Black Dog

Recovery is like an infinite horror ride, mixed in with random moments and periods of peace, empowerment, hope and fortitude. But, as always, and lurking in the shadows is what has been described as “The Black Dog”. I first heard this term after Robin Williams committed suicide, to describe his lurking state of depression, and many have used this term as a way to voice their own struggles with depression. My Facebook friend posted this status today:

“Black Dog a bit bad today. One of the perils of dealing with such an insipid beast. Pawing at me. Nipping at my heels… he can go back in his kennel. He’s not a rabid, slavering hound stalking the moors of my mind, if I take care of myself he is the world’s tiniest chihuahua with a Napoleon complex.”

Today, for me unfortunately, he is having a severe effect on my ability to function in any real way. I feel myself going through the motions, being pulled back to bed, wanting to drown my sorrows in delectable treats, not trusting anyone, feeling abandoned, misunderstood, and just plain exhausted all at the same time.

When I last posted, Robin Williams had died. I suppose that had more of an effect on me than I care to admit. I have felt no desire to write until today, and it is out of sheer necessity to get out of all the swirling thoughts in my head.

Since I last wrote:

  • I’ve been to and from Utah – again. Thankfully, at least, all of the drama with my mother seems to have settled and we are on the right track again.
  • Received a supplemental Power of Attorney for my niece – again.
  • Middle School has started for my daughter and niece and homework policing alone drains all of my time at night.
  • It’s been three months since my niece moved here, and she is going through a very difficult time adapting to California and adjusting to a completely new household.
    • She suffers from chronic Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – which I believe is partially physical and partially psychosomatic, anxiety, migraines, PTSD, and depression.
    • She just started a new school that has 3x the kids in it, and she’s having a difficult time making friends, as she is used to the community feel of Utah schools, where, she says “If kids see you eating lunch alone, they come up to you and try to include you, but not here.” It doesn’t help much that I’ve commanded my 6th grader to make sure she lets my niece sit with her at lunch everyday, since my daughter is having her own transition of not being the only child and having to be aware of a sibling’s needs.
    • Finding a Psychiatrist, PCP, and Gastroenterologist in this area have proven challenging. The PCP was fairly easy, but the Psychiatrist experience we had was horrible, and the only option for her to see a Gastroenterologist is through a children’s hospital that has an extremely annoying referral process. Just this last Friday I had to take her to the ER for stomach pain, and even that only yielded a few pain pills and instruction to continue the referral process in order to see a Pediatric Gastroenterologist.  Red tape, all day long.
    • She has outbursts of rage, I feel as a reaction or assumption that people are not listening to her. I handle this as calmly as I can, usually by sending her to her room so she can calm down, and me following up with her to have a long discussion about what’s going on and how we can address her feelings in a more healthy way. She is very sweet and seems genuinely appreciative of our talks and interactions. She doesn’t quite trust that this will be her last stop, however, so probably is a bit resistant to feeling completely at home.
  • I gave notice at my job of three years, a place I didn’t want to leave, but felt forced to because of unethical practices, and plain ridiculous programmatic concerns that will never, seemingly, be addressed in any real way. I don’t want to leave the staff that I’m in a lead position over, but for my own sanity and well-being I’ve decided to take a pay cut to go with a more stable, unionized organization. I don’t see myself there forever, but at least I will be able to feel less weight on my shoulders and maybe all of these other things going on right now won’t seem as daunting. I’m heartbroken to leave my coworkers, I’ve developed strong bonds with most of them, and every time I think of not seeing them every week, I become very sad. I know the reason why – regardless of what plans are made, or how many phone numbers are attained, people fall off of our radar if we don’t see them often. It’s a cold, hard fact of life. My niece is learning how cruel this is with her Utah friends falling off the map, and not returning her calls or texts. It’s heartbreaking to watch, and to feel for myself even though I’ve gone through it multiple times in my life.
  • My marriage is touch-and-go. My mother bear, and protective nature of my cubs is becoming a huge issue in wanting to keep going with my marriage. I can list a thousand benefits to being with my husband, and I love him very much, but I literally feel ripped in two over protecting my girls’ feelings and his. It is a constant battle, and it leaves me so frustrated that all I want to do is remove the most obvious hindrance to peace, which unfortunately, would be him – right or wrong. It wouldn’t mean he was a bad person or that he did anything inherently wrong, all it would mean is that I don’t have the willpower to be pulled in two all of the time. If I want the best of both worlds, a peaceful family, with my spouse and girls altogether as a family, it will take the same type of mental and physical work as recovering from a disorder does, and when I already struggle with trust within myself, it’s very difficult to give my trust away to the marriage process when I’ve had almost no examples of a healthy one.
  • My recovery is touch-and-go. When feeling hopeful and optimistic, it almost feels like recovery is going to become an infinite force in one’s life, but unfortunately, there are always outside forces, let alone internal ones, that can set us off course. I’m not completely off course, but I’m not “on” either. I’m in that mediocre middle ground where I’m just skating by.

But, like my friend, who recognizes that Black Dog isn’t powerful unless I provide him fuel, I will move forward, press on, and envision him as the “world’s tiniest chihuahua with a Napoleon Complex”, and recognize that I’m going through difficult transitions myself that deserve attention, awareness, kindness, and patience.

If I’m not any of those things to myself, it will be that much more difficult to provide them to others. 

So, let’s move on Emily, put an electrical fence around your thoughts and only allow those that will lift you up to have any audience. 

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