A Black Dog Named Depression
“I had a black dog. His name was depression.”
To look at me, you’d never know.
I have a full-time job, a wonderful husband and lots of friends. I genuinely enjoy life, but I also have a secret: I struggle with depression.
When I confide this part of me to others, I get surprised looks and raised eyebrows. Most days, I’m OK. I was diagnosed with depression in my twenties. I’ve tried many therapies and found some that work pretty well for me. So most of the time, my depression sits quietly outside my door and lets me be me.
But not all people are as lucky as I am to have been able to discover a treatment plan that works for them. About 80 percent of Americans who have symptoms of depression never get treated (Healthline.com). For some, their symptoms go away on their own. But others live in a state of denial or become masters at acting and appearing “just fine” on the outside.
That was me until I was in my late thirties. I was ashamed of my diagnosis, and I did my best to ignore it. No one likes a downer, so I kept my feelings to myself and away from even my closest friends. I buried myself in my work. I obsessively exercised. I did anything to keep my mind from becoming idle.
I kept thinking that I could just power through my bad days, but I was walking a tightrope. Often, I was balancing—but just barely. If the wind or even a slightest breeze started up, I stumbled and slipped.
Not only was I ashamed, but I was terrified that my friends and colleagues would discover the “real” me and would disown or even fire me. When I finally started to understand that my depression was as much a part of me as my blond hair and crooked smile, I started to get better.
For 2017, the World Health Organization is focusing April 7, its World Health Day, on depression. To help spread the word and explain what it’s like to live with depression, it produced a video called I had a black dog, his name was depression. The video is about me or you or anyone and how we try to manage this black dog named Depression.
Coming to terms with the fact that I’d never be rid of depression was probably one of the scariest things I’ve ever faced. But by accepting that I’d always have my black dog—my black dog named depression—I started to be able to make plans for both of us.
So what have I learned from my black dog? For me, I learned that, for me to feel like me, I need lots of fresh air and sunshine, regular exercise, a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables, plenty of water and a solid night’s rest. These are my guiding principles that, in addition to taking my medication and going to therapy, help me be happy and healthy.
This isn’t everyone’s experience, but talking to someone about how you’re feeling—even if it’s your primary care doctor—can help. And if you’re a Florida Blue member, you probably have mental health coverage. Plans vary, so be sure to check your benefits guide, or just call the number on the back of your member ID card. And finding a mental health provider is easy. Once you log in to your member account on floridablue.com, simply select “Support Service” as the Provider Type to bring up mental health providers and counselors.
The point is that there are lots of things that you can try to help you feel better: some tried and true and others that are cutting edge. But you have to keep trying to train your black dog.
*The author of this story has chosen to remain anonymous.
Filed under: Mind/Body/Soul