My daughter is named after my mother. My dog’s name is Dog. I call my depression “My Black Hole.”
I am not the only one who has given illness a name. Winston Churchill called his depression his “Black Dog.” I have a friend who calls her depression “The Cave.” Apparently it is common and actually healthy to give your depression a name. It helps separate you from your depression.
Those of us with depression and bipolar disorder often say “I am depressed” or “I am manic.” My parents both died of cancer, but I never heard them say “I am cancered.” They didn’t name their cancers.
I wasn’t thinking of all this when I named my depression. In fact, I didn’t realize I had named my depression until I slowly recovered from my last one. I began saying “my black hole” when I referred to my depression: “I was in a black hole.” “I am standing on the edge of my black hole.” “I don’t ever want to fall into my black hole again.”
As weird as this sounds, I can actually see my black hole. I have this image in my brain. It is in a dank basement. Everything is gray. The machinery that runs the elevator sits just outside the elevator door. The machinery is quiet. The elevator doesn’t go down any further.
When I turn around, there is a large black hole. The edge is very well defined. When I am first in my black hole, it feels like I am on my back, sliding down a rocky hill, trying to dig my heels into the dirt to stop myself. I can’t and I begin a free fall. Pure hopelessness and despair. It feels like – and I believe – it has no bottom.
That is my depression, “My Black Hole.” When I am not doing well, the muscles in my face are slack, I am losing weight and staring into space. My friend who calls her depression “The Cave” asks: “Are you in the cave or standing outside the cave looking in?”
I have always been very visual. I am a visual learner. I learn best when ideas, concepts, data and other information are associated with images. It probably seems as though I have spent an inordinate amount of time creating visuals of my black hole. Some people might say this is not healthy.
Today I have images of crawling out of the hole and walking away from the hole. These are healthy images. These images loosen the knot of anxiety in my chest. In these images “My Black Hole” is just a black hole. That’s all it is.
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