I have a confession to make.
I’m struggling with depression.
It isn’t easy to admit it and I’m not proud of the struggle but it is important to admit it, today of all days, because today is the year anniversary of my struggle.
This was not a depression brought on by age, by chemical imbalances in the brain misfiring through natural causes. This was a depression that was done to me. It started suddenly on one day and hasn’t ended since.
The shame comes from the fact that I am a happy-go-lucky kind of guy – I see the glass half-full not half-empty for most of the time. I don’t do depressed and I really don’t know how to handle it; it is a new experience for me and I feel very much the amateur. I’m learning fast but depression seems to be a changeable beast and no sooner do I think I’ve got some aspect of it sorted than it changes shape and takes me by surprise all over again.
I say this was done to me and that’s true. A trauma, 2nd July 2014, happened to me and to my family. I’m not ready to talk about it (not yet anyway) though one day there will be a book, I promise. That book will reveal all and will point blame where it should be pointed, but it is far off and for now this will remain a private grief. But it happened and it was devastating.
The result of this trauma, however, is that I feel my mind and my character has been violated. My very being has been raped. My virginal naivety has been taken from me, forcibly and irrevocably. And those very thoughts and feelings which come to abuse victims have come to me afresh. I feel waves of guilt, of unworthiness, of being unlovable, of simply not being good enough. They’re not constant and I know they’re not true (mostly anyway) but sometimes they come anyway no matter how much I say “out damned spot!”
Most of this I can cope with. Once I realised the effect the antidepressants were taking things improved. The tablets cause drowsiness so I always take them at night but that meant they were losing their effect by mid-afternoon and by evening I would feel low and awful waves of paranoia again. Once I understood this and appreciated the effect I was able to start feeling in control and regulating what I did and what I said. But that was before the black dog really hit.
It came all of a sudden a few weeks ago. The ‘black dog’ was like a thick blackness which simply enveloped around me and no matter how much I analysed and appreciated that it wasn’t real I couldn’t shift the awful despair which almost physically blinded me. The blackness stayed with me for days – something unheard of in my life prior to this – and it was nearly a week before I felt happy again.
Since then the dog has come to me several times. Most of them I’ve kept it from doing anything worse than nipping at my heels. Medication has been changed twice to some effect at least. Keeping busy has been the most useful tactic however.
What I struggle with the most though is the utter powerlessness I feel when it comes. This isn’t me; this isn’t who I am; I know myself and I know myself well. My self-esteem doesn’t come from inside me and doesn’t rely on me(something my therapist has been quite impressed with as a coping mechanism) – and that has kept me from any thoughts of suicide. For me, it doesn’t matter if I really am as crap as I tell myself I am when the fog descends because my self-worth doesn’t come from telling myself I’m any good in the first place. Where it comes from doesn’t matter for this post but it keeps me going through everything.
But this depression has tested it to the extreme. I don’t like the lack of control when it comes. It is a foreigner to me.
There is, however, always a silver lining! When you’re at rock bottom, for a start, the only way is up! Another thing is discovering that the majority of friends and family who I’ve told have been wonderfully supportive and have encouraged and uplifted me. Even when that ‘black dog of doom’ is telling me to give up and die I know that I am loved and cherished and I’m grateful for that knowledge. It isn’t something I take for granted. Humour is another saving grace. Even over-hyping ‘the dog’ helps minimise it – I picture it more like a Disney cartoon dog than a mental Hound of the Baskervilles.
For most of the time, between me and the medicines and the coping strategies and the support network I have, I keep the dog under lock and key – or at least on the leash. And each day the melodrama going on in my head gets a little less, a little tamer, a little more predictable. One day it might just be a puppy.