(C) Julie Boyd
The day will happen whether or not you get up John Ciardi
Smile and the world smiles with you. It’s true. Little experiments on the beach and in the street indicate that 8 out of 10 people will smile back, and possibly even stop for a quick chat. If you make eye contact and smile at them first. The ones with dogs are twice as likely to as those who don’t.

But what happens if you can’t smile? If those 69, or however many muscles it
takes to mobilise your face, just won’t work. If you can’t even raise a grimace.
Today is one of those days when the black clouds descended for the first time in a very long time. On days like these it’s almost impossible to find a reason to get out of bed.

Every step is like dragging the empire state building in your wake. Every thought unbearably painful, every breath an effort. Frustration that each day happens and you can’t stop it. Stop the world I want to get off for a while.

I try to tell my brain that this too shall pass, but it’s full of some kind of sludge and thoughts just won’t get through. We’ve been here before and survived. It was definitely worth it. But the brain doesn’t want to listen. Why? Maybe it just can’t.

Depression is such a cruel condition.
Not feeling a bit down, or a bit blue, but full blown clinical-type depression. Not crying at sad movies. Not able to cry. Indescribable, irretrievable and
immoveable sadness. Attack of the black clouds.

For me it always feels like being invaded by an alien force. My entire being
seems to be subject to unstoppable takeover. I can feel it starting but can do nothing to halt it. How does it happen? How do you ‘contract it?’ It’s hard to describe. One of those things that unless you’ve been there it’s almost impossible to be able to put it into words. Not that you want
to. Words don’t come easily- often don’t come at all.
People start by telling you to ‘cheer up- it could get worse.’
It does.
‘Why don’t you just talk about it?’

I can’t. Nothing to say. Don’t know what to say.
‘Just smile ‘ act as if…..’ and it will be OK. As if what? As if the world is a
wonderful place? As if you’re happy? As if everything is just perfect? As if you’re not really going mad- even though that’s exactly what it feels like? As if you’re not being invaded by alien forces?

Depression is a mental illness. Thank goodness people are starting to accept
that – finally. An imbalance of hormones, or biochemicals, in the brain. Well, not just the brain. Remember that the kneebone is connected to the thighbone is connected to the … Or, the brain is connected to the body, is connected to the spirit, is connected to the soul…. These biochemical imbalances affect every aspect of your being- trigger off imbalances in every cell of your body- both the tangible and intangible ones. They don’t only affect you but ultimately everyone around you. Same deal. Smile and the world smiles with you. Happiness is contagious. Frown and the world frowns at you, and avoids you, and is dragged down by you. Happiness begets attraction pheromones, depression begets detraction/keep your distance pheromones You become one of the black, energy sucking black holes, and hate yourself for it, but can’t stop it. At times like this I don’t want to die, but I’m not keen on living either. No person’s land. Brain waste.

My depression is triggered either by pain, or by being in the presence of an
energy vampire. Some people suck the life force from you to feed the black cloud they carry. It doesn’t affect them. Stress carriers. Their cloud is invisible to most. They are selective in their victims. The energy vampires often hide their cloud behind a façade of charm. It fools many as the victims suffer horrifically, twice. Once from the vampire and the second time from those around who don’t believe you. I still find self protection difficult. I always feel the cloud. I recognise its energy sapping capacities so I choose to isolate myself. I don’t want to absorb it then inflict it on anyone else. Maybe it serves me right for all the work I did training myself to be more sensitive. Heightening all my senses. Most people, including doctors and psychiatrists are still working on the 5 sense theory. Scientists are suggesting we actually have more than 20. Is it any wonder we don’t have a cure. We don’t understand what we’re dealing with.

For others, who knows what triggers depression. An event, an instant, a person. Even a supposedly happy time, the birth of a baby, how does that work. Doesn’t make sense and definitely not fair.

Physical pain makes it hard to smile. You try so hard to protect those around you, to make light of the pain, to pretend it’s not really as bad as it is. But it gets worse. The façade thins and you become exhausted by the pretence. The
smiling gets harder. Becomes almost physical pain in itself. You become
conscious of every muscle. One by one they shut down. Until the last one.

Then you stop smiling completely. You stop talking. Talking becomes painful. From sentences you are reduced to single words and then to silence. Stop answering phone calls. You have nothing good to say, so best not say anything. Surrounded by anger and resentment at your increasing withdrawal. From yourself at your own powerlessness, but also other people who don’t understand.

The ones who have never experienced it. Even your closest friends often
evaporate. They’re powerless to help. You’re powerless to stop. You retreat into pure survival mode. Or not. Survival becomes a pain. It doesn’t really matter.

Thoughts of ending it all start to pop up. The constant sea of treacle you have to fight through on a daily basis slows the body. Every movement seems as if it’s in slow motion. The brain and spirit trickle to a close. Your life becomes a movie running so slowly it all but stops. Will it start going backwards? Brain turns to mush. You can’t think, can’t even force your brain to form a single thought. The constant sensation of being trapped in a thick, unforgiving, immoveable black cloud, the sea of treacle getting thicker by the second.

Every second feels like an hour or a day. Stop the world I want to get off. It won’t. Life goes on. The sun comes up regardless of whether you think you can live through another day.
How to stop it. How to reverse it. Some people live their entire lives trapped in
this purgatory, living this hell. Some survive. ‘Take antidepressants, they’ll help’

Well no, not really. Often what they do is zombie you out so that you literally can’t talk to your brain at all. Kill what is already dead. Snap out of it. Snapping can lead to inward fury, that becomes desolation, that becomes a desire to do anything to escape, that becomes suicide if you can raise the energy. Suicide is actually incredibly seductive. Lots of sudden energy, heightened senses. Your brain clears and decisions are simple. Talk to your brain. Force it to think differently. Thoughts change actions, which change feelings, which change
beliefs. Sometimes.

‘Laugh a lot. That will change your hormone structure.’ Sometimes, again.
Exercise. Even walking feels impossible. Exercise helps, if you can make
yourself do it, and if you’re able to do it. If you’re confined to bed unable to work this is a huge challenge. Sleep. An escape but not an answer. Drink, drugs? No definitely not. They just make it worse. Play, with kids, a puppy, definitely. Used to be my first prescription. That was before the black clouds found me. Not ‘the black dogs of depression’. I find the term offensive. Dogs are health giving for me. Despite all the research, why do some idiots such as insensitive body corporates make it so difficult for people to keep dogs, especially the quiet little healing ones.
It’s unpredictable. Some are faced with the most dire circumstances: severe
quadraplegia, catatonia, inhuman confinement, but the black clouds seem to
leave them alone. They don’t succumb to the treacle. Pain without depression
can be easier to tolerate. Pain with depression is unbearable.
Others seem to have ‘no good reason’ but it hits them hardest. Not discriminating at all. Some can function well even in its grip. A friend of mine worked in a responsible job during the day and went back to the mental hospital at night where she was being treated for clinical depression. No-one ever knew. How could they not. We become great actresses and actors, Oscar material. As long as we only have to sustain the performance for a short time.

Depression. Even the word drags us down into the depths of despair.