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Beating the dragons. Saturday July 27, 2013

"Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten." ― Neil Gaiman, Coraline.

So what does your dragon look like? Mark has referred to his as the black dog. I think mine is more a leviathan as I seem to get swallowed up in it like Jonah. And is it even helpful to see depression as a dragon?

For me it is. In the old days, before I knew what was going on, I would be riding on the crest of a wave, effortlessly on top of everything and then, without warning, the lights would suddenly dim, the world would retreat behind a plate of thick plate glass (fogged and obscured glass at that), sound would become distorted and dim and all I could feel was lethargy.

I would drag myself to the doctors and get yet another diagnosis of over-work or post-viral exhaustion or – occasionally – depression attached to whatever events were going on in my life at that time.

So now, seeing it as being inside a metaphorical whale is quite helpful. There's not much to do, there's not much oxygen, so I couldn't do it anyway. Yes, it's very dark and smelly and generally unpleasant. But, eventually, if I just sit tight and wait, after a few months, the whale will vomit me out again. He's done it every time before; he'll do it again. I have to have faith.

The secret is to make it harder and harder for him to swallow me. Now I know what's happening I make sure I don't ride that wave too high and hard (he's waiting the other side of it). I make sure I'm rested and strong and I've done my mental balancing exercises.

The last time I fell into his mouth I think I got stuck in his throat: there was still some daylight and fresh air around and it wasn't quite so smelly. He spat me out too after six weeks instead of six months. Now, that was a result.

I don't ever want to make a pet of this Leviathan; he's the enemy and getting too comfortable with him would be a mistake. But I do want to study him, learn about him, treat every interaction with him as a chance to weaken him and strengthen myself. One day I will defeat him. Dragons can be beaten.

Thoughts on the above? Please feel free to post a comment on our Blogspot:

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PWD Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 7:23am

what a great description spot on, I can relate to this very much and after recently having CBT I am managing to stay out of the whales belly, I have been in there too many times. I am hoping one day the whale will swim off to a distant place.
Great blog

Julia Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 8:15am

I have not experienced the kind of depression you describe where it happens in phases and for a period you are depressed but suddenly, or anyway afterwards, you emerge and feel fine, again for another period.Is this correct?This is not bi polar you describe but waves of depression which last for days/ weeks/ months followed by a period of feeling well and able to function normality.?
My depression is different!
I experience various stages of low mood, some days really really terrible, other days, not so bad but still lethargic, no enthusiasm etc, other days able to cope better and one day in a blue moon as high as a kite. But this high feeling always in my experience comes after deep sleep which I never have 2 nights in a row.
So to sum up! Most days for me are varying degrees of depression interspersed with the very occasional really wonderful day (which vanishes almost as soon as it arrives)
I sometimes wish I had never ever the elusive experienced good days. When I look back, these highs started only in my early 30s. Before that I thought my life was normal but actually I must have been vaguely depressed but wasn't aware of it!)

Robert Morgan Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 8:15am

I agree with the last comment- spot on!
Great imagery and great advice.
Thank you :-)

Julia Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 8:21am

I meant to say this. (the penultimate sentence in my post didn't make sense!)
"I sometimes wish I had never ever experienced the elusive good days. When I look back, these highs started only in my early 30s. Before that I thought my life was normal but actually I must have been vaguely depressed but wasn't aware of it!" Now I wonder why that was??

Julia Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 8:22am

Do you feel like me Robert? Have the same experience of depression?

Robert Morgan Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 8:22am

Ok. I see Julias comment has been placed between mine and PWD's comment (to which i was referring).

Julia Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 8:27am

Yes I wondered! That's good you noticed and replied Robert. Thanks. Am off out now on my bike before the thunder storm! I am in France.

Robert Morgan Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 8:32am

I think everyones whale/black dog is slightly different Julia. And to further complicate things, it can change over our lifetimes! Mine is more under control these days (thank God).. But still needs constant vigilance and mood management to keep it at bay. When it hits me, i know it will pass and tell myself not to panic. I try to have lots of variety in life so that if some things arent going well, i can focus on other things to help me. It's a slog at times. But it is manageable too. Good luck with yours x

Julia Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 8:54am

Thanks for this Robert. I do agree with what you say. I am glad yours is more manageable nowadays.
I often wonder if one person's depression is another person's feel good day and vice versa. It IS complicated but thank goodness for Moodscope.

