This picture is of me (on the far left) and my siblings at a family wedding in October 2017. What you won't necessarily be able to tell but will have probably guessed from the time of this post is that I have depression. I was diagnosed with depression at the end of May 2012, about 3 months before I was due to go to university. I was on a college course, not failing, but not meeting my expected grades either, although that statement probably underestimates how badly I was doing within myself. That particular episode was not the worst depressive episode I've had, those came later, but I was far from alright. I now feel it is important to discuss mental health openly, particularly for men and men my age, as suicide is a highly prevalent problem for my age (mid to late 20s).
It can often be hard to describe to depression to those that have never suffered it, I hear people often describe it as a black dog and after thinking on that bit in the last week or so, I find myself think that a dog isn't the best way to describe it. To me describing depression as a dog suggests that on some level it has a friendly or loving side and it's something that a person can learn to live despite its quirks and unusual behaviours. Depression is more of cunning, evil and predatory "animal" if that's the theme that we're going with.
Depression uses your own mind, thoughts, and voice against you as it twists and bends them to its own will, it preys on any weakness it can sense and uses your own inner monologue to convince you that you don't deserve to live or be loved or to have friends. It uses your own voice to convince you that the world would be better off without you and that you should do yourself harm. It can clutch in fear of doing the simplest things, it sucks you dry of motivation and impedes your concentration.
Depression can make things you used to love doing into hateful chores and make essential tasks painfully unimportant. Jobs and chores become smothering and oppressive you avoid them because you know there's no point to tackling them in the long run. You begin to lose sight in doing any different from what you currently do, so depression brings you with it down the dark downward spiralling path into its shadowy den and it keeps you on a short leash to break your will and to keep you as a slave to keep it fed.
The black dog image, to me, gives the sense of something you can grapple or wrestle with, something that can be taken on and can be taken on alone, depression isn't that though, hence why I'm wary to depict it as an animal, an animal gives it a physical form that can be fought or taken on. Depression is like more like a cloud or a mist something that's clearly there but hard to get to grips with. Depression is vague and ever-changing dense and smothering but something you carry everywhere you go.
Depression is like fighting through deep water whilst walking on shifting ground, trying to reach a target that is constantly on the move. When it's bad it's almost sickening, it all you can think about, the only choices are either to try to keep going or to give up.
That's not to say it's all bad, some days are good and there are more of them coming. In the meantime, I will try to continue encouraging dialogue on mental health to try and reduce the stigma attached to the topic, particularly for men, as it seems to disproportionately affect young men more. Until next time, stay safe.