A few weeks back an old friend posted a status update on her Facebook page noting this wasn’t going to be a happy, joyful or upbeat post and acknowledging she was feeling ‘blah’. She made a public call out to her friends and family for hugs and the offer of a chat, for anyone who may need it like she did right then … at any time.
By sharing her thoughts and feelings (at a light level, there was nothing dark and heavy expressed), she consciously chose to acknowledge the fact that not every day is full of light and laughter, not every day is filled with happiness and good things, this post instead was some-what a catalyst for me, confirmation of the fact that we need to encourage more sharing and openness about our down days, our dark days when things aren’t all happiness and light.
In this social media heavy world we live in, we are constantly surrounded by what other people want us to hear and see. It may not always be the truth, however the reality is when we read posts of all the positive, good stuff happening while trawling through newsfeeds, it can sometimes make us question why our life doesn’t mirror others. Because it’s their truth/reality/story/fairy tale people – not yours … and the fact is – what is portrayed vs how we interpret that, can more often than not be two totally different things!
But I digress.
I want to confront the “black dog” in this blog. The black dog (stupid bloody phrase as far as I am concerned) – the big D … Depression. Many believe Sir Winston Churchill coined the expression “black dog” himself but the saying is actually much older. Churchill however, did make frequent references to his depression which he referred to as his “black dog”.
I really don’t like the term to be honest. For one it is not fair to black dogs to have this connotation of depression placed on them(!), two the term resonates darkness and despair and three, with so many people suffering from and living with depression – the black dog doesn’t provide any encouragement or solution in finding your way clear. To me it screams ‘big dark pit’ rather than a space in time where our equilibrium is out of balance. Time for a new catch phrase I think?!
Depression. Uninspiring and all-consuming. Exhausting and superfluous. Devious in its tactics; allowing you to carry on like a soulless robot whilst an inner turmoil causes havoc within your head, your heart … and your relationships.
How do I know this? Because of personal experience of living ‘in the melancholy’ … and I believe its past time these conversations were readily voiced because you know what? There are more people … friends, family members, business colleagues, society at large who are living life feeling they are burdened under a big wet blanket than you could ever possibly imagine. You will be surprised if you dare to care and reach out.
My personal journey hit hard last year, about 6 months after my dad passed away however I didn’t realise where I was or what I was living until I was a good 5-6 months into the quagmire. My experience consisted of an ongoing sense of foreboding, a sense of despair. I was simply not happy nor could I find happiness anywhere I looked, nowhere in my life was there anything that made me, made my inner being happy. I continued to pretend all was ok, I pretended I was coping, I pretended I cared when quite frankly, I didn’t give a shit. Where I used to find joy, I could find it no longer. Sunsets, the ocean, walks on the beach, spending time with my kids … nothing could fill my heart and make me feel good, I felt like that soulless robot I mentioned earlier. For a long time. I pulled back into my cave, hid myself from those who would possibly care, for their benefit as much as mine, or so I thought. I mean why would anyone in their right mind want to be around ME and the overwhelming sadness and utter despair I couldn’t shake.
I spent months living this way, of simply ‘existing’ on auto-pilot. I still cared for my kids; they were fed, clothed and taxied to and from school and their extra-curricular activities but there was not one ounce of joy for me in doing this, I was physically present on a day to day basis however my emotional and mental well being was cast adrift. I still turned up to my place of work every day, struggling through the tedium – some-what unsuccessfully. I was drinking too much alcohol too often, trying desperately to dull the heaviness while in reality I was doing the exact opposite, I wasn’t exercising – just couldn’t be bothered, it was all too hard, life was just too bloody hard. To say I had a “fuck it” attitude is an understatement.
Then … finally … one day, the overwhelming feeling of unrest and displacement finally caught up with my brain. This was about 6 months in and I remember uttering the words “I think I’m depressed” to my brother. That admission … that acknowledgement was enough to put a small ‘crack in the floodgates’ and instigated my sojourn to healing. It wasn’t easy, but I finally recognised “this isn’t me” and started taking baby steps forward to rectify my feeling of displacement.
I booked an appointment with a herbalist/nutritionist first and foremost. I’m not your typical “pop a pill to fix this scenario” kind of person and the suggestion of taking an anti-depressant sent a cold shiver down my already skewed spine. I spent over an hour with my herbalist Angela, balling my eyes out, finally allowing the back log of despair an opening – an avenue to purge. Armed with herbal tonic, practitioner only meds and a new dietary plan I felt I had taken the first in what was to be many steps in regaining my mental health.
I sought counselling – not main stream, but with a contemporary shamanic counsellor who has been a close friend for many years and who has been a constant guiding light for me throughout the time we have shared the bond of friendship. Her wisdom, acceptance of being and ability to guide me in tracing the path from inception to where I was currently floundering was critical in helping me to move forward and heal. With her navigation, I finally not only acknowledged, but started to mend the part of my heart that was so very broken and in pain after my fathers passing. The turmoil and deep set grief of dads hospital stay, last words shared and last looks given before he died had seeped like darkness through my inner being and festered into the lost girl I saw staring back at me from the mirror. With this help, I finally found my voice and began to feel ok about verbalising some of what I was feeling and experiencing to friends and family, work colleagues and most importantly my children. My beautiful kids who were fully aware mum had been “feeling sad” for a long time, and who tried so hard to ‘fix me’ by showing their love, making me laugh and being the reason I was able to carry on day to day – to them, I owe everything.
It has been a long haul, I managed to pull myself up over the edge of the well about 10 months after my depression began and continue to work on being emotionally, physically and mentally healthy today. It’s not plain sailing, far from it but the difference for me, is that now I am aware of the triggers. I am far more aware of my state of mind and wellbeing and have the tools (and the people around me) to help counteract the all-encompassing web of darkness and negativity when it raises its head.
Please be aware … be aware of yourself first and foremost, of your family and loved ones and those around you who may look like they are coping and all good … but perhaps aren’t so much. We need to keep the conversation current and ongoing … depression is not a taboo subject, nor should it be spoken about in hushed tones or behind closed doors.
Remember, there is help available and however you want to access that assistance, whether by using mainstream or alternative methods is totally up to you. The first step is acknowledgement and from there, you will hopefully find the courage to open your mouth, speak your pain and seek guidance.
I believe, together … collectively … with love, support and continued open conversation we can train that black dog … to stop pissing on our parade.
Macca ~ February 20th 2017