Anonymous Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 9:26am

This is a very descriptive and helpful insight. I agree about keeping the mood as balanced as possible and ensuring you learn to relax and get enough rest. Too much stimulation before sleep can be my down fall. 'Know thyself' is a good motto but hard to accomplish.

Jules Flaherty Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 9:55am

Great blog, very well written. I'm write stories and am embarking on a children's story after lots of encouragement from others. then I read about thoughts being like stories we tell ourselves and thought, yikes I'm a good storyteller, maybe that's what makes my mind so bad at times, but the stories I tell, the ones I enjoy telling, are always about the good overcoming the bad. if I could believe that were my own thoughts are concerned, I would be a happier person indeed. your blog has confirmed to me that it's okay to continue to tell my stories, because I really didn't want to give it up. it reminds me that the stories we tell ourselves are just as important as the stories we tell others. thank you! :D

DrPaprika Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 10:14am

I'm reading 'The Hobbit' to my son at present. In that, slaying the dragon Smaug is all part of the Adventure to recover the Dwarves' Kingdom and their long-lost treasure, which he is sitting on. A good allegory of depression and recovery! Can't wait to see the second film, 'The Desolation of Smaug' in the cinema!

Anonymous Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 10:24am

Such a helpful post! (and not just because I love Neil Gaiman.) Learning to recognise where dragons lurk and avoiding those places; equipping ourselves with the tools to keep them at bay should they appear - these are the steps we can take, and knowing that we do have that power is another step in the right direction.

Loretta Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 11:16am

Dragons/black dogs/whales? Neil Gaiman - yuk!

Julia Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 12:03pm

What do you mean Loretta? I don't know of Neil Gaiman but I take it you are not a fan? Why is this?

Loretta Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 12:35pm

Sorry, but I can't stand all this childish, fantasy nonsense. What will we be getting next; Harry Potter's book of magic spells to make you feel happy?

Julia Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 12:37pm

Ah I see! You should write a blog! I love to read different takes on depression. You made me laugh Loretta!!

Loretta Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 12:42pm

Oh well, that's one good thing I've done today :)

Lostinspace Sat, Jul 27th 2013 @ 3:42pm

Never mind Neil Gaiman of whom I have never heard, when I was 18 I read the Lord of the Rings and found it incredibly dark and frightening. Now I am 60 and have seen the films and didn't really enjoy them after the first one. I live on another planet (ha ha read country) and there is stuff going on in my life anyway which would probably be depressing for someone who doesn't need Moodscope. However I love today's post because it encourages me to try and find the stuff to keep the darkness away and me out of the whales belly! He doesn't like it if I do some really hard exercise which is hard to do in the dark but it makes him spit me out!!

Anonymous Sun, Jul 28th 2013 @ 1:40am

When I started reading this I was thinking to myself, once again the universe through your writing is trying to help me! I just told a friend today after coming out of a deep depression that I was better and yet fearful of the next time it happened, especially not knowing when it might rear it's ugly head. Now I can think of it as the whale trying to devour me and having put a face to it, I think it will help me fight against it more. Thank you for sharing your experience with this. I especially like the analogy of you getting stuck in its throat so it had to spit you out sooner. I am going to think of that next time th3e whale tries to eat me! Thank you. Sun, Jul 28th 2013 @ 9:20am

I have found it more useful to look at the dragon and his thoughts, ideas etc.. more objectively/indifferently than try to take an actively aggressive/fighting stance against him. My experience has been to regard the dragon as an adversary, only to the extent of someone who's fighting next to you(on your side) and shouting out warnings rather than fighting against you. Am still trying to work on a relationship with my dragon, but find it healthier to think rationally about his statements, rather than outright denial or worse making up arguments against them.

Anonymous Sun, Jul 28th 2013 @ 9:54am

I can't help pointing out, Neil Gaiman was paraphrasing a well-known quotation from G K Chesterton:

"Fairy tales do not give a child his first idea of bogey. What fairy tales give the child is his first clear idea of the possible defeat of bogey. The baby has known the dragon intimately ever since he first had an imagination. What the fairy tale provides for him is a St George to kill the dragon."

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