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Lessons from depression Part 1. Or, how have we tamed the Black Dog.

Lessons from depression

Lessons from depression

These last few weeks have been something of an opening out of life, an unfolding of lots of things that have been closed away for some time. I guess I should have seen this coming – you don’t start talking about depression without it causing some ripples outwards. And maybe a few internal waves too.

Several people have asked me if writing the Black Dog blog series was cathartic, and in many ways it was. Talking more openly and honestly about what has been going on behind the façade of external life for some 20 years has been freeing but also emotionally stretching.

What has encouraged me most has been the response from many and the common themes therein –

  • Brave, honest, and really struck a chord with many
  • Many are affected by depression and have a Black Dog either of their own or within their family/friends circle, and yet is it rarely talked about
  • Those with their own Black Dog have expressed how accurately I managed to portray something of what depression is like

All this has been hugely important, and goes some way towards redeeming our own experiences. It has been so important to get it right – after all, not having experienced depression, who am I to talk about what being in that dark place is like?

I have opened up our lives, taken out what has been at the centre and said:

Here, this is us as we really are.”

Sometimes when my daughters were very little, one of them would hold on very tightly to something that to them was very precious. If I needed to get at that wee gem, it would involve me prising her hand open, one finger at a time, to reveal the tiny treasure contained within (usually a bit sweaty and squashed by then). And so it has felt with our experiences –  to unwrap all the layers of pretending-things-are-ok, guilt, resentment, failure, fear, lack of trust, and gingerly and tenderly expose something intensely personal to us has felt like a risk. A handing over of a treasure without knowing what the response will be – will that treasure be seen as such by others, be valued and respected, or trampled into the ground?

Now of course, I know and respect those that know me well enough to trust in their gracious and accepting response in the face of our vulnerability. And in managing to portray his depression with accuracy and understanding, I handed MB a gift of acceptance that showed how much I have actually learned along the way.

At times, we felt so far apart from each other and the gulf so wide that reaching a place of mutual understanding and acceptance seemed less likely than reaching Mars. But to see in black and white that I do get it, and get him, more than he realised, was a real moment of grace for us both.

As I have reflected on these last weeks, and all the conversations I have had with those who I never knew had any experience of depression, it has made me wonder – how did I get to this point, still standing? What have I learned about myself, and how would I encourage those living with or alongside a Black Dog?

January seems the time to learn lessons and take stock so what lessons from depression have I learned that are perhaps worth sharing? That’s what the next couple of weeks will be about.

Inspired? Encouraged? Get in touch!

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