Bringing That Old Black Dog To Heel

Depression is a sometimes-fatal illness subject to periodic relapses.
The first time that relapse part happened to me, after I had some years of solid recovery from my  years of deep depression, I thought the world had come to an end…I would NEVER be free… and all the old neural pathways swung into full action. In hours, I was back in the depths. I told myself the happiness I had experienced so far in recovery was an illusion – I was doomed to never-ending despair, just like I had thought before. Even suicidal thoughts flashed through my mind.  Actually that was my alarm bell. I had already walked away from that forever, so this was pure madness.

THERE WAS NOTHING DIFFERENT IN MY LIFE to cause this condition. No one had rejected me, I had not failed at anything, I still had a loving relationship and great friends, my bills were paid on time, but suddenly I was just really depressed. Overwhelmingly sad. Fatigued but trouble sleeping. Achy body. Feeling overwhelmed and under-competent. Not interested in things I usually enjoyed. Foggy thinking. I wanted to just curl up and isolate. No one had warned me this could happen.
Luckily, my “witness-self” saw this happening with a small bit of distance and knew to first just STOP everything, and not make the situation worse by trying to function like nothing was wrong… I knew that whatever was wrong, it must have to do with my body chemistry or perhaps my daily disciplines of thought and diet, etc., that supported my recovery.  I knew to just BE in the moment.  To rest. In THIS “Now Moment,” despite my feelings, I was safe; all was well.  I did not know how to short-circuit the obsessive ruminations that come with deep depression for me, but I tried my best to distract from them, knowing they were just symptoms and that in itself helped me relalize they were phantoms. I did tell my partner and some close friends what was going on, am grateful for the support offered, and I got through that episode and others since.
The good news? The episodes PASS. Hold onto that.
As I am getting older (76 in a few weeks) and my hearing is deteriorating, I am more isolated from other people and in more physical discomfort, so it happens a little more often but I focus on the fact that most days/weeks and even years are NOT like this and every life has its ups and downs, right? I live a peaceful, comfortable life, in beautiful surroundings, have “enough” of everything, people I love and respect who love and respect me, a few things to do that help me to still feel useful on the planet. I could have it a LOT worse and have had. So I list my gratitudes and know that I am more resilient than I had used to be. 
I have brought the old black dog to heel, sometimes within hours, knowing that when she visits the world has not ended, I just need to be compassionate and gentle with myself, pamper and distract myself with a good book, some activity with my sweetie or a friend, etc. Then I need to heed the message that something is off-kilter and check my diet and supplements, daily habits, etc., check my “happiness toolbox,” chat with my (naturopathic) doctor, consciously notice the wonders and beauty in my life, do something creative or something that’s useful to others, and she will contentedly go back to sleep. She doesn’t scare me like she used to and I hope someone reading this will find hope in my story.
Love, Gerry

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