Sunday, July 27, 2008

Walking the Black Dog

Winston Churchill battled against depression most of his life. He described his depression as the "black dog" that chewed at his mind and soul. It's a fine descriptor for depression, I think. The dog that shadows you, strangely faithful and yet so inconstantly cruel.

I know the feeling of that black dog nipping unkindly at my own heels. It's the gift - the legacy - of my mother's family. Honestly, I would have preferred just a nice photo album and maybe a couple of hand-me-down pieces of estate jewelry.

Most of the time I can keep old Rex under control, but not this time. Fate, finances, and a number of other things outside of my control came together at the start of June in a perfect storm of karmic asskicking that still has me in recovery mode now. Other than speaking with people at work, I was near silent for almost an entire month. I ignored the phone, I slept as much as possible, I learned what it was like to live off two pounds of bologna for over a week when the cupboards and the bank account were both bare. I found new levels of pain when the spigot of my insurance money was shut off for physical therapy, and I learned a little more about hate and violence when I was assaulted by a man who didn't like me because I was fat. He thought I should die, and his effort to help me to that goal took the form of a 44-ounce Big Gulp whipped directly into my bad eye. (Painful? Yes. Lethal? Not at all. Moron!) Add to that a family illness, the impending sale of my rental home, and random, unsolicited, hate-filled messages from a mentally-unstable blog/mailing list stalker from Canada, and - bam - it's been a banner season for me!

When I recounted the whole tale to a couple of very close friends (what I've mentioned here is just the tip of the iceberg - I won't talk about the rest of it here), I saw their blank, saucer-eyed looks of horror. Frankly, I think I should have finished by doing jazz hands and yelling "The Aristocrats!" It's all been a rotten enough joke to qualify, I think.

I'm going to stop there. There's no reason to rehash the simmering summer of my discontent. It has not been nice. I still owe phone calls and e-mail to so many friends. I'm embarrassed to be in touch with some, I've been silent for so long. And I'm still fighting my black dog for control. It pulls at me, and with things still off-kilter, it threatens to run circles around me, tangling me up and tripping me in its unseen leash. Each thing that goes awry finds my breath catching in my throat, with tears threatening to pour forth. I'm working on getting back to where I was before, but it's a slow, long road, kids.

But just to verify that I'm still Karma's #1 Favorite Punchline, let me recount a little of this past weekend:
  • Thursday night, the car starts to reek of burnt Prestone - voila - a leak in the radiator or coolant reservoir (crap!!!), followed immediately by...
  • A really nasty natural gas leak in my stove, which leads to...
  • Me being late to a conference on Friday, as the clown car crew of my landlord, Washington Gas, and the condo association try to decide who's responsible for the "pass out and die" gas fiesta filling the apartment, and then...
  • Of course, I can't drive the car to the conference because it might overheat (and parking at the event hotel is - get this - $31 for more than 2 hours - THIRTY-ONE DOLLARS!!!) So I have to take the Metro, where...
  • The elevator is broken at the destination station, requiring me to take a strange, long, maze-like walk to the hotel, breaking my doc's rule that I only walk two blocks at a time, which means...
  • My back is in so much pain from hoofing around the conference on Day One, I'm forced to leave for Day Two of the event late after spending the morning applying multiple layers of some generic icy hot, early bird dinner goop to my entire spine, which leads me to...
  • A Red Line ride to Hell, wherein a tourist child all hepped up on fruit punch, cotton candy, and popcorn after a visit to the zoo projectile vomits fruit punch, cotton candy, and popcorn all over me before I get to the conference, where...
  • The hotel staff takes pity on me, gives me water, a towel, and a hairdryer (didn't help, I still reeked) and I spend most of the day keeping my distance from a room full of scientists who probably think I have been rolling in dung or simply have the world's must disgusting B.O.
See, some things never change? Ms. Crap Magnet, reporting for duty!!

On the other hand, today has been quiet. I enjoyed the dark afternoon skies and short bursts of thunder and rain as I just tried to remember to breathe now and then. I was planning on making a pork chop casserole tonight and inviting the Sasquatch over for dinner, but since my stove (to be fixed or replaced tomorrow, I hope) is a ticking time bomb, I'm having a tuna sandwich and a big glass of water for my solo evening meal in front of the TV.

It's Shark Week, after all, when all of America gathers 'round that glowing hearth to watch tiny-brained prehistoric killers eat chum and thrash around. And, while talking Shark Week may be considered high treason for me, considering Discovery is my employer's arch nemesis, I have to see what silliness the Mythbuster guys get up to tonight. My friends, in the inimitable words of the certifiably insane Tracy Jordan on "30 Rock": "Live every week like it's Shark Week!"

And, in the words of Winston Churchill, fellow walker of the black dog, "Never, never, never give up."

Am I going to Hell for putting the Churchill quote *after* the "30 Rock" quote? I'll have to ponder that.

