PULL YOURSELF TOGETHER LAD
The evolution of the 'Black Dog' and how we deal with it.
Ok, this is one of my more serious posts and has been one of the more difficult to write. Being a ‘depression sufferer’ I find it interesting (and comforting) that today we better understand what depression is and that it can be treated – it is an illness, a chemical imbalance. There’s a lot of support and advice out there if you can find the strength to put your hand up and say “Hey, I need help”.
Today, society in general is much more understanding of those that are plagued with the ‘Black Dog’. There are exceptions obviously and one of our biggest challenges is educating those that prefer the ‘pull yourself together lad’ approach. It’s a hangover I guess from a society where ‘men were men and women did the dishes’ – thankfully, for most of us anyway, society has come quite a long way since my childhood.
As a kid I was aware that some people suffered from depression – those that usually ended up throwing themselves under a train unfortunately, so it was only in somewhat extreme cases that the ‘D’ word was used. But we never talked about it, discussed it, questioned it – it was pretty much a taboo subject. I can’t imagine how I would have coped with my depression back in the 70’s. I’m guessing that even my doctor would have told me to ‘man up and get on with it’.
Depression really sucks. It affects not only the sufferer but those closest to them who take the brunt of the bad days. Being ‘ok’ in public is exhausting. The highs come as a relief but the lows can be brutal. Depression can stop you doing the very things you need to do to stop the things that make that depression deeper, darker. Depression can hit you like a hurricane when you least expect it. And when people ask ‘how are you?’ You just say ‘yeah, I’m good’.
We shouldn’t be embarrassed or ashamed of admitting that “hey, I suffer from depression”. What you see isn’t always what I’m really feeling, that’s why I never judge others on how good their life ‘appears’ to be. While social media brings heightened awareness of depression it also brings added pressure for sufferers too who, if in a negative state of mind, can feel constantly down at how much better everyone else’s life seems.
If you’re feeling low tell someone, seek help. I was terrified at having to visit my doctor for the first time to talk about how I was feeling. I felt ashamed, a failure – me, suffering from depression? I’m stronger than that, I’m a bloke and just need to get over it! But my Doctor was great. I certainly wasn’t the first person he’d had walk into his surgery with this issue. In fact, when you start talking openly about it you’ll be amazed at how many people in your friend and family network have experienced or know someone who has experienced depression.
So now I’m on meds, have been for years. The meds help, in fact they become an essential part of keeping it together and balancing that chemical imbalance. But meds aren’t the only solution and leading a healthy and balanced lifestyle is essential to keeping the mind as well as the body in shape (alright, alright, I’m working on it!). I also have huge support from my close family and friends who understand that on the odd day (and thankfully now it is only the odd occasion) when I’m feeling a bit shit, they never tell me to ‘pull yourself together lad’.
Remember, it’s ok not to be ok. Don’t suffer in silence.