Depression Was His Name-O: Naming My Big Black Dog.

Posted on August 25, 2014

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A friend recently posted to Facebook this very effective account of depression. Watching it got me thinking about my own black dog.

At some point in my late teens or  early 20s, a good friend, and, at that time, a wildlife rehabilitator, said to me point blank, “Sterling, I think, you are depressed.” At the time, I vehemently denied it. Fortunately, thanks in part to some of her own rehabilitative efforts, much later in life I was able to tell her, “You know what, you were right.”

In defense of my younger self, he wasn’t lying. At that time, I really and truly believed that I was not depressed. I simply couldn’t recognize the fact of my depression because it was all that I had ever known. I had nothing to compare it to. Plus, by most objective standards I was a pretty successful young person. Depressed people don’t succeed, right?

It was only many years later, thanks to a bit of luck and a bit of work, that I realized there were feelings I could experience that were different than the state of general unhappiness or despondency that were so familiar to me. Happiness wasn’t the absence of total despondency, as I had come to think of it, instead, it was this whole other feeling that was good, filling, and empowering.

Once I got the ball rolling, it really got rolling. Every once and a while, I would take stock of where I was at, and I’d think, “Wow, I am so much better than I was. This must be as good as it gets.” Six months or a year later, I’d have the same thought, and on and on it went, getting better and better. You can’t know how high the mountain is until you start to climb it.

It’s impossible to know with any certainty how I got from point A to point T, when there are so many variables at play. Nevertheless, I think my friend’s point blank assertion that I was depressed was crucial. It planted in my head the idea that I might be depressed, so that when other factors or events pointed in that direction, it was easier for me to see that I was. Importantly, she also didn’t lord it over me. She said it, I denied it, and she left it at that.

And that’s why I am writing this post.

If you are depressed, there’s a good chance you don’t — in fact, can’t — realize it. At some level, you might even want to avoid realizing it because it may seem like an insurmountable challenge. In my own experience, exorcising the depression isn’t that hard, if you are no longer in the environment that helped to create it. The hard part — the hardest part — is recognizing the fact of your depression and mustering the will to get rid of it.

If you haven’t already done so, do me a favour and watch the video. If it feels familiar, if it resonates, there is a good chance you are depressed, in the the clinical-you-need-to-work-on-it sense. Try talking to a professional. Give your local Distress Centre a call. Having once worked the phones as a volunteer at a Distress Centre, I can assure you the person on the other end of the line will want to help and connect you to relevant resources. If you don’t want to talk to someone about it, start talking to yourself about it: journal, reflect, reminisce, and research the issue.

Remember, you lose nothing by starting the conversation, if you aren’t clinically depressed. If you are depressed, you have the chance to gain everything — and I mean everything — by starting the conversation. Whether you know me or not, you can trust me on this one.

Posted in: Identity, My Life