suffering from your depression.
Good on you. And sounds like you're taking all the other important steps. Here's to a strong and sustained recovery!

penni said...

Hey Janet. Great photo as always. Lots to think about in your post. I've had two fairly serious bouts of depression, both times brought on by where I was living - nothing particular, but I just seem to be very affected by my environment. Anyway the second time I was pregnant with Una and couldn't really do anything but wait it out (i knew it was the waiting it out kind of depression), but being unpredictable and moody with Fred was awful, I felt like I was being held hostage by a body possessing evil loony and I was standing by helplessly while she snapped at Fred. I wasn't too bad, I never said or did anything unforgivable, but it was feeling the way I did, teetering on the brink of doing something was awful. Ugh. Bad brown shut-in suburb with your scary main roads and epic intersections.
I'm glad your taking medication and dealing with it. I understand your fear about it changing you on soem basic level, I'd worry too, but from this side of it I can say that who you essentially are is far more powerful and resilient than that.

Rachel said...

Loving the sunglasses.
One day soon that black dog is going to run out of the house and not come back. Don't worry about what other people think about taking medicine. Think about what feels right to you. Talking therapy has worked many a time for me, and I've done meds, too. Try not to internalize it all. Having an outlet is good.
I'm working on my list for the letter "C", Should be up soon.

h&b said...

I think you're very brave to blog about it, rather than taking the easier option of happiness and light, all with a forced smile, apron, and an offering of pink iced cupcakes.
Can you set Tony onto the Black Dog ?