Depression doesn’t care how brilliant you are, how much money you have or how successful you are. The black dog just doesn’t care about all that. Having a black dog makes you feel worthless, isolated and vulnerable and you need to be strong to cope with owning a black dog because it’s very demanding and very exhausting. The black dog is a bastard that just takes and takes and takes until you have no choice but to cling to the duvet and plead for it to just go away and give you some peace, a break from the pain it has caused.
My own black dog is never far away, it sits in the corner most days and needs little attention but some days it demands all of my attention. I am used to my black dog now and, on most days, I know how to settle him quickly but I never know which days he is going to knock me to the ground.
Depression is not just feeling a little low, it is a physical and mental pain, it really hurts. Every now and then I experience what I call a crash, when I can’t function, when I can’t think and I literally cling to my bed until it passes. I become incredibly anxious and paranoid and I can’t leave the house until it has passed. This is when I could take my own life – I feel out of control, desperately trying to cling to something to become grounded, to stay sane. For me it is like falling through the air. The film Gravity showed this beautifully.
My crashes usually last a couple of days and then I begin to feel grounded again. Once I feel more secure I can function again and the pain eases. But I am left feeling battered and exhausted and scared that it will happen again and that takes a while to recover from.
I am open about my depression – I don’t think it makes me weak, I know it makes me strong. I am very aware of emotions and how we process feelings and information and I know this also makes me a better practitioner. I know how to try to protect myself but it doesn’t stop the black dog knocking me to the ground and I fear that happening every day because it is terrifying.
Depression affects too many and it takes too many. I am not writing this for sympathy because I don’t need it, but for a greater awareness and a better understanding. After I had my first crash I suddenly understood why people killed themselves, why people harm themselves, why people drink and take drugs to take away the pain. When I am very ill, I would do anything to switch off my head, just for a while. When I am ill I feel useless and worthless.
If you are struggling with your black dog – ask for help, tell someone, please cling on until it eases
The Samaritans: 08457 90 90 90
RIP Robin Williams