The black dog

I stopped dreaming.  I don’t know when.  I only realise this because last night I DID dream and it was vivid and shocking.  I had a dream that someone close to me committed suicide.  I felt the emptiness of that.  I felt the emptiness of the world.  And it also took me back to that space of isolation, despair that I’ve occupied so many times before.  I’ve literally sat in a beanbag with a blade in my hand running it along my skin wondering what it would feel like to have my blood squirting out of my veins, but knowing I would never do it because from all accounts its a very painful process.   I use this method often when I’m working through something.  I take my body through the motions of what it would feel like to engage in a process.  It takes the emotional charge out of it.

Those who have experienced the black dog will commiserate with a feeling of apathy for the future, a tiredness and malaise that can’t be shaken off.  That feeling of everything being a little pointless.  Of being hopeless and of no unherant value to the world.  And a very strong reluctance to get out of bed and face the world- to interact – to experience joy.  

Depression and anxiety feel to me to be very strongly linked.  And how both of them are acted out in life are what interests me.  Depression is a result of brain chemistry.  Its very often linked to the food we eat.  But there is no doubt that some people have a stronger disposition towards depression than others ie the brain falls back to this as a natural state of being.  

I’ve always managed depression like an addiction.  I keep getting a picture of a rat in a cage hitting the lever to get a hit of glucose.  I’m constantly looking for a hit of the good stuff in life to keep me ‘up’.  This is an effective management tool. Anything that creates seratonin, endorphins, dopamine and oxytocin is superb.  Usually movement/exercise gives me a good hit – massage is another.  Any activity that gets my metabolism and circulation going, like yoga is fabulous.  

Libby Weaver reiterated a few things to me.  The symptom of not being able to get breath past chest level is one of anxiety and high cortisol levels.  One thing that has really worked for me is being in nature.  Leaning against a tree and just breathing, I can move that block.  Lying on the ground, feeling only the sensations of air, sun, grass, earth seems to disengage the sympathetic nervous system.  And disengages the monotony of my whirring mind.

The most harmful display of my depression has been the connection to emotional eating patterns.  Orthrexia is defined as an over addiction to ‘healthy’ eating.  Actually I use it as a compensatory method to stop binge eating in its tracks.  

My funny little brain has somehow convinced my body that feeding myself is a reward.  So just like the rat, I keep hitting the lever, much like a heroin addict, to temporarily make myself feel better.  It works – for about an hour – until I feel the effects of over eating, or unhealthy eating.  And then I start to mentally abuse myself for being so weak.

We all have methods for getting through tough shit  – to survive.  But in Dr Libby’s words – if we want to thrive – harmful addictions, self deprecation and violent mind talk must stop.  Just stop it.

It would be fair to say that losing someone who is an integral part of your life creates a lot of pain, depression and anxiety.  The gap that is created is not just loss from missing someone.  Its filling all the gaps that that person filled before.  What did that person provide? Love, affection, financial stability, emotional support, fun.

 A choice must be made.

We must either keep that wound or find beautiful ways to fill it up. 

Reinvigorating the feeling of gratitude for the small pieces that make up your life today is paramount to wellness.  Embracing simple delights right now is the only way to love life right now.  Giving oneself a pat on the back is absolutely required.  I have a 100% success rate of surviving the rollercoaster to date.  Its pretty hard to get 100% in this world sometimes – so I’ll claim that.  

And I’m going to love my black dog by taking it for a walk to the river.  Cause no dog can stay in the black down there.