Prompted by a friend’s recent Facebook posting, I decided to link this article up here. It was originally published in the Kingston Whig newspaper on July 29, 2006.
The Black Dog
Outside, it is night. Inside, too. The hour of lead. You’re awake, but not happy to be; alive, but not thrilled about that either; dark thoughts swirling around your head, the spool of your wasted life rewinding on a loop, the days creeping over you like a shroud, the urges to die and get better mixed in you like blueberries in a pancake. Everything with the taste of nothing; life a four letter word.
Standing in tar and draped in lead, you feel locked in the cougar’s embrace, forced to carry on with consciousness when all you want to do is throw the off switch and fade to black, overwhelmed by tasks as daunting as matching your socks or organizing your cutlery drawer. Your head doesn’t feel right unless you’re sleeping or drunk, thoughts jumbling around like clothes tossed in a dryer, all things to all men but nothing to yourself. The prospect of living stretches out before you like an unending sentence, a form of torture that envelopes the body, permeating like frostbite through fingers and eating into your soul. You classify yourself as human only because there is no box present to check as “other.”
Happy? Forget it. Other people’s realities are too much; your own, not enough. You’re not living, you’re resisting. You might as well be a clump of salt left over after being spread on the 401. Happy is fatuous, like a helium balloon. Happy belongs to vapid commercials about bland families smiling Crest-white teeth in the suburbs, marveling over a new brand of processed cheese that sprays out of cans. Happy is for other people in other worlds. You, you’re just a mouse on a wheel, with no pleasure coming into the cycle at any point, a barbed wire fence around your feelings, an inner scratching that announces worse is yet to come. The pain never goes away. It just moves around.
The black dog has got you. It crouches in the corner, waiting for you to move. Or lies at the foot of your bed. Growls and will not let you up. You go nowhere alone. It is always by your side. You fool yourself into thinking it has gone away, but there it is, still lurking. You can feel its breath on your neck hairs. Smell it. The spoor is everywhere, sucking the light out of you and wicking the moisture out of your soul; a soul with but one season, stuck in February, a monochrome of leafless trees and shadowy animal tracks and indentations where ice has dripped and melted sinkholes through the snow.
Where you are is stuck in the deep, black chasm of the whirlpool called Depression. Depression kills. It is also treatable. See your doctor. Maybe you think you can live with it, but you can live without it, too. As the Buddhists say, after the cloudy pool of water settles, it becomes clear.