“You can’t do anything right,” the voice whispers. “Of course no one would want to be with you. You’re never happy with what you have.”
“Stop,” I tell it.
“You’re lazy,” it continues. “You don’t ever want to do anything. You never want to be happy.”
“She hates you,” it tells me as my mother walks in the door after work, a sigh on her lips. “You never make her happy.”
“Stop,” I cry. “Please.”
“You made the biggest mistake of your life.”
“I know,” I sniffle. “I know. I’m sorry.”
“There’s no coming back.” The voice gets angrier, harsher, more insistent. “You’ll never do anything right.”
. . . . . .
This is my internal battle nearly every day. This is what depression looks like for me.
I stave it off each time by turning on Audible and listening to Harry Potter. Or I turn on Taylor Swift’s new song Look What You Made Me Do, P!nk’s So What or Funhouse, or Linkin Park on repeat. Or I read the book I just got, Escape from Cubicle Nation. Anything to serve as a distraction.
What I try to do every time though, regardless of what I choose to refocus my energy on eventually, is pray.
Father, help me.
That prayer grants me enough peace to move forward with refocusing my energy, and it helps shut up the depression. It reminds me that my God is bigger than my depression.
. . . . . .
I now see all the times I couldn’t sleep, or all I wanted to do was sleep, or couldn’t get up, or didn’t feel like showering, or didn’t feel like doing anything while my husband was working were symptoms of a deeper problem.
I was never happy because I felt lost, inadequate, useless. I sought the affirmation of worth through my husband. But people can’t give us that affirmation because it’s difficult to truly know what someone else is battling. And I never knew how to express what I was dealing with. I didn’t have the words; I could only cry.
. . . . . .
Belle has changed how I handle my depression. I think my husband’s intent in adopting her was to provide us a family animal, thereby providing me a companion. You see, I craved attention and affection, but my poor husband worked all the time, and I suspect he felt tired by this need.
Belle was the answer, and she has been ever since.
We struggled initially. Boy, did we struggle. I had never housetrained a dog; I had never had a dog that was just mine. For a few weeks, I kept threatening to return her if I didn’t get help. It’s not my proudest moment, and I still cry remembering I acted that way, both to her and my husband. I’m grateful that Belle will never remember those few weeks.
Those few weeks, though, showed me the value and importance in training her. That became how we bonded. She came to trust me, and I came to trust her.
It doesn’t matter how depression is affecting me any given day, because when I pick her up from daycamp, she is happy to see me. Her enthusiastic tail wag that makes her whole body wiggle makes me smile.
“Belle bear!” I greet her, using the nickname my husband gave her as a puppy (because she looked like a bear cub). I open my arms wide for her to come to me, and come she does, ready to give me kisses.
“Mama!” those kisses seem to say. And suddenly it doesn’t matter that I was mad my entire drive home or that I cried in the car because she’s there.. . . . . .
Belle has certainly been instrumental in helping me work through my depression. Simply by being there and needing care, she provides a constant positive reminder.
But my faith has also been instrumental.
In those moments when I was so frustrated with her as a puppy, I prayed. In the moments I hug her now, whether through tears or just in joy at her company, I pray.
The same is true with my beloved cats, especially because they came first. Since Belle isn’t allowed to sleep with me, the cats’ gentle purring and snuggles help me relax at night, which is usually when the anxious thoughts set in.. . . . . .
Some days are better than others. I suspect that’s how it will always be, or at least how it will be for some time. Each day, though, I thank God for the blessing of my animals, that he provided me the passion I have for animals.
I know that with Belle, the cats, and God, I will be okay. And sometimes that’s the most hopeful reminder there is.