Monday, 20 April 2015

Black Dog Days

Morissette, I will take your ten thousand spoons over any
number of knives.
Oh, that hurt.

I've been looking after Arya while she has chicken pox, and the virus seems to have snuck in and tried to give me shingles. Fortunately, I had chicken pox and my immune system had words, but they were strong words delivered in the manner of one of the fight scenes in the new Daredevil series, and left me well and truly trashed. I was literally unable to face the train journey home on Sunday, so had to make my way directly from Ipswich to work this morning and I feel like I climbed a mountain.

Actually, I've climbed a mountain; I've climbed two, and I never felt this rough afterwards*.

It doesn't help that I was pretty hammered this time last weekend. I really need to get some sleep. Ah well, I guess that Wednesday night Marvel Marathon is out of the question.

On the upside, I had some super quality time with my daughter, in between the howling-at-the-injustice-of-illness moments and the exhaustion. On the downside, before I worked out that I was sick and hungry on Sunday, I was careening towards a state of black depression like I've not known in a good while; probably not since I stopped teaching. Fortunately Arya's presence helped to stabilise me, but it was pretty alarming.

I don't talk about my depression much, but it's always there, hovering in the background. It hits me like the proverbial black dog**, knocking me down and taking all the wind out of me. It makes me physically slower and makes me question my worth and my contribution. Arya helps because just being with her I know I am loved and held in the highest value, and that I have contributed to making something wonderful. I ought to be able to remember that when she isn't there, but it doesn't work that way.

Perhaps the most insidious aspect of depression is that it makes you feel blameworthy for being depressed. This is a trap, but knowing it is a trap and avoiding that trap are two different things. I spend much of my life on the brink of the pit, aware that there is solid ground to my back but unable to step away. It's not a unique feeling, and was described by another famous black dog sufferer***. Not that I have had actual suicidal thoughts for a long time now, but the vertiginous sensation is all too familiar.

I'm much better today, because I'm no longer fighting off infection along with exhaustion, and I can look back and, not laugh, but recognise the tricks the dog played on me and acknowledge them with a nod and a grim smile. He won't be there tomorrow, but he'll be around; it's just a case of taking it a day at a time, and keeping him out in the yard where he belongs.

* Full disclosure, they were smallish mountains in the Britannic mould, and I suspect that the invigorating fresh air helped a lot.
** "The black dog I hope always to resist, and in time to drive, though I am deprived of almost all those that used to help me…When I rise my breakfast is solitary, the black dog waits to share it, from breakfast to dinner he continues barking, except that Dr Brocklesby for a little keeps him at a distance…Night comes at last, and some hours of restlessness and confusion bring me again to a day of solitude. What shall exclude the black dog from a habitation like this?" - Samuel Johnson
*** "I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through. I like to stand back and, if possible, get a pillar between me and the train. I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything. A few drops of desperation." - Winston Churchill

No comments:

Post a Comment