Mental health issues can be violent, invasive and debilitating illnesses, chasing you around and demanding your full attention to the detriment of others. They can also be a gentle inhibitor, a subtle manipulator that sits quietly in the background influencing everything, all day, every day, even if we aren’t fully aware of it because it hides from view, somewhere just out of reach. The black dog versus the dark cloud.
The black dog hasn’t been around me for a long time, but the dark cloud is never really that far away, floating around in the dark corners of my brain, dust particles captured in sunlight.
One of the reasons I keep busy and push push push to do better do more keep my brain active is that to stop.
… and pause
… is to let that dust settle, to let the fine black residue taint the things I’ve nurtured and created.
What I’m also doing is storing up a protective layer, a buffer, for the days when it’s a wee bit too hard to fight, a wee bit too hard to push myself. Those days are few and far between, and the reality is that they are rarely days at all, much more likely to be a few hours of melancholy, a dose of the sads, which passes by once it’s been acknowledged.
I’m lucky, I know that, but sometimes the world seems to be transpiring to pull me down, everywhere you turn there is terror, pain, horrible acts committed by people I don’t fully understand. I know that, despite the noise the media makes, the world is largely full of kind people, or at least people who aren’t too threatening. I know that the skewed view of the world that is painted large in newspaper headlines, or captioned and bannered in hi-def on my TV is not wholly representative.
But when it comes at me from all angles, mainstream and social streams bombarding me, at those times I feel small and weak, a pointless dot on the face of a spinning mass, a nothing in the spec of human history. Pointless.
It can be overwhelming, the scale of it, and it’s all I can do to ‘switch off’ and lose myself in music, or a book, or just an aimless wander in the fresh air.
And then it passes, I’ve made it through to the other side again.
I know it will continue in this vein, in this cycle. I will extend the timescales by learning how to better control my reactions, better monitor my emotions and awarenesses, but it will return, just as it will pass once more. I will take comfort from the love I have in my life, I will reach out if I need to, but above all I know it will pass. It always does.
In the early days I didn’t believe that and when the fog of distance remained for days, then weeks, then months, it became the norm, it became who I was, it defined me, it owned me. Ohhh if only I’d known then what I know now.
It will pass.
You don’t need to stay strong, you can lie down, hide if you must, but it will always pass. That is why you have to keep on keeping on, even if that’s the only thing you do, the only thing you can manage. Don’t give up. Don’t let it win. Don’t let it define you. Acknowledge it, look at it, turn it over in your hands and contemplate it but know it is not you. You are not it.
Depression is not who you are, it’s what you have.
Fight when you can, every battle helps in the long run, even the ones you lose.
And at some point, it will start to fade away. The black dog will run off to fetch something else to drop at your feet to remind you why you are worthless, as it has countless times before, but next time it will take a little longer to come back. Then a little longer again. It goes on and on until one day you realise you’ve stopped watching the horizon for its return.
Know that it will come lolloping back from time to time. Sometimes it will bring something familiar, but you’ve faced that before. Sometimes it will bring something new, or something unexpected, and you will face that too.
And slowly it starts to pass. The clouds overhead lighten and rays of light filter down from the sky. You will marvel in those at first, amazed they exist, amazed you can see them, touch them, feel them. And, over time, you will realise that, some days, there is more light than dark.
At least I hope it is that way. That’s how it is for me.
It always passes. Even the worst of it.
It always passes.