The dog, the wasp and the pirate: depression’s many faces

First published by Black Dog Tribe

I’ve likened my depression to lots of different things since I first started writing about it.

Each of these comparisons is my way of trying to understand what it is I’ve been up against. We all have our own ways of describing our depression, whether it’s a black dog that, well, dogs our lives, or a black cloud that hovers above us.

I often use a Star Wars analogy to describe what depression has been like for me. Stress came wading into my life, like Darth Vader, unleashing the dark side of the Force on my battered brain, and paving the way for the sinister Emperor – a cloaked figure, with his gnarled face and evil eyes partially hidden behind his hood – to sneak up and take over. This darkness is definitely a characteristic of depression, both in the way it slinks around in the darkness like a slippery serpent and in the way it blackens our moods and enshrouds our lives.

Another way I’ve thought of it is like a pirate who hijacks our boat when the seas get rough. It’s a cruel twist to the story of our life’s voyage – an unwelcome, domineering passenger taking charge at a time when it’s tough enough to navigate the stormy waters.

Or is it like a wasp at a picnic? A persistent menace that won’t leave you alone, when all you want to do is enjoy a bun or two, and has a nasty sting in its tail.

There is one face of depression that I always return to, though. I see it as my misspelt alter-ego, Paul Brookes. His face is pale, because he thrives in the darkest places. He’s thin, because although he mercilessly gorges himself on a diet of my insecurities and worries, he’s permanently on the move, burning off those ill-gotten calories. And he delights in my torment.

Brookes has been part of my life for two-and-a-half years. At the moment, it feels like his grip might be slipping and his powers could be weakening. It’s about time, really. I’ve bombarded him with antidepressants, played his mind games through two rounds of counselling and done as many other things as possible to see him off. He has been a difficult adversary to overcome. Like the black dog, he has hounded me. Like the dark cloud, he has hung around me, blocking out the sun. Like Vader and the Emperor, he has ruled my galaxy with a reign of terror. Like the pirate, he’s run my ship. And like the wasp at the picnic, he has pestered me relentlessly.

Here’s the thing, though. The less I see Brookes as an enemy to be fought, and the more I learn from my experiences of living with him, the less power he exerts over me. In fact, I’ve pretty much disowned him now.

A black dog can be trained. Dark clouds blow away eventually. The Emperor was killed by his own apprentice, and the pirate can be made to walk the plank. As for the wasp, if you flap at it too much, it will sting you. Maybe it’s better to tuck into that bun and ignore the wasp. Although whacking it with a rolled-up newspaper would be REALLY satisfying…

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4 Comments on “The dog, the wasp and the pirate: depression’s many faces”

  1. Shawn says:

    I wanted to write a clever comment about our colorful attempts to define the starkness of despair, but ultimately I was just glad that you are feeling better. Be Well.

  2. Great to hear this Paul – I love the way you’re writing about The Black Dog. I’ve been with Mr 4 legs a while over the past few years – or at least I think I have – I’ve been reading a book by Dina Glouberman called ‘The Joy of Burnout’ which puts what I thought was a depression into a whole new context for me.. you may want to check it out.. Keep writing – I’m looking forward to the next post :-)


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