Regardless, never give up, kids. Never never never.

Make that black dog behave. Cesar Milan can't help me with this one. I have to keep making it heel all on my own.

Never never never give up.

Amen to that.

Amen, mah wonderful bruthas and sistahs. Don't give up. That's my aim. The Church of the Big Sky is open for business again.

And hey - for the first time since the September car accident, I got back up on the radio horse last week, too. I'll have a commentary on this week's Metro Connection show on WAMU. Details in a couple of days.

Cheers to you all! Thank you for all your queries and words of support. You guys really do rock.


Jamy said...

Not sure what to say...but DAMN. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I'm trying to think of all the "black dog" references in songs I've heard. I know there's bunch. So far all I can come up with is Led Zep's "Black Dog"!
Totally innappropriate I know but you can take Zep's Black Dog and beat your's into submission with it. I sometimes have success blasting loud Rock when under my own clouds. It sometimes works.
Other times it's James Taylor and Jackson Browne (a bit before your time perhaps).
At our house we call it "clouds"
since Teri my wife has a serious issue with dark cloudy days.
Anyway, your predicament is understood (to some extent).
Anyway I'm looking up lyrics for now and will submit them for your approval or not later.

Chuck said...

Wow. Just wow. I'm sorry you've had such a bad summer so far. I think August needs to be extra nice in order to make up for it. Buy a Powerball ticket, ya never know...

I'm very glad to see you posting again. I need to get writing again myself here. Good luck with everything, including keeping the black dog at bay. I've taken that old boy for a walk myself, a time or three.

radiocynic said...

Well gee, two things... maybe three...

Thank you for being back and sharing your writing and your thoughts. Having your blog back, even featuring depression, suffering and general mayhem, still beats the hell out of not having your blog at all.

And hey, your stressful, overwhelmed Summer gets far more badness points than my stressful, overwhelmed Summer. So given that I'm probably not the only one in that position, I suppose that it makes your blog even more of a public service... and hopefully at least gives you a vehicle through which to vent.

Lastly, (never having been appropriately up to speed on my Churchill quotes,) a sincere and major thank you for enlightening me as to what Thomas Walsh of Pugwash was writing about in his song "Black Dog"! Duh. Now I get it.

Welcome back, and I know we all certainly hope things get better for you.

Anonymous said...

"By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!"
Dr. Lazarus of Tev'Meck

"Neve Give Up. Never Surrender."
Captain Taggart

There's nothing like a quote from an actor playing an actor who's playing a hero to inspire the crap out of you. The Churchill quote fits right in. Now I'm going to hell too!

So glad to be read'n you again.

suze said...

Yay, you're back!

I'm so, so sorry this has been a craptastic few months. I hope the black dog will leave you alone soon, or at least settle into a pace beside you instead of nipping at your heels until you can sent him on his way.

Big, big hugs to you M.

* said...

Welcome back! You were missed...greatly.

Ben-jan said...

No, Merujo, YOU rock.

Unknown said...

SO glad to see you back up and running.. had worried about you all summer.. that same dog has taken big bites out of my rear during my 56 yrs on this planet too... glad you've got him back on the leash...
thinking of you way down heah in Jawjuh...


Cyn said...

I guess a "Yay" would be inappropriate given the subject matter...but glad to have you back! At least you now seem up to mining your unbelievably stressful chain of events for its black comedy potential (as in the Aristocrats reference. Loved that one.)

I was most amazed that you were even *thinking* about making a casserole in the midst of all this! That in itself has to be a sign of your fortitude. (Or at least it seems so to me, who hasn't made a casserole in the 20th century.)

Now I've gotta go and read the rest of your recent posts :)

Sudiegirl said...

I'm glad you're back...I've been worried about you, m'dear.

You're loved.


fragilante said...

You're a great writer. Write a novel. Consign the apparent unfairness to the unbounded freedom of invented prose. Hand it on, for what it really is: something you don't want. It might be one of the greatest novels of all time. Keep it grounded in reality. Make it a kennel for the dark dog to sleep in and eat its offal in. Make it beautiful. Make it the cart that carries the load.

Merujo said...

Fragilante, the timing of your comment today is quite remarkable. I've been pondering the state of my writing (or non-writing lately). Just this morning en route to work, I was having a back and forth internal dialogue about whether or not I could make a go of writing fiction. Your words are very much appreciated!

fragilante said...

The thing about fiction, is that it can't be owned by someone outside of you. It has no rules or laws. There is no "man". It is yours to own; to nurture; to raise; to cherish. It can't be taken away from you (unlike just about everything else, we find).
The dog has an uncanny knack of making good writers. He forces language otherwise dormant. Most of the time we're of a mind to waste those words — to spill them out as bile, in the hope of sympathy.... (my greatest failing).
but they have value. And sanctuary. They're the place the dog has no bark or bite. It's where he'll sit at your feet and wait on you.
Hope you find the way to do it.