The Black Dog Sitting In The Corner

When living with a predisposition towards anxiety and depression it’s sometimes a struggle to keep the right balance.  There are many ways to keep balanced and focused and on most days it’s quite simple to control the symptoms by either dealing with the issue before it becomes a real problem or by removing yourself from the situation entirely.

Although I am not ashamed of my past episodes, I do pride myself on being able to maintain my composure in view of others.  I’ve become quite adept at it over the past few years by either being quiet and maintaining a calm facade or by injecting humour into stressful and upsetting situations.  Over the years I have developed an effective system where I disengage from the stressor for a few seconds, regain my composure and re-enter the situation with a different viewpoint and plan of attack.  This system worked extremely well for me when I was in the Army.  I would often break eye contact with the person involved, take a deep breath and then reengage with a different angle and either put the person on the back foot or remove myself from the situation entirely before I lost control and acted out inappropriately.  When mitigating a mild anxiety episode it is quite possible that others will not realise what is happening. Family and close friends can pick the signs and will often start to deflect conversation or actions away from you; my girly often does this when she sees that I’m becoming uncomfortable.

I have a number of physiological changes that occur that a person observing me will be able to identify when I’m becoming anxious.  Two of my more obvious ‘tells’ are: the lowering of my voice and more deliberate pronunciation of words; and the emergence of a light skin rash that will originate on my upper chest and migrate up my neck.  But anxiousness is only part of the equation.  The other is depression.

I have been accused of being pessimistic for most of my life; but in reality I’ve always known I’ve been depressive since childhood.  Often I would withdraw from others and act out aggressively towards my family.  Basically I acted like a shy young boy, and then a typical teenager; but shouldn’t these actions and reactions have ceased in adulthood?  For me they didn’t, they became more acute, and combined with some incredibly stressful situations in my mid to late twenties I found myself staring right at the proverbial black dog sitting in the corner.

To go through life pretending everything is okay is both difficult and incredibly easy.  It’s not quite living a lie; it’s more playing the part others want to see.  I was so good at it I even convinced myself I was okay sometimes.  But in reality I wasn’t; and with a lot of support from friends and family I asked for and got the help I needed and life became easier.  Admitting there is a problem is not the cure all; there is a constant battle in your head and heart to keep positive and do the right things to keep the scale tipping upwards and not down.

Sometimes the balance tips the other way and the black dog reappears.  I have tendency to become aggressive and short with most people during these episodes and will push away those that are closest to me.  What was judged as being the actions of a moody young man was actually the depressive episode of a person too afraid to call out for help.  While I was lucky enough to have the support of my friends and family and afforded the opportunity to seek counselling; many others don’t.

This is not a post that really goes anywhere, it’s not a guide for anyone with anxiety or depression, it’s just my thoughts on a subject I know quite intimately.  No one is ever cured of anxiety and depression; they just learn to live with it and not let it dictate the future.

5 thoughts on “The Black Dog Sitting In The Corner

  1. I think you’ll find that depression is genetic too. Knowing family history can give you the power to recognise depression sooner rather than later. I can trace depression back to a great grand parent after hearing stories filtered through to me. It’s uncanny that their actions and stories match mine! They of course did not have the info and support we have now and found tragically a relative took their life . If we all get talking about depression more there will be less of stigma and more people will seek help.
    Good for you in writing your story.
    K James

    1. I wholeheartedly agree. Clearly different triggers throughout life intensify episodes but to be a child and be depressed in a loving and happy home is not ‘normal’.

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