The ransom was paid

I can’t say yet that I have a Black Dog skin rug, but I am very close to it.  Depression doesn’t stand a chance where love can shine in.

After a week of fear, rejection, and sorrow, the bottom had to drop out.  The terrible thing about having a full clinical depression episode is that it cannot be rushed.  Once it has reached a tipping point where logic and rational thought don’t matter, it has to run its course.  (This assumes that there is no medical intervention.)  The anger drives, the sorrow drives, and the Black Dog navigates.  If it gets its way, it will guide you to ruin, to divorce, to death.

This is not rhetoric or hyperbole.  Suicide is not “pretend death”.  It’s possibly the worst kind, certainly so for the survivors.

The Black Dog fought hard.  With my Shield of Compassion and my Sword of Love (which isn’t nearly as naughty as it sounds), I held my ground.  I answered only with honesty and love, I spoke only from my heart (even when I shared my pain), and I opened myself up to true vulnerability.  The Black Dog bit me, even drew blood, but I was undeterred.

I want my husband more than it wants him.  Of this, I am certain.

The bottom fell out, and it seemed that the end was nearing – and not in a good way.  I called in the cavalry (I waited as long as I could), and they arrived in time.  Husband says that there was no need, he wasn’t going to do anything, but how could I know?  It was still the right answer.  (It is always the right answer.)

The doctors were idiots.  They didn’t even try to help, but at least they kept him overnight.  I spoke to them myself – this is clinical depression, this is serious, he needs some help – but they weren’t interested.

And here is where the ransom was paid:

My husband was left at the hotel without a ride, a phone, or money, wearing only a t-shirt and flip-flops – on the Day It Snowed In Texas.

He walked from the hotel for over 20 miles to our home. That was nearly eight hours in the elements.

Along the way, he met a few people, some of whom helped him with small gear against the cold, some of whom listened to his story.  Through the ice and snow and bitter cold, he walked.  Through the rage and anger and bitterness and sadness, he walked.  Through the shame and fallen pride and humility, he walked.

When the doorbell rang, I almost couldn’t answer it, terrified that it would be the police coming to tell me that he’d managed to finally end it all.  I did, of course, and here is my husband, falling into the door, unable to feel his toes.

In that split second between seeing him standing there and wrestling him inside, every bit of hurt and anger I had was immediately replaced with relief and near giddiness that he was alive – regardless of a missing toe or two.

(He did not, ultimately, lose any actual toes.)

And here is how I know the ransom was paid in full:

During our arguing, we agreed to see a doctor – each of us. He is keeping this appointment, for himself rather than for me.  Yes, this is our accord, and we must do this to stay together, but this is his choice now.  As I treated him for mild hypothermia and frost nip, he did not shrink away or claim to be unworthy of those ministrations; neither did he demand them as a right.  He apologized, and in his eyes, I knew every single thing he was apologizing for.

And I forgave them all without hesitation.

Before you cry foul on my behalf…

There is a distinct difference between a truly malicious abuser and someone who is suffering from clinical depression. Yes, things happened that he was not proud of, but I have done things in the throes of the Black Dog that I am also not proud of.  That is the nature of the Black Dog, to turn you against yourself and to force everyone away by whatever means necessary.

If you do not fight the Black Dog, if you allow it to perpetuate its lies about your worthiness, you can become a true abuser.  There is a core lie that says that we, the chemically depressed, are unlovable, and anyone stupid enough to love us is too stupid for us to love.  It is a vicious cycle that feeds on itself until something more powerful than the lie intervenes.  If nothing gets to us, we can slip past that threshold.

But, if you are willing to own your mistakes, if you are willing to grasp the true knowledge that no mistake can make you unworthy of love, then there is hope.  If you are lucky enough to have a partner who understands the difference between the True You and the Black Dog, you will already have a pathway out of the darkness. It is up to you to walk it, but that can make it a lot easier.

When I feel the Black Dog coming, I remind myself of these things, reading them in a mantra:

  • I am not my illness.
  • I am greater than the sum of my parts.
  • My worth is unchangingly positive; it cannot be decreased by my mistakes nor increased by my success.
  • I am stronger than the Black Dog; if this were not true, it would not have to lie.
  • The Black Dog doesn’t know the truth, and cannot tell it.
  • I embrace that the Black Dog is part of me, it is not the True Me.
  • I am the I, the Self, the Chooser.  I choose to let darkness pass through me.
  • I choose to let the darkness be; it is not my identity, it is only the dark.
  • I choose to be stronger than my illness.
  • I deserve love.  Nothing I do can change that worthiness.
  • However, I do not deserve to be an asshole.  Nothing I feel can justify that attitude.

Feel free to use them for yourself, however you like.


