Depression, black dogs and other animals

Before I went away in holiday I wrote a post about how I was going to take a bit of a blogging break. My plans to get posts written in advance and scheduled failed due to lack of time and too many commitments and I hadn’t planned to invite guest posts. But I was going to write a weekly Good News Friday update, keep up with my Play Agenda posts. I promised you. I promised myself.

None of that happened. None, I tell you!

Instead of the class hamster, the blog turned into an itch I couldn’t stop scratching. I clearly need it much more than I am able to admit to myself and I used it to work through some of the things that happened while we were away: the stares, the tensions in Boo Land. The tensions got a bit much, though, and when I sat down to write the first Good News Friday I just cried. So I abandoned that (and the next post) when the fabulous Orli from Just Breathe offered a guest post that put my holiday blues into perspective and gave me a good laugh.

It would all be alright when I got home, I thought. I’d get my equilibrium back and my blogging mojo. I would write up two weeks’ worth of Good News Friday, get up to date, get posts done for linkys and sort my life out.

Have you realised yet that my favourite hobby is setting myself unrealistic goals?

Instead, I hit a metaphorical brick wall. The day before we left Devon I felt as if oxygen was leaving the room. The air felt heavy as heavy as my heart. I didn’t want to stay on holiday forever. I missed lots of things about being at home. But I didn’t miss lots of things about my life. The ongoing battle to get the top of the Social Services and Health OT lists to get seating for Boo and hope he doesn’t develop scoliosis. The anxious wait for his diagnosis (two months and counting since the tests). The endless therapies. The juggling…The exhaustion…

Depression and his old pal anxiety, They taunted me with their predictability. Laughed in my face as they watched me inwardly crumble. I barely remember the journey home and I spent most of the weekend feeling like I was suffocating. I couldn’t write. I couldn’t think.

Winston Churchill famously referred to the bouts of depression he lived with as a black dog. I get the metaphor (the darkness, the constant perching at your heels), but it doesn’t feel right for me. I guess it’s partly because I like dogs so much, black white or any colour you fancy. I find their companionship consolatory.

Maybe I’ve just spent too much time in Devonshire pubs, but I think of my depression more as the Exmoor Beast. Dark and predatory.

What depression looks like

Or maybe, more like the hound of the Baskervilles. You know. You’re walking home one night in the countryside minding your own business and then find yourself walking through the Grimpen Mire when a ferocious dark beast with a green tinge comes out of nowhere and tries to eat you. No: that’s not right either. Sherlock Holmes can’t rescue me. And the hound is only part real, part phantom (a dog someone has starved and painted to look like a spectre).

My depression is not a phantom. It’s very real. And while it feels slightly odd to say so, it’s not man-made. To my mind, it’s a perfectly natural response to 18 months of stress, of prematurity, meningitis, of wondering if your baby is going to die, of repeated hospitalisations, of epilepsy, of brain damage and cerebral palsy, of fighting your child’s corner, of struggling to get the right care, of only 15 nights of unbroken 6 hours sleep in 18 months. Yes: I am counting.

Actually, I’m not sure I have the right metaphor for my depression. I’m not even wholly sure what my particular mental health issues are (depression – yes – but PTSD has been mooted several times and I check most of the boxes, and anxiety is certainly a huge part of it). More to the point, though, I don’t know if I need a metaphor. I understand my depression and part of me really doesn’t want to anthropomorphize it. It really isn’t like an animal or a beast. It’s more like an element: a hurricane, a tidal wave or stormy sky.

And like the weather, things change and clear just when you think they never will. I don’t know how I got through this weekend. I don’t remember unpacking or doing five loads of laundry or doing Boo’s physio, although I know all of these things happened. And then it was Monday and I started working on my massive to do lists and all of a sudden, I felt OK again. I wasn’t paralysed any more. I started to get on with things. I felt better.

I don’t know what changed. I don’t think it was anything I did or any of the pep talks I gave myself, I just felt better. And now I am writing this post and getting on with the work I need to do and inching closer to seating solutions for Boo and getting on with our life.

And although life is hard I can see its beauty. Even when the clouds are dark as anything, I can still see that.


16 thoughts on “Depression, black dogs and other animals

  1. Jane

    I think depression does come with this life. I have had a black cloud hanging over me for the past few months but this week I also feel like it is lifting, perhaps there is something in the water. Sending you hugs and just letting you know you are not alone x

  2. Orli D

    First of all I’m glad you are doing better 🙂 It’s been a tough month all around I guess, and sometimes it is so hard to see how things are ever going to be ok ever again. I am happy (though slightly envious) that you found that illusive inner peace (you can see that where you quote important literary figures, I quote Kong-Fu Panda 2…). So I just wanted to send some hugs your way and let you know you are not alone 🙂 x

  3. pinkoddy

    I’d never thought about how my depression being the one that gets me to make unrealistic goals. I think I will tackle this and write down realistic ones.

    Hugs to you, I am glad you are feeling better and hope it continues to improve for you.

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      Thank you! I’m sure it will. If you find the secret of avoiding the unrealistic goals, do let me know. It sort of makes me feel better that you do it too.

  4. MummyTries

    I think depression is inevitable for anyone who hasn’t had an easy straight forward life. You are clearly doing an amazing job so try not to beat yourself up too much. Black clouds will come and go, sometimes you need to just embrace them to make them pass quicker #PoCoLo

  5. Jaime Oliver

    awww honey, I so so wish things were better for you all. I do know what your feeling as i suffer with PTSD and its debilitating my lovely … I am sending you massive massive hugs xx

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      Thanks, lovely. I do feel much better now we’ve had a week back in Boo Land. It can just be so debilitating, though, can’t it? Sending hugs back. X

  6. Verily Victoria Vocalises

    I think any type of depression has to be one of the hardest things to endure – especially when there is nothing physical to show. You are doing a fantastic job and have all the support of us, here, in the blogging community. Please know you are not alone. Thank you for linking to PoCoLo x

  7. SweetToothNim

    I too have been engulfed with my depression and anxiety recently. It is as you described a dark beast. No one seems to understand. However some of us do. I can fully relate to your post, all be it my anxiety is for different reasons to yours. I hope the cloud lifts soon and you feel yourself again.


    1. mrboosmum Post author

      Thank you so much. I read your comment very soon after you posted it, but have gotten so behind in replying lately… But I wanted to say it meant such a lot. Finding others who understand makes such a difference. And yes, the cloud has lifted. I hope the same’s true for you!

  8. ferreroroche123

    Hugs. I hope you are feeling a little better now. I’ve had a frightful year, and have felt very depressed at times, but reading posts like this really put my troubles into perspective and makes me realise that almost everyone has hardships. Sounds like you have had a tough ride recently, and I hope things improve. #PoCoLo

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      Thank you so much for your lovely comment. You’re right that lots of people have hardships, but whatever yours are and even if you think others must be worse they are just as real and potentially hard. I hope things are on an even keel for you at the moment.

  9. tharar65

    Not quite true, you can have a easy happy life and still get depressed after you gave birth for one reason or another, just how it is. I had a easy carefree life until Abby was born. Well okay maybe not so carefree but it was easy compared to now. That said, I love life.

    I still dont know if it was the right/sensible thing to do but I’m pregnant again. Im 4 weeks along- the baby is due in early May.

    1. mrboosmum Post author

      I love the health hop idea and am really pleased you have set up this new linky. Your question is a great one. And it kind of stopped me in my tracks while I thought about it. I still recognise everything I said in it. And some days I am knocked for six by something seemingly insignificant. But generally, I think I am much more on an even keel, emotionally. And blogging has been really important for that.


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