When you have a mental illness, you’re always carrying it around with you. For me, depression is constantly sitting inside of me. It’s a sleepy dog in the pit of my solar plexus. The problem is that, sometimes, it’s not me who stirs it awake. Sometimes, it’s the people who want to be close to me. The people who will reach out and touch my darkness. Last week my partner copped this pretty severely. I’m not sure if he reached out and touched the depression in me, or if my ‘black dog’ chased him away in the night.
Sometimes it consumes me so completely that it’s in the driving seat. Instead of seeking comfort from loved ones or even seeking comfort from self, this ‘black dog’ snaps and bites at anyone. Loved or not. Since recently being introduced to the term ‘black dog,’ I imagine my depression like an abused creature. Sometimes it will accept the love it finds, and other times it lashes out at anyone who comes near it (with loving intent or not).
What makes this even more difficult is when the people or person you love also has their own creatures of depression driving their bodies around. For me, I’m frantic when my black dog needs comfort. I’m running wild trying to find anything to ease the pain. If I can’t find it, I collapse until I fall asleep. My partner is different. He goes quiet. Shuts down. It’s as though he backs way up into a corner and refuses to surface, for fear that any light may sting.
So, how do we deal with this? Honestly, I haven’t figured that out yet. Nonetheless, I refuse to accept that depression makes us broken people.
When we are ourselves again, we can begin to see the triggers and pull at the thoughts that so often trip us up. Each time, I remember I am a whole being. Once upon a time I would have given in quickly. I’d declare that this part of me makes me incomplete and ultimately undeserving of love. But little by little I’m letting people see more of me. Little by little, I’m understanding that it’s worth the effort to begin to accept the kinder things, the comforts, the praise, the thank yous, the loving gestures and words. Little by little.