My husband is being held hostage

We’d been getting the threats for a while, though they started out quiet.  Little comments, passive-aggressive remarks, and then a minor blow up happened, then another bigger one.  The resolution of that incident was not enough, though.  Even though solutions were attempted (some worked, some didn’t), it was as though we’d made no response at all.

The Black Dog of Depression had returned, and it was not going to be denied again.

I have feared its return ever since he stopped taking antidepressants last year.  In fairness, they helped his mood, but he was tired all the time.  Simple things wore him out, and the doctor just said “exercise more”.  That wasn’t really an option – exercise depleted him even faster.  He ran a 10k (trying to get that “exercise”) and slept for a full two days.  Later, he described it as “not feeling good, just not feeling anything”.  He had been more engaging, though, and passionate.  And then he’d sleep for more than fourteen hours and wake up feeling exhausted.  Instead of finding another doctor, he quit taking them.  He stopped going to therapy, too.

The Black Dog started laying its final traps sometime around the beginning of September, maybe before that around mid-August.  He had a fit and destroyed my art room while I was trying to build it – which was my fault because I tried to point out that he was destroying my art room?  More fights happened, little ones, big ones…  I got him to see a therapist with me – his therapist.  Unfortunately, this guy is worse than awful and refused to call out the Black Dog at all.  Instead, all the problems were a direct result of my ADD, and if I’d just take medication, everything would be fine.

Except we didn’t have insurance at that moment, and medication scares me.  I’ve always handled my issues in other ways, and with remarkable success, as long as I know what they are.

But this was not about medication or not for me: this was exactly the material the Black Dog needed to trigger his big scheme.  The Black Dog told my husband that I didn’t want to get better, that I was just playing along.

Thanksgiving was sheer hell for me.  My husband asked for a turducken, and that sounded like fun, so I started looking for one.  None of them came wheat-free, so I decided to make one.  I looked up recipes, I got everything put together and set up, and while it took literally three days of cooking (and cleaning, and working at my actual real job) to get the meal ready to serve, it was worth it.

No, it wasn’t.  Okay, maybe it was.  Everyone else loved it – his mom and his brothers and the rest of the family – but him?  I didn’t even get a “thank you” or a “that tastes great”.  He went to bed early, leaving me to clean up in addition to all the cooking, ignored me viciously, and then just made shitty comments whenever it was brought up.

I have never felt so dejected and hurt in my life.  Thanksgiving, the day we’re meant to examine our gratitude, and I cried myself to sleep yet again because the man I created this brilliant feast for couldn’t even give me the fucking time of day.  He got up from the bed when I went in there to go to sleep, and then played video games all night, crashing on the couch.

He did that for weeks.

Christmas wasn’t much better, except that the kids were there – his and mine.  The fights were horrific, and I had to stand him down when he tried to leave with the boys.  I’ll take a punch rather than let him put the kids in the car while he’s that angry.  I thought we’d negotiated by the end of that scene some kind of cease fire, some sort of opening statement for peace talks, but it was a ruse.

As soon as the kids were all gone again, the Black Dog came back even harder, snarling, dripping ichor-like saliva, reeking of decay and putrid gangrenous rot.  The work that I’d been doing, the adjustments I’d been making, the things I’d been building were literally impossible goals.  They were designed to create perpetual failure on my part, and not because my work would never be good enough but because my husband would never be allowed to see them.

The fucking beast says that I don’t love him, that I never cared, that I only ever wanted him for material things.  What it tells him is that anyone stupid enough to love him is beyond worthy of respect, is too stupid to love.  The Black Dog knows how to play both sides, and knowing its game does nothing for me.  I can see the lies that it’s telling him, but it’s already undermined his faith in me by ruining the beautiful things, by tainting the little acts of love and passion that we shared.

On New Year’s Eve, the last device was sprung, the last line crossed.  Through the pushing and screaming, he’s looking at me with these eyes that are desperate, begging for relief, begging for anything to save him, tears streaming down his face.  There is so much pain and agony in there, so much tragedy and sorrow, and even though I have the right medicine right here, I can’t get to him, I can’t reach him.  The Black Dog has covered their tracks too well.

It took him.  He’s gone.  I don’t know where he is, but I keep getting “helpful” messages like where to sell the board games or how to finish our D&D campaign.  “You get everything left in the house, it’s all yours.”

I don’t want everything in the house.  I want my husband back. I want my Thanksgiving back, and my Christmas.  I want our co-op video game sessions and our board game nights and our goofy jokes we’d send each other all day.  I want those kisses back, and that touch… oh god, that touch, the only one I’ve ever received that calmed my soul and woke me up all at once.  That touch is home to me, a home I might never see again.

I want a fucking Black Dog skin rug.