Fighting the Black Dog: in medias res.

There are many excellent articles published recently on depression and the pains taken to get people to understand clinical or major depression, and how it is not what you think it is.

I was diagnosed with clinical depression 12 years ago, and after one lot of nightmare drugs which amplified everything instead of helping, I swore never again.

So I decided to deal with it in other ways: throwing myself into study, swearing off alcohol but for the odd whisky every now and then, indulging in my love for yarn. And that all did some good. I’d have my good periods and bad periods, and I could just fix a smile and go.

Until now. Over the last 5 or 6 months the walls of that dark hole we all try crawl out of has been getting steeper and more slippery. The light at the top getting further away, and those insidious little voices in the night have been getting louder and more persistent until they are all that I have been able to hear. You can fight them in private and keep up appearances until they wear you down, until one day you begin to believe them. About a week and a half ago, I hit that point.

Now as bang on as Allie and Ken’s discussions about depression are, theirs are not universal descriptions of the disease.

The darkest is when you are numb to emotions and feelings, but you can also spend years with your feelings muted – like there is dirty glass between you and how you should feel – all the while negativity and self-doubt cloud your senses. This is when you can still feel, but you can’t trust these feelings either because your brain is playing tricks on you half the time.

What you do feel, however, is an overwhelming sense of guilt: for thinking about asking for help, and if you do, for being a burden on others because you feel useless, and that there is nothing they can really do because it is all in your mind.

I was brave enough to ask for help last week because I couldn’t do it on my own anymore, and I accepted those damned pills because something had to give. So hopefully things will start to look brighter sometime in the near future, although there is a long way to go.

But while it took a great deal to admit that I was losing that battle, I haven’t been prepared for the crippling guilt that has come with it. The feeling of failure for needing to ask, the cloud of doom and foreboding that has settled Cthol Mishrak-styles over all my actions (more so than before), and the fear of abandonment by those I love and have asked for support. They will be getting sick of having to reassure me that it is all in my mind before this is over, but knowing and believing are currently two vastly different kettles of fish.

I know they won’t lie to me, but convincing myself that I am honestly not a waste of space and time and not worthy of love – that the world would be better off without me – is not true, however convincing those gremlins are, is my big battle for the foreseeable future.

So I am going to keep on forcing myself to get out of bed in the morning, interact with others, throw myself into my work, and exercise. I will try to remember and regain the pleasure in all the little things I appear to have forgotten and work on crossing more things off my bucket list. I will enjoy the up days and battle through the down ones, and one day, I may wake up and the cloud will have passed, this time around.

So why am I writing this? It’s not because it is suddenly en vogue to do so. Far from it. Today appears to be an up day, so far, and I want to put it out there that I am struggling, but I’m not going to let this Black Dog beat me.

Be patient with me, dear reader. If I bail on seeing you, it’s not because I don’t want to, it’s because I am exhausted and I need to look after me. If you don’t hear from me in the course of day to day communications, it’s because I can only really focus on one thing at a time at the moment, and I will get back to you when I can.

Depression manifests itself in different ways, and no two people will experience it the same way. It is an incredible shame that mental health is still treated as such a taboo subject. For something that affects a significant portion of the population, we shy away from acceptance and there is very little support, really, for it.

Thanks for reading, and I will see you on the other side. Blog posts will be intermittent, and hopefully interesting.



  1. Shelley, thanks for writing this. I’m sorry you are in the pit at the moment. Let me add my voice to the annoying chorus of ‘yes, you are worthy of space, time and love’ you’ll be getting from all quarters. (I’m not lying to you, either.) The planet is better off for having you on it. Things can and will get better. Those nasty circular thoughts? That’s not you, that’s your unwelcome guest. Tell it to get f#$%ked. Say ‘thanks for sharing, but I choose to think about puppies instead’. Meanwhile, hopefully the drugs will start kicking in soon, and the black and white might start showing hints of colour around the edges. I would also suggest talking to someone whose job it is to be professionally sane and unjudgemental – a clinical psychologist maybe. That helped me last year when I ground to a dead halt and stopped functioning. When you find yourself wondering whether you’re the crappiest pile of crap in the world, remember the Kardashians. I kid! You’re just as flawed as anyone else, and no more. Last thing: be as kind to yourself now as you would be to a friend who was feeling the same way. Love, Kathy

    1. Thank you. I miss having you sitting next to me. I hope you’re on the up yourself – and let me know when you are next back in the capital.

  2. I too have battled this dog and know personally what you speak of. I am lucky enough to have a strong support group around me, family and friends. But that being said, there are days that all I want to do is find a hole, crawl in and just pull a lid over top and hide away. But that is not an option so I too go forward. Have faith, it will get better.

  3. You are worth it, life is worth it. Keep fighting on and ask for help when you need it (you would seek help for a physical illness, right?)

  4. The most important thing you just wrote is that depression is different for everyone. Please don’t let anyone tell you what you should feel at any one time. You feel what you feel. Feelings are neither good nor bad, they just are. You get to choose on how to/whether to act on them.

    I’m sending you major mojo and virtual hugs and support. You are so strong and independent. It’s folks like that that have the hardest time asking for help (they just can’t believe they can’t fight it off themselves-I know this because I am one, too). Give the medication time to do its work and if it doesn’t ask for something different. There are manymany drugs out there today (I’m a psychiatric social worker-this is what I do). And know that there are folks over here across the oceans wishing you well.

  5. Hello little one. You have lived and learned and lasted through so much and come out on top every time. This the next great challenge and you and the two of us will beat back that mean spirited black dog and let the living black dog replace it with joy and laughter. So look into its face, bare your teeth and defeat it. Send it back into its own black hole for you have powers far beyond it. We love you. MDA&thereal blackdog

  6. im glad you went and got some help, despite the previous bad experience… this is not something to mess around with, or to fight on your own, and all the ‘thinking and doing the right things’ sometimes isnt enough. have faith that it will pass, and hang on to the things that keep you moving forward. thinking of you xx

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