Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Depression

While perusing the "news" on Yahoo (and I use the term "news" lightly because those people just do not fact-check when they spew out articles; and the majority of their articles lament Kanye West's mental illness and the breakup of