Both you and the black dog are in a dance, with you trying to repel the quick jabs and the hard punches. You duck and dance and deflect and sometimes manage to get a punch in there yourself too. Some fights you will win, some you will be defeated. That match is done and the next day you will get up, shake yourself off and fight once again.
Just like boxing, depression is not a team sport and you are in the ring alone. No one else can fight for you and your opponent is invisible to everyone but yourself.
Each morning you wake up and find out whether you have a normal day ahead of you, or a fight. At the back of your mind you hope that one day, it is not a fight to the death.
Image from Unsplash
The things that I have heard people say about those of us who have depression disgust me.
I am not weak. I am not lazy. I am not as someone once said to me "wallowing in self pity". I am strong. Stronger than they are. I would challenge anyone who thinks that depression is easy to spend some time in our shoes.
Unless you have had depression, you will never really know just how bad it can get. How sometimes it feels like your soul is dying and your heart is shattering into a million pieces. It takes a lot of strength to just get out of bed some days. But we do. We get up, we go to work and we hide the monsters that are attacking us just beneath the surface.
I started another battle with the dog today. Everything I have done so far today has taken effort and strength. All I want, and still want while I write this post, is to go home, hide under duvet and binge watch Bob Ross. But instead, I reminded myself of what I have accomplished so far today, with each step a punch, however tiny, against the black dog who seeks to hold me down.
I dragged myself out of bed Punch!
I got myself dressed Punch!
I left the house and got on the bus Punch!
I went to work and spoke to client Punch! Punch!
I had a telephone conference and put my points across Punch! Punch! Punch!
I am writing to you now The black dog starts to back away a little
That sounds like a very normal day and indeed it is, there is nothing special about it at all. But accomplishing even the smallest step feels impossible when depression hits and your tears are only a blink away. Everything takes effort and will.
Some days, you know that there is no fight in you. Not even the smallest steps are possible. That is ok. It takes as much strength to admit defeat when you need to, as it does to come out punching. Even when the day is a loss and I feel like I have slipped down into a deep, black pit with that bloody dog standing at the top, snarling at me; I am silently picking myself up, inch by inch, for the next day.
I have spoken about how having depression is like being a boxer in a ring. It also involves being an actress. Whilst I am able the majority of time to have a normal day, go to work and converse with people, the symptoms of my depression are being held back by me, just under the surface.
My smile may not reach my eyes, but I am able to get through a day without anyone noticing that there is anything wrong. (I do not recommend this to anyone, it isn't healthy. But it is my way, for now).
Tears are either supressed or fit into time slots when no one else will notice. I switch off my heart so the heartbreak I feel doesn't show whilst I speak to a client or a colleague. How do you switch off your heart? Practice. Years of practice. You are however turning yourself into a walking stone, for essentially other people's benefit.
I will finish my working day. I will go home and allow myself to feel again. The duvet will come into play while I recharge. The gentle tones of Bob Ross will sooth my soul. Tomorrow, if the black dog has stuck around, I will do all this again.
Tell me I am not strong.