March 8th, 2021 by Ruan Humphrey
I will never forget the morning I asked a friend, “How are you?’ and he answered, “Battling the black dog!”
I responded, “What does that mean – the black dog?”
“You’re not familiar with that term?” He asked.
“Not at all.”
“It’s depression. Winston Churchill called it ‘the black dog’.”
“I am very sorry. How are you battling?”
Before he could answer, we heard the signal for our meeting to begin.
My thoughts turned toward Depression. It was only in retrospect that I surmised my friend used that term with me because of my work as a mental health counselor.
DEPRESSION - WITH ITS MYRIAD SYMPTOMS of Sadness; Preoccupation with death; Irritability; Isolation from loved ones; Loss of interest or pleasure; Low energy and self-esteem; appetite and sleep disturbances, feelings of worthlessness, and lack of ability to think or concentrate.
I recalled my own experiences and that of others to consider the battle.
One person who battled said, “Before I opened my eyes in the morning, I felt depressed.”
“When I lived in the Northeast, before I opened my eyes daily, I wondered if it would be sunny or cloudy. I knew that If it were sunny, I would feel the sun inside. If it were overcast, I would be down.”
A prayer in the devotional Our Daily Bread aptly stated my sentiments, “Some days all I can see is the ways I’ve disappointed myself and others, the ways I’ve broken the future I’ve dreamed of.”
On those days, if I continued to focus on disappointments – the black dog nipped more and more steadily at my heels as I sank – heart heavy, tearful, under a dark cloud needing to look up to see the bottom of the barrel I found myself in.
If I focused on what I did not have for any length of time, the black dog slinked into my space.
A woman, I will call “Successful Martha” came for counseling after attempting to “battle the black dog” on her own. Unable to focus on her work, she realized that she needed to take a leave of absence.
She was very embarrassed about needing help. This professional woman saw herself as strong and capable. After all, she was the one who family members confided in, and depended upon to solve problems, so she decided to isolate until she recovered.
Someone asked, “Other than anti-depressant medication, is there HOPE for victory in the battle with the black dog?”
The psychiatrist “hooked” us when he drew a sailboat on the board.
Then he wrote a word on the sailboat.
As he wrote "serotonin" in the boat he said emphatically, “SEROTONIN FLOATS YOUR BOAT! If your serotonin level is high, you will be happy. If your serotonin level is low, you will be sad!”
This was our introduction to Clinical Depression. He continued, "There are new meds to help with the regulation of serotonin levels sans devastating side effects."
After her husband had been on one of those medications for more than a year One naturally “UP” wife said, “It doesn’t make him like me (always cheerful!), it just makes him normal!” A rave review from her!
One youth pastor evaluated his progress after 6 months on one of those meds saying, “I was such a fool to resist getting on meds. I am so much better now! My marriage is better. I now realize our bickering was all me, because of the depression.”
Situational Depression (defined on Healthline) is short term, and stress-related that can develop after a traumatic event or series of events. It is a type of adjustment disorder. It’s also known as reactive depression.
The afore noted symptoms are the same for both types of depression.
Events that may cause this type of depression include:
problems at work or school; illness; death of a loved one; moving; relationship problems. Might COVID-19 be included?
We have all lived through one year with the COVID-19 pandemic, its rules, and restrictions. We have started this new year with it and the added stress of:
For those who are in relationship with our LORD JESUS CHRIST there is HOPE for victory over “The Black Dog”! The WORD OF GOD was truly my salvation through two sources, Watchman Nee’s book The Spiritual Man and my Cousin Angela’s morning meditation, “This is the day which the LORD has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps. 118:24).
Pastor Jentzen Franklin theorized, “When you can muster up just enough faith to have HOPE, it will give you the power to push through!”
He shared a massive study completed by the military to be applied to helping those with PTSD. The program is called PERMA. The doctor who led the research study concluded that if helplessness can be learned, OPTIMISM can be learned. Optimism is a key to winning the battle!
“PERMA is an acronym for
“Successful Martha” credits her recovery to diligently practicing PERMA while increasing her hours of sleep.
Finally, to overcome fear, the following teaching by Dr. David Jeremiah parallels PERMA to assist in the defeat of the “black dog”.
Gordon Robertson said, “The Fight is in your thoughts.” PRAY! “When you pray, believe that you have it and you will. GOD is working even when you don’t know it.”
Ruan C. Humphrey+
Read more from Ruan in "The Opposite of Fear."