Depression – The Black Dog calls

depressionLet me tell you a little secret.  I am not a strong person.  I am engaged in a battle with a demon called Depression.  To look at me you might not know – I look no different to the next guy in the street.  I don’t sit in public places and cry.  You don’t view me through a monochrome lens.  All of the stereotypical elements of depression… well, I work hard at hiding them from the public eye.  I work hard to act normal.

Now let me tell you another secret.  The more I have talked to people about my depression, the more I realise that having an inner battle like this is not so abnormal after all.  I have been amazed at the number of friends and even family who have shared stories with me once I had the strength to mention my plight.  I had no idea about most of these cases, especially the family ones.  It’s not something that guys in particular tend to talk about – we’d all like to think we’re iron-clad and infallible.  It’s a sad stereotype, because it makes us guys tend to be quiet about these things, when in reality being able to talk about our struggles is often one of the best things we can do.  And it’s usually surprising who you find understanding from.

I used to hear about people being depressed, and I’d think to myself they should “just get over it!”  If you’ve never had clinical depression you’re probably nodding to that statement, and if you have been diagnosed with depression you’ll know how bloody difficult “just getting over it” can be.  It can be very difficult, but it can be done.  Like anything, one of the first steps it to admit to yourself there is a problem.  And then don’t be afraid to seek help.

I can’t pinpoint when my depression began.  I don’t know whether it’s been one continual visit from the Black Dog, or whether he comes and goes at his own pleasing.  But I do know that his presence has been ongoing.  I was diagnosed with situational depression nearly two years ago though I would consider that I’ve had my own Black Dog for most of my teen and adult life.  During and after the breakdown of my marriage I spoke with a professional counselor.  For anyone reading this who thinks they might have a tendency towards depression, I consider this to be one of the vital first steps to recovery.

Beating depression

Everyone is different when it comes to depression and what works for one person won’t necessarily work for the next.  So keep that in mind as you read the following points.  These things have worked for me and I’d like to think there’s some wisdom in the words, even if it is merely based on my own experience.

  • Admit it!  This isn’t as easy to do as it sounds.  Like many things that negatively effect us, actually admitting that we have a problem can be a huge challenge.  And I believe depression can be a very difficult thing to admit.  It’s the admission of a perceived weakness, which can often bring us further down.  But it’s definitely a vital step in shooing the Black Dog.  You can’t fix a problem you won’t acknowledge.  Living in denial of our problems only perpetuates the hurt we feel.
  • Keep active.  Going through depression can be akin to swimming.  If you stop for too long there is a tendency to sink to greater depths.  As much as you lack energy and just want to curl up in a ball at times, forcing yourself into action is one of the most beneficial things you can do.
  • Set goals.  Depressed or not, it is great to have goals.  Goals work on multiple levels – they give you something to look forward to, something to strive towards.  They also give you a sense of purpose, something that a lot of people with depression lack.  It’s also very rewarding to reach a goal and feel the sense of achievement that this brings.  Goals can be as simple as getting out of bed by a certain time, meeting a financial savings target, or focused on health or exercise.  Whatever your goal, it should be personally rewarding and something you will enjoy adhering to, not a form of self punishment.
  • Talk.  No-one has to go through their hardships alone.  It can be difficult to make the first step in talking about your problems, but once you become brave enough to make that step it can feel like a great weight was lifted.  Talk to a trusted friend or family member about what you’re going through, or a professional counselor.  If you’re not ready to talk “publicly”, then pick up the phone and dial one of the many anonymous help lines.  Often it’s not the advice or feedback you receive that is of most benefit, it’s simply the act of being able to share your problems and feel like you’re not alone. (See the end of this post for a list of help lines available in Australia.)
  • Interact.  This is definitely the most hypercritical point that I’ll make.  I’m a real loner, quite a hermit even.  But I still see great value of not locking yourself away.  Be social with your friends and family, even if that’s merely through a social website like Facebook for a start.
  • Spend time outside.  Again, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being a recluse, locking yourself away and hiding from the world.  There is something therapeutic in being outside though.  Get some fresh air, take a walk, spend time in the garden, sit under a tree with a book.
  • Do things you enjoy.  Spend some time on yourself doing things that you find pleasure in.  Read a book, spend time in the garden, dust down your paint brush, go for a swim, go to the movies.  It doesn’t matter what the activity is (as long as it’s not destructive to yourself or others), as long as this makes you happy.  For me, I killed two birds with one stone (a bad analogy, I know!)  I enjoy hiking so I made it a goal to walk 1000km in a year.  I’m doing something I enjoy and working towards a goal at the same time.

One of the most important things to remember is that no matter how bleak things seem, there will always be a brighter day ahead.  It can seem that there is no hope at times, and when these times take over our thinking we need to make a real conscious effort to remember that things WILL get better.  In the darkest moments, make a pact with yourself to seek help or make a phone call as a last resort.  Australia has a host of options, phone lines that are open 24/7, which can be called anonymously if desired.  Suicide leaves you with no chance to regret your actions, and I would guarantee that most people who committed suicide would take their actions back if they only had the chance.  It’s a very sad finality.

 Suicide Prevention Hotlines

Other Links

Aug 17th, 2011 | Posted in Depression, Life

  1. Amy
    Aug 17th, 2011 at 17:35 | #1

    Fantastic post, Ryan! Well done 🙂

  2. Dave
    Aug 17th, 2011 at 18:26 | #2

    I here that, definately not alone champ!
    I’ve had my Black Dog accompany me most of my adult life too.

  3. Aug 17th, 2011 at 19:34 | #3

    Beautifully honest Ryan. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Linda Daly
    Aug 17th, 2011 at 20:09 | #4

    Sharing is such an important part of allowing a real understanding and acceptance of depression and it also creates the opportunity for people to receive the help they need. You’re right, there is no coming back from suicide.

    Thanks for sharing the link Jade Lam xxxx

  5. Ryan
    Aug 23rd, 2011 at 12:17 | #5

    I have to say I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the response to this post. I’ve received many emails and Facebook messages from people who had their own stories to tell. Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to respond and share. And to those who have read this, thought it was about them but not responded, I applaud you too. As I said, acknowledging is the first and most vital step! Hang in there.

  6. Travis
    Sep 1st, 2011 at 17:28 | #6

    Thanks a lot Ryan, it’s things like this that make you realise that you are not alone and you don’t have to suffer in silence or in shame…

  7. Peter Bartlett
    Nov 7th, 2011 at 05:32 | #7

    I honour and respect your transparency Ryan. Thank you! Enjoyed the reno ‘how to’ posts also

  8. Rebecca Moss
    Dec 13th, 2011 at 20:57 | #8

    You say that you are not a strong person, but you are so very wrong…..

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