Holding The Black Dog At Bay

I’m very conscious that most, if not all, of my blog posts have been scribed when I have been feeling down or hopeless. One of the many facets of the illness is that you focus on the negatives, and ignore any positives, and therefore I guess its inevitable that the ratio of optimistic versus pessimistic blog posts is so one sided. Someone pointed out to me the other day that it would be useful to note down what happens when I’m feeling more positive and upbeat, as this will be a valuable record to look back on when I’m feeling particularly low. What was happening on that day which caused me to feel more positive? Why was I not feeling as discouraged as usual? Can I use any of my findings and put them into action when I’m feeling especially depressed or anxious?

I’m not entirely sure of the reasons for my more upbeat state of mind in the last day or two, but I can hazard a guess at a number of factors:

(1) My bronchitis, which has been dragging my down for the last few weeks, has finally started to subside. I’ve felt dreadful for the duration of the illness, as its been difficult to breathe, and the cough has been intensely painful. As with getting over any illness, you can’t help but feel positive that you have seen the back of it.

(2) The aforementioned bronchitis has ensured that I have been unable to visit the gym at all for the last few weeks, and therefore I’ve been feeling decidedly inactive and restless. Today I was able to return, and had an intensive workout, which made me feel less guilty about the lack of exercise recently, and also precipitated the inevitable good vibes that come from the release of endorphins.

(3) Last night I met some good friends who I haven’t seen in a long time. It was a lovely evening, and we laughed, joked and reminisced about past times. It reinforced to me the importance of friends, and interacting with other people. Whilst the illness often negates this basic human characteristic, it proves that if it can be achieved, then the results are immensely positive, and allows you to fight back at the illness. Depression doesn’t want to you to have any semblance of happiness, and consequently if you do have a moment of contentment or hopefulness, you are in a sense defeating it, albeit until the next time it strikes.

(4) I’ve felt more of myself at work in the last few days, which is inevitable as a consequence of the previous points mentioned. Everyone I work with I consider friends, as well as colleagues, and hence when I’m feeling well in myself, and have managed to seek out some optimistic state of mind, it is a genuinely pleasurable environment to spend my time in. It helps greatly that everyone in my team knows about my illness, and thus there is no awkwardness or shying away from the realities of it.

(5) I’ve now got a few days off, and am looking forward to participating in some of the activities that I enjoy, but which depression effectively strips any pleasure from. Simple things like reading, going to the cinema, working out, going for a walk in the park. Points 1-4 in this list certainly contribute to being able to do this, as well as other factors that I probably don’t even recognise. Normally when the weekend swings around there is initially the inevitable ‘Friday Feeling’ that everyone experiences, but as soon as Saturday morning raises its head, the usual feelings of lethargy, hopelessness, lonliness and anxiety come rushing through the door. It’s nice therefore to actually be able to look forward to a few days rest, and hopefully a time to recharge the batteries, as the last few weeks have been physically and emotionally draining.

This is my no means an exhaustive list, but it will hopefully give me something to reflect upon when the inevitable slide downwards happens. Because it will. It may be in a few weeks time, or a few days time, or even in a few hours time. There is no stopping it. The doors have been boarded up for now, and the shutters on the windows pulled down. But depression is persistent, strong, and stubborn. The only thing that you can do is try and enjoy the moments when its at arms bay, and quite possibly the more times that this is achieved, the more tired and bored the ‘Black Dog’ will become. Maybe one day it will leave forever, its tail between its legs. But for now if I can at least hold it at bay for a few days, then that surely is a positive. I’ll take that any day of the week.

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