The Black Dog Redux

AtYourCervix has her own Black Dog — we seem have joint custody of the same pooch, or maybe mine has wandered over to live at her house. Reading her story I was struck by the commonalities — especially the social isolation, which can be truly painful. Totally. Completely. Get. It. Been on that highway, and it both sucks and blows.

I think the worst thing is (and I know, having been there) when you hear of someone else having depression, you’re pretty well at a loss of what to say. Advice is pointless, fraught with pitfalls and actually kind of awful, because a good deal of that well-meaning advice comes across to depressed ears as condescending, or worse. If you have a history of depression, you already know what do, and you really don’t need people pointing out the obvious.

On the other hand, offering to be a willing ear, even if nothing is said, is hugely useful. In other words, listen, don’t talk.  Just knowing you can count on someone who understands your situation is a huge relief. The last time I was badly depressed, a few years ago, one of my friends took me downtown — made me go, actually — for dim sum and a long wander around Chinatown and Kensington Market. We didn’t say much. But it’s hard to maintain the posture of sullen introspection among the lychee, sour sops, and lemon grass of Spadina.  I won’t pretend it “fixed” my depression, as if depression could be grasped and dealt with in an afternoon! But it made one day a lot better, and when you’re severely depressed, one day counts for a lot.

I wonder, incidentally, if any research has been done on the relationship between health care professionals and depression. Are we predisposed to going into health care? Is there a causative relationship between providing care and depression?

My own black dog has shrunk from being the size of an Irish Wolfhound to something in the order of a miniature poodle: small and yappy and still capable of nipping at your heels. But it’s something you can easily kick away. In other words, better.

In the meantime, I wish you well,  AtYourCervix. I’ll be thinking of you — and if you need an ear, I’m yours.

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  1. #1 by JennJilks on Wednesday 31 March 2010 - 0858

    I think this is true of all the social work professions, TERN. When you deal with those down and out, ill, when your work so important, you cannot help but give your all.

    I, too, fought thepowersthatbe, and ended up in depression due to normal life circumstances. My students with ill-health, dealing with bereavement issues, divorce, those in foster care who popped in for two months, only to be sent to a new foster home, kids who lived in poverty, and kids desperate to meet birth parents. It is a heavy burden.

    You are right, a listening ear is the best thing. I faced antagonism and angry bosses who demanded I do more, more, more.

  2. #2 by atyourcervix on Wednesday 31 March 2010 - 1025

    Thank you!!

  3. #3 by Brit on Wednesday 31 March 2010 - 1529

    If only everyone would be open and understanding of mental illnesses.

  4. #4 by Christy on Wednesday 31 March 2010 - 2339

    I understand there’s a positive correlation of being a nurse and having alcoholism in your family. That’s true for me, as well as 50-80% of the nurses I know. I think that nursing itself can lead us to subliminate our own needs; we’re professionally trained to think about other people…and sooner or later, the piper appears to to be paid.

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