Edited. Thanks Michael!
“…if my black dog returns. He seems quite away from me now – it is such a relief. All the colours come back into the picture.” – Winston Churchill
*****Disclaimer: I love all dogs, black or otherwise********
The black dog of Churchill’s quote is of course, depression. I love this quote because it describes perfectly the feeling when depression finally lifts and the feelings that replace it. The air is sweeter, the colors rich and so beautiful, you can almost taste them. It’s a gift that one never tires of receiving and is the hope that keeps the fighter in the fight.
It’s a lifeline to the anchor that “this too shall pass” – it’s the tall drink of ice water after a hot day, the sweet snore of a restless newborn, asleep in peaceful slumber at last. It’s the truth in silence, the power of prayer in solitude. It’s everything that you’ve forgotten when you are at the very basement of your soul, in the darkest night it’s ever had with no one to help you find your way back into the light. It seems as though it would be impossible to forget that there is light, but depression lies to you, plays tricks with your mind and makes every worst fear a reality. It tells you that no one loves you, no one cares; that the world would be a better place without you. It tells you this shall never pass, there is no light, no hope, no way out except one.
HUGE F***ING LIES.
Like a pathological liar strung out on meth, it just won’t shut up. Spewing doubt, spreading the seeds of disease and discomfort, eating away at the good, the positive and replacing it with self-loathing; fear and lies to reinforce the self-loathing, lies to blind your eyes from seeing, confusion to keep you from believing that you are much stronger than it is.
Churchill’s Black Dog and San Juan de la Cruz’s (Saint John of the Cross – Catholic mystic) Dark Night of the Soul speak to a loss of connection, separation from the Divine, sadness beyond the ordinary and a feeling of hopelessness, of loss and abandonment. Whether you are spiritual, atheist or simply not interested, depression is a part of life. Not everyone experiences it the same way and not everyone is comfortable having a conversation about it, but much like the elephant in the room, it’s there.
Understanding that depression is not only one thing, such as a chemical imbalance, has helped me to not feel ashamed of my depression, nor fear it. It’s another wave in the rhythm that is my life and is now to me an indicator, like a dash light warning that my soul needs attention. Like driving a car with no oil, the engine won’t seize right away, but it will most definitely at some point, usually in the middle of nowhere, with no cell service and possibly a serial killer on the loose. What is the treatment? Maybe rest and solitude, maybe activity and people I love; each and every time it will be different. But I know that I am NOT my depression or my diagnosis. I am what I do with what happens to me and when the Black Dog visits, I don’t need hate it or fear it. Perhaps I need to recognize why it’s there and sit with it. Maybe it will tell me what I need to hear, if I can only stop and sit long enough to listen.