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.