Depression, my ‘black dog’ is a mysterious, unfathomable, organic creature. It’s a shape-shifter. From day to day, even moment to moment it changes its form and alters my state of mind. It pulls my strings and plays with me. It makes me feel hopeless and numb, then it allows me to feel empowered and elated. Then it seemingly leaves me feeling flat. What it doesn’t let me feel, however, is me.
So, instead, I have learnt to become grateful for the days when I feel flat. I hate the dark days, and the moments or days filled with elation are deceptively high; I don’t trust them.
Monday was flat. Tuesday was dark. Wednesday was brighter. Thursday was a little brighter still and, today, there’s a glimmer of me. I felt her yesterday evening. I’d been occupying myself all afternoon trying to resist the pull of my gremlin’s voice. I was swinging from the flat baseline to feelings of empowerment and back again. A voice told me that I could manage my gremlin, I could play with him but be strong enough not to give in to him totally.
But, then something told me otherwise. That something was me. My black dog and my gremlin were colluding with each other. They have become master ventriloquists and their voices are frighteningly convincing; they sound like me but their message is dangerous.
So, I sat still. I continued to read my book (and re-read the pages and passages where my mind had wondered for the umpteenth time as it tuned into my gremlin’s voice).
Mum arrived home late and I told her the way I’d been feeling the last couple of days. I like being honest with her. Even now, I expect her to be disappointed with me and somewhat ashamed of me because, essentially, I am; or at least I’m ashamed of the characteristics that my black dog and my gremlin play out in me . Mum never, ever judges me. She listens and acknowledges. She points out the possible pathways to further improvement and she commends the steps and/or the truths I’ve discovered so far. She gives strength to my emerging voice.
I spend all day on my own with my thoughts, my black dog’s thoughts and my gremlin’s thoughts. By the end of the day when Mum arrives home I’m exhausted from all the mental to-ing and fro-ing. So, everyday (more or less) for the last 10 months I’ve looked forward to the evening when I would numb them all into submission. It has been bliss. I would feel the wave wash over me and the voices would be silenced. What was left was banal and I gave in to its calming, wonderful simplicity.
But, I’d wake feeling guilty. I’d wake knowing that all I’d done was temporarily gag the mouths of my black dog, my gremlin and, most worryingly, myself. The numbness wasn’t selective and I favoured drowning out all the voices.
I realised that the longer I continued with this destructive practice, the weaker my voice would get. I was worried that I would start to forget it.
Something had to change.
So, for the last two days I have heard and cowered from the growls and vicious barks of my black dog. I have wrestled with the devilishly teasing, tempting, coercing voice of my gremlin. I have not handed myself over to them, however (despite wanting to at times). They have been noisily occupying my mind so I have gone for walks, I have even gone for a run (!). I have cleaned, I have read. I have even just sat and listened to their raucous chatter .
Today, they are still there; I know they are. This evening will be a test for me. I will write about it this afternoon, or later. However, the fact that for the last two days I haven’t played ball with them makes me start to believe that I don’t have to. I have the strength to say no, I don’t want to play the game and nothing truly bad will come from that.
Ok, I acknowledge that I’m writing this on an ‘up’ day. But I believe it is important for me to take everything I can out of these moments. It is important that if I hear my voice that I listen to it and praise it because, when the down days come I need to know that they will not stay forever. I need to know that my voice is still inside me and that I have had the strength in the past to overcome or simply live through the dark moments.
When I hear that voice that I know to be mine, when I feel the feelings of old Em again, I cling on to them for dear life. I am not ashamed to say that I liked old Em! Old Em doesn’t deserve to be cowering in a dark corner with a black dog and a gremlin nipping away at her. They deserve to be kept in the dog house!
This week has been another learning curve.