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Friday, 13 February 2009

Black Dog Part Two

Firstly thank you for the kind and thoughtful messages. I’m always surprised to hear that fellow bloggers, their posts dripping with witty, erudite remarks also know the bleak pit of black dog-dom. You’d think I’d have learned by now that anyone and anyone can be struck down, but it still surprises me.

Anyway, my parole seems to have been extended and the dog has slunk off as mysteriously as he arrived. I’m not sure why but he’s gone. So I thought about how I’d handled this brief spell this time.

I’m not trying to pretend I’ve had chronic depression, the kind where even turning your head to the wall is an effort, but the word itself can be misused. Feeling sad is not depression, and neither is disappointment or 'feeling sorry for yourself' as a person once suggested to me, as I sat, stunned. A bit like my friend in labour, vomiting from pain being told by the midwife that she was ‘being silly.'

There is no better description of depression for me than Malignant Sadness, but if you think there is, I'd be curious to hear. That flat, bleak, emotionless, frozen landscape. Where the smallest effort seems like a Herculean task. For some it goes on for months or years.

All I can say is what works for me. I do know that it blights lives and the more we talk seriously about it, and share help and advice the better. I read Sally Brampton’s wonderful book Shoot the Damn Dog and my heart ached for her terrible suffering. She tried many many combinations of antidepressants, vitamins and talking therapies before she found what worked for her. Now she takes antidepressants, high doses of Omega 3 and does yoga. Her depression was severe and long lasting. This is what works for me:

• Exercise. It really does work. Walking is meditative and releases feel good hormones.
• Eat properly even if you don’t feel like it. Even if you don’t think you’re worth feeding well.
• Try to keep the boozing to a minimum.
• Drink lots of water – yes boring but flushing yourself out feels good even if your spirits are in the toilet.
• Ask a kind person to massage your hands or feet – touch is soothing
• Friendly animals can help; you don’t have to pretend with them. Cats and dogs are nice. I knew a jolly parrot who nibbled my ear quite sexily. Hamsters are not friendly – they’re the Cheryl Cole of the animal world, really gorgeous to look at but would bite as soon as look at you.

If it goes on longer than a couple of weeks go to the doctor.

It helped me a lot that a writing friend I respect laughed loudly at something I’d written. (This wouldn’t have worked so well if I’d written a gritty drama)

I’ve included a link to the Daily Mail (yes sorry but it’s quite a good article) on whether or not depression can be good for you. I think the idea is total bollocks but what the sufferers have to say is interesting.


The Dotterel said...

Does Cheryl Cole really bite? How intersting!
In Writing Therapy the protagonist describes her depression as 'more than an illness, it's a state of being' which I think captures the disabling weight of it well. But then, I would, wouldn't I?

Jane said...

Whenever I see Cheryl Cole in all her saucer eyed loveliness, I can't help but remember that she was found guilty of assaulting a toilet attendent. The poor woman's face was Mashed!

The 'state of being' comment makes sense, but then that means depression is a state from which you can only escape temporarily. A thought which makes me shudder . . .

Anonymous said...

Hi Jane,

Thank you for a great post on depression. I've been 'dogged' by that malignant sadness on and off, for years now. Right now I'm trying to see myself through a rough-ish patch. It's not so bad that I need medication, but just the kind that makes me feel like I'm fraying at the edge. It makes me a very cranky mum, which is what I dislike most about it. I have a 2-going-on-10 year old daughter and I keep thinking how much therapy she'll need when she grows up...! :)

ps thanks for your comments and the link you left on my blog. Really appreciate it. x