Monday, November 30, 2015

Black Dog Down - November

Ah, November, you grey, miserable thing. Right across the border from Ray Bradbury’s October Country, close to where the skeletons and shadows and dark carnivals patrol, there is where the Black Dog calls home.

November has been an odd month of leaps and lapses. But I give myself credit for not allowing either to affect me unduly. Apart from today, maybe, as my netbook proceeds to die while I type this, auguring another major expense in the not too distant future that I can ill afford. Ho hum.

Financial worry is like the Black Dog’s Scrappy Doo. Really fucking annoying, a pain in the ass, but it really should never be introduced as a companion. Yapping constantly in the background, making a nuisance of itself, it doesn’t serve any useful role. So the only thing to do is separate the two, try to make sure they stay in separate kennels.

How to do that? Well, maybe that’s something to think about for next month. With Christmas impending, money will be thinner on the ground. Definitely not laying all about, deep, crisp and even. There are projects in the pipeline and I have technically launched my services as a proofreader/editor (to resounding silence so far - isn't self-promotion tough when you don't feel so good about yourself?), so there may be the prospect of some income somewhere over the horizon. The trick then will be to try to put off worrying about money until I have some. Wish me luck.

As to Scooby, the Black Dog, well, he’s been snacking on me occasionally this past month. But it’s been a bit like a Scooby Doo reversal, with the dog chasing me, stalking along at a ponderous pace while I keep running. Busy-ness has helped. The illusion of speed, perhaps, since my work doesn’t involve a great deal of actual movement. But as long as my mind and fingers are working then that’s my equivalent of a mad dash.

Maintenance has been an issue, as I might’ve mentioned last month. That is, maintaining order and lack of clutter on the domestic front. Good habits slide so easily. But I have developed a trick there. Nobody likes household chores and I like them even less. So what I do is stick a CD in the stereo, full blast, and tackle a selection of chores for the duration of the album. That makes for about 40+ minutes of progress on the homefront and it feels less arduous because you can kid yourself it’s time spent listening to some of your favourite music.

Music is mood. And mood can be so important.

Loneliness has been a major factor too. Problem there is, loneliness is something you have to cure before you can do anything about it. It’s not an attractive trait. When it comes to dating, I’ve found in the past that the absolute best approach is to just be happy, comfortable with yourself and, above all, not looking for a date.

Sure, I am actually quite capable right now of being great company. Friendly, sociable, entertaining. But there’s quite often an element of faking it just to get started. If I’m invited out to a party or get-together, for instance, one of my first impulses is to make excuses, dodge the encounter. My second is to fight the fear and make myself go out, because it’ll be good for me. And that’s where I have to pretend to be okay, forge confidence and so on, until I forget I’m acting and somehow the act becomes the reality. Until I get home, maybe.

What calls this to mind especially this month was one night attending my regular pub quiz, with the other team members out of action or unavailable for various reasons, I had to fly solo. Actually, no, I didn’t have to – could’ve stayed at home, given it a miss for one week. But I figured it’d be fun. And it was. Had a laugh, did my best, came a perfectly respectable and even pretty worthy second in the quiz. But when I got home I crashed inexplicably and was really down for the next couple of days. Like I’d walked back into a vacuum, or it had walked into me. Feeling the emptiness, anyway.


And I don’t have an answer to that. The natural response to it seems to be to shut yourself away, in solitary, the very thing guaranteed to make it worse. Not very bright, hmm. Bit like Shaggy trying to hide in a basket from some ghostly snake or something that likes to curl up in baskets. Or hiding from the Black Dog in its kennel.

Still, I binged. On TV, video games, music, crappy snack food, vino. Numerous things I like, without properly enjoying them, until – eventually – I did. It’s not my proudest moment of the month. Indeed, that’s probably in part why I’m airing and sharing that here. To make myself ashamed so I don’t bloody succumb to that again. Wallow rhymes with hollow.

Ultimately, it’s a minor two-day episode in a 30-day month, but it’s a key event and definitely something to learn from.

November has mostly been about positives. A London trip, a play, two concerts (Judie Tzuke and Garbage – awesome time had at both). Successfully reduced my meds to every other day and that’s been working out okay. Don’t feel like I’m free-falling sans parachute or anything, so I think that’s a good step in the right direction and, crucially, at the right time. By the end of the year, I’m aiming to phase them out altogether and just fend for myself, without the aid of the chemical safety net.

As I say, I’ve done better at handling the downs and – just as importantly – the ups. Because as daft as it may sound, if you do have stuff to celebrate in life and you happen to be inclined to depression, there’s a danger in going too overboard.

At this point, I have three projects that will reach fruition next year and they’re all things I’m very much looking forward to seeing realised. I’ve found, when discussing them with others, my jubilation has been somewhat restrained, low key. As though I’m wary of feeling too good. But it’s not that. It’s only a sensible precaution against dizzying highs. Depression has a habit of making sure feeling on top of the world is followed by a fall down the mountain.

So I welcome the good, embrace it and settle for being quietly happy about them. I daresay I’ll shout about them more when I’m free to do so. For right now, a steady, even course is more important. Let’s just get where we’re going and avoid the turbulence where possible.

It’s a matter of compartmentalising. As per the financial anxieties, you acknowledge the effects but you have to separate that from the internal. With the external negatives, it’s a case of recognising that they can be contributing factors but they’re very often outside your control so you can only tackle what is actually the Black Dog, not just the things that frequently feed it. With the positives, you have to be open to them, obviously, and yes, celebrate them, but like with the meds it’s best not to develop a reliance on them. They’re just contributing factors to your mental health. Not the key.

December Country is just around the corner.

This means Christmas, which – forget the money side of things - is traditionally a difficult time in the depression calendar. But I have various bits n bobs to work on up to the 21st or so, along with a number of fun things planned. Heck, I’ve already turned my attentions to this year’s batch of Doctor Who Advent Limericks. Something for me to look forward to while the rest of you cringe in fear of tortuous rhymes, haha! Wtahc this space, you have been warned!

Laughter is still the best medicine of all. And I feel confident there should be healthy doses of that throughout December.

Some may have to be cheap laughs, but I’ll do what I can to make sure they’re value for money.

SAF 2015

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