Sunday, 28 April 2013

Fighting the Black Dog of Depression

Just 18 months ago, in the Autumn of 2011, I was waking up from my latest bout of depression. A summer of misunderstandings, emotional rollercoasters & a slowly dawning realisation that something was wrong had made me reach out to a guildie. Not my family or my husband but a guildie. Yeah, that didn't turn out so well either but we managed to get back to being friends later.

In my darkest depths that Autumn, I also mentioned depression on Twitter & that was possibly the best thing I did that whole year! That single random tweet resulted in a bunch of supportive DM's including one from a most surprising source, a relative stranger to me although we inhabited much the same world. That support gave me the lift I needed to climb out of the pit and start changing my life. When I was hit with breast cancer last summer, that support from my blog & twitter friends was still there & helped me through another troubled time. Through it all, that stranger (no longer unknown of course) has been holding my hand extra tight & I'm almost certain I'd be a quivering wreck now if it weren't for him.

But why do I bring all this old history up now? Well, the subject of depression has been raised on my Twitter feed a bit lately and I wanted to share a little bit of light from this side of that long dark tunnel. I know of at least 8-10 fellow bloggers/tweeters who have suffered & if some tweets are honest, I reckon there's a lot more of you out there!

Outside looking in
I've been fighting some form of depression since my early teens - initially triggered by a family relocation from a very quiet, rural backwater to a streetwise, suburban nightmare. I was the original country mouse dropped into a life I wasn't ready to deal with. My accent was totally different to the new local kids & being physically mature at 11 whilst my few friends were still 'little girls' began my own fight with body image too. Feelings of being an outsider, not fitting in, they all hate me were common cries in my teenage angst & fair play to my parents, they did their best to reassure me although none of us recognised the beginnings of depression.

I spent a fair bit of my 20's & early 30's on various anti-depressant medications - not all the time, just extended periods waiting for them to work, waiting for the sun to come out again, for life to not suck for once. It wasn't all bad though - I met a lovely stable man, we got married, travelled the world when we could, had friends, bought a house, settled down and lastly, found WoW but lost each other.

I found WoW about 5 months after quitting my last job. I'd woken up one morning & basically had a meltdown. I just couldn't face going back into that place again so I quit. WoW was good for me initially - I lucked out and found a very social & active guild. Skype chats all day and late into the night weren't uncommon & helped me to start feeling normal again. The problem with social guilds is that eventually, there will be drama and I managed to get right in the middle of it! That's the problem with sitting on the fence & trying to help both sides - you make a perfect target too.

That's the point at which I started gold making - it needed focus & concentration, I could hide on a new, unknown alt & to be honest, I found it fascinating! It also started my drift back down into the pit though. This time I was so pre-occupied with blogging & goldmaking, I didn't spot the signs. Playing so much time solo, I let friendships drift, in game & out until one day I woke up wondering where everyone was. Some of you will read this & realise that's where I disappeared to that summer - I was drowning again & didn't notice. I'm sorry. But that's when I reached out on Twitter & found so much support. Just people taking time to send a DM means the world when you feel totally alone even with people around you. A cyber hug, a twitter good morning - it's contact, it says you are alive even if you feel dead inside.

I still have bad days but they are fewer & much less severe than they were. I found this poem way back when & hunted for it for hours this morning. It says so much that so many of us will recognise (and not just depression sufferers - everyone has insecurities after all) and I think as dark as it is, it still has inspiration for us too. I'm one of the luckier ones though - my depression doesn't endanger me, I just close down, become a self hating, feeling worthless hermit.

When I started this blog, the 'She Rides Dragons' was inspired by the Dragon Riders of Pern series & by WoW but I've comes to realise that if I ride my dragon & soar into the sky - whether just in my mind or dreams or metaphorically in real life, then that Black Dog of depression is going to have a hard time catching me next time.

I've beaten it before, I've beaten cancer (for now anyways) & I'm flying solo for the first time in my adult life - it's all up to me now. I may have a strong hand to hold on to as well but that is now my desire to hold onto, no longer a necessity. I'm beginning to learn about myself too - from the inside, not just the distorted mirror view I've had for so long. Serious stuff like cancer helps you focus on the important things in life & I no longer care if other people think my ass looks fat or my hair doesn't suit me etc!

I guess I'm trying to say hold on, there is life after depression or even with depression, you just have to take that next breath, take that next baby step & keep on doing that. Next time you look up, you'll be amazed how far those baby steps have brought you & if it's still too scary out there, look down again & focus on those baby steps. I still carry my paintbrush but I don't need it quite so much these days.

I wish you Peace my friends

Paint brush (Anon)

I keep my paint brush with me
wherever I may go,
in case I need to cover up,
so the real me doesn’t show.

I’m so afraid to show you me,
afraid of what you’ll do,
that you may laugh or say mean things,
I’m afraid I might lose you.

I’d like to remove all my paint coats
to show you the real, true me,
But I want you to try and understand,
I need you to accept what you see.

So if you’ll be patient and close your eyes,
I’ll strip off all my coats real slow.
Please understand how much it hurts
to let the real me show.

Now my coats are all stripped off,
I feel naked, bare and cold.
And if you still love me with all that you see,
you are my friend, pure as gold.

I need to save my paint brush, though,
and hold it in my hand.
I want to keep it handy
in case somebody doesn’t understand.

So please protect me, my dear friend
and thanks for loving me true.
But please let me keep my paint brush with me
Until I love me, too.


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  1. Now that is an open heart post Nev. And that poem says it beautifully, the things you were saying.

    1. Thank you. The poem struck a chord with me at the time & I thought it fitted well here.

  2. That is a wonderful poem that I'm going to keep, thank you. And I hope for much peace to you too.

    1. Thank you too :) Peace is with me for now but I know the dog is just waiting to pounce again. I'm practicing my dodge attack moves these days!