Keeping the black dog at bay

Alright, so let’s get the nasty bits out of the way first.

I suffer from depression. Yes, yes, shocking I know for such a warm hearted chap like myself but here we are. Throw in high anxiety and crippling self-doubt, and you have all the main ingredients for the garbage fire that is my psyche.

I had a few issues back in the day but I’ve been holding steady since. I used to quiet the mental storm by downing at least eight beers a day. Now I mostly just ignore my issues and deal with them only when necessary.

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Anyway, I was on a pretty bad spiral the other day. Spirals or downs as I call them are usually tiny and tolerable but this one was on track to take me out of the game for a few days. However, for the first time in my life, a voice in my head that wasn’t my depression or anxiety decided to be the loudest one in the room. It wasn’t eloquent or even repeatable in respectable company, but the self assured and somewhat harsh voice assured me I have things under control and that I would, eventually, be fine. The kicker is I actually believed this voice, despite having never heard it before. I’m not much for epiphanies or positive self promotion but it’s what happened and it made me feel better.

“How did you did you conquer your mental issues,” you might ask?

First of all, thank you for asking. It means… next to nothing but I am trying to be more positive and you deserve some credit for opening your mouth, even if the questions itself is kind of pointless.

Secondly, there is no conquering depression. There is treatment, there is management, and there is coping but I figure it’s something like an addiction insomuch as it’s always going to be there and you can’t turn your back on such a crafty and tempestuous beast.

If you are looking for answers to life’s big questions, you are reading the wrong column. All I can offer are mild suggestions. For me, martial arts helps. I spend, on average, four nights a week either hitting things or rolling on the ground with other adults in mock combat. Is it weird? Yes. What we do is strange, no doubt about it, but it is what we do and we love it. I’m not big on the fact other people are involved but it’s a concession I am willing to make in order to feel more secure, mentally speaking.

I am still a mess of a human being. I still dislike 99.8 per cent of people. I am still a coward… but I am a slightly more confident coward.

This is not an advertisement for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, or Muay Thai, or Tai Chi, or whatever. You may not like martial arts and maybe it won’t do for you what it did for me. But I can say I am a much better person after my almost five years of training and I think it can help. It’s not a cure-all and it won’t “fix” you but it might be a positive change and those, as the name suggests, are always good.

Anyway, please look after yourselves and your loved ones. It can get greasy out there and even if people don’t want a hand, it helps them to know there are people who care.

I’m done now.

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Antigonish native Matt Draper has been a photographer, reporter and columnist for The Reporter since 2003.