Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My Black Dog is a Millstone

Depression, affects so many and yet is so misunderstood in the community.  It is so much more than feeling sad for a bit. Feeling sad is part of it, but it is being uncontrollably sad for extended periods over time over things that should not warrant such an emotional response. Misplacing the keys for five minutes in the morning should not unravel the entire day. In the one should not fear watching television with other people for fear that the duckling sitting in a pile of Kleenex tissues will completely unhinge you. Ironically leaving you in a state where you will need the very tissues being advertised to wipe away hours’ worth of tears.

Depression has been described as a black dog. This analogy only works in part for me, because a black dog would give me a sense of companionship.

For me it is the proverbial millstone around the neck. The millstone varies in size and weight as does the length of chain to which it is attached.

On days when it is un-noticeable to others that it is because it is small and light and appears like a necklace, a fashion statement. Oh to have been an adult male in the sixties and seventies when big neck jewellery was the fashion for men. Now in the 20teens it does not have to grow much before people notice something – though they are not sure what it is they see.

No, I have not had hair cut, nor am I wearing a new shirt, or lost or gained weight. You have just noticed my neckpiece.

At its smallest, my necklace is almost unperceivable even to myself. Like a pair of socks, after you have put them on you soon stop feeling them and forget they are there.

But it is not always small, and does not grow in even incremental amounts. The most dangerous for me is when the chain grows faster than the stone itself. Attached to my neck, but now dangling around my legs and feet I am at the greatest risk of being tripped up.

The weight and size of the depression stone matters, unlike more traditional jewellery the smaller it is the better. There is never a question of clarity for a depression stone that is why we pay thousands of dollars in therapy. Like a fine jeweller, the best therapists cut and shape the stone making it more manageable and presentable.

Yes there can be a trigger, that re-commences the expansion of the stone, but depression is more than an emotional response to a one off event.

Around my neck it becomes heavy and awkward when carrying out daily tasks. It is also exhausting. My head bow under the weight, my eyes struggle to focus, concentration span can reduce to that of a five year old on Christmas morning.

The desire to socialise or even leave the house is inversely proportional to the size of the depression stone, and not just because it is hard to find an outfit and accessorise with a massive chunk of sediment. The millstone becomes so big that you believe it would be impossible for everyone else not to notice it, and once within their field of vision even more impossible for people not to stare. The last thing someone in the depths of depression wants is to be noticed, let alone stared at.

Laying or sitting down can help, as it bears some of the weight of the stone, which is why a favourite position for people with depression is their own bed or couch. A large rock does not a pillow make. So despite hours – if not days or weeks – in bed sleep can be either non existent or intermittent to the untrained or inexperienced eye sleep may appear to be deep, however it does not any of its normal recuperative qualities. So now on top of the heaviness, and poor concentration and incessant crying, and feeling that everyone is staring there is now an ever growing layer of tiredness.

Prescription drugs can help break the cycle and even permanently reduce the stone to a wearable size. Therapy can help to provide clarity to the stone which helps chose how it will be worn and accessorised for the day.

Diet goes the way of socialising. For me an indicator that the stone is growing beyond my own abilities to manage is when I am at a supermarket contemplating purchasing potato gems (tata-tots for Americans).

Potato gems are the perfect mix of starch fat and salt and take no effort or thought to prepare. Perfect for someone who is couch bound wearing the same clothes as hey have for the last 48 hours.

Purchasing a bag (2 meals worth) signals significant troubles. Multiple bags and a variety of condiments means I am hitting rock bottom and am not planning on leaving the house for a while.

Doctors recommend nutritional meals with plenty of fresh vegetables. In reality it is about conservation of energy. If I barely have the ability to move to the bathroom I am not going to waste the little I have to peel actual potatoes, slice carrots, and dice onions. At it’s most cumbersome the depression stone is really too big for my kitchen making it near impossible to manoeuvrer between the sink, the bin, the stove and pantry.

Not only can the depression stone be a vicious cycle of its own, often with a tragic ending but it also creates other cycles of dire consequences. Infomercials can start to make sense after days of interrupted sleep, Logic now long gone, the exuberant presenters seem reasonable and level headed, the price now affordable and you do start to wonder how have I survived so long without the latest miracle product.

So you buy.

Blenders, knives, cookware, slicing machines, storage containers and gadgets. The very items that only make sense when depressed are the very items that you will not use in the same state. They sit in the kitchen mocking you. Of course they mock you when you are healthy too, when you will never use them because they are just ridiculous, a permanent reminder of how bad the depression can get.

Maybe I should put potato gems in a Nutribullet, it could extract the nutrition captured in the crispy shell of my starchy friend? The website does boast it can “transform ordinary food into superfood”. 

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