Tag Archives: permaturity

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.