Fighting the Black Dog

September 19, 2011 at 9:20 am | Posted in Mental Health, Writing and Life | 1 Comment
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The less exercise I get and the less I exert myself to do something constructive or creative, the more likely I am to fall into a depression, even if it is only a mild one. The black dog is always looking for an opportunity to sneak in.

The more regularly I exercise, the better I am. And when I speak of exercise, I don’t mean just going for a 15-minute walk. I don’t count it as exercise unless it has pushed me in a way that tests my strength and stamina, my heart and lungs and muscles.

My exercise, apart from aqua aerobics when I can get there, is not in a gym, using state of the art machinery. I get mine while doing constructive things around the house.

I have always loved doing physical work, inside or outside the house. I was mowing the lawns as a ten or eleven year-old girl, even though I had an older brother.

I have enjoyed moving furniture and re-arranging rooms ever since I had my own place to do it in. I have dug many a garden, some of them large ones. I have made garden edges and footpaths; constructed henhouses and yards for our fowls and ponds for the ducks. I have built outdoor bird aviaries, planted – and sometimes cut down – trees and shrubs. And I have mowed many a yard over the last fifty-plus years.

There is something so positive about doing these sorts of activities, that depression is pushed aside. It finds it hard to compete with the satisfaction I obtain from a strenuous job, especially if it is well done.

Yesterday, I spent a total of about seven hours moving large bookcases (we have an awful lot of books) and cleaning the rooms they are in. This afternoon, I have spent an hour and a half mowing – with a motor mower you push – and sweeping the paths. I feel great. Two days of good physical activity have sent those lurking feelings of depression packing, at least for now.

More sedentary, but creative, activities can do something similar. Among other things, I write in many genres and do scrap-booking. I also help others with their writing. All these activities stretch my mind and take me away from the black thoughts.

Sometimes, it is extremely difficult to make the first move. One’s whole being is repelled by the thought of coming out of the darkness of depression, as I know only too well. But if one can overcome that inertia, then the rewards are worth it. They may not seem so at first, but repeating the exercise will strengthen the light of positivity, however weak, that is always struggling to show itself.

With a mixture of physical, mental and creative activities, I know I can drive away the black dog of depression.

But I need to keep at it. When I sit back and do nothing for too long a time, that dog will come sniffing around again, trying to bring me down.

© Linda Visman

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  1. I do my garden and sew – love both those activities. I used to write lots – as you know – and am getting ready to get back into that exercise as well.


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