My dog is depressed; she is literally a downward dog – she’s mopey, likes to sleep all the time, and she shows little interest in the usual things that give her pleasure, including her beloved peanut butter-filled bone. She’d rather laze about on the big red couch. The unfortunate result is that perhaps her depression has rubbed off on me, or vice versa.
Many of us suffer from bouts of depression, some more frequently and intensely than others. Indeed, the wartime genius Winston Churchill suffered from major bouts of depression. In the book, First-Rate Madness, author Nassir Ghaemi writes that “Churchill’s severe recurrent depressive episodes heightened his ability to realistically assess the threat that Germany posed (57).” Some would say thank goodness for his struggle with the depression that Churchill coined his “Black Dog.” The irony is not lost on me.
My “Black Dog,” along with Sadie’s, reared its ugly head this summer. In some ways, the mood “heightened” my intellectual abilities, but more than anything it has heightened my self-awareness, and compelled me to ask essential questions about my life.
After the school year ended and I took some time to decompress, I got a smack in the face – despite the #merckmiracle, I plowed through the year re-integrating into my professional and personal life while ignoring some of the deeper feelings I had surrounding the turmoil and trauma of the last several years. BAM! Time off = time to think = acknowledging the post-trauma sadness.
Life certainly did not work out the way I planned; I am mourning lost time and lost opportunities. Sometimes I feel as though I have to say things like “I’m feeling great” or “I’m so grateful.” I’m not lying when I say these things, and the sentiments are true under most circumstances, but they often times mask my true feelings of anger and sadness. What if I say, “Well, physically I feel good, but I’m pretty fucking angry.”
In many ways, neither Sadie nor I have much to be depressed about – we’re both healthy (kenahurah, which in Yiddish means essentially “knock on wood”) and finally have a sense of stability and home. Under these circumstances, it feels almost indulgent to say I’m depressed. BUT, yet again, life has not exactly dealt me the luckiest hand. As a result, I often get sucked into self-pity; that doesn’t make me weak, it makes me human.
I so want to wrap up this post in a pretty bow, telling you that all is well in my world, that I’ve worked through the “Downward Black Dog.” Instead, the emotional backlash of cancer rears it’s ugly head more often than not. And, while I don’t think Sadie nor I will shape the future of world peace like Churchill, we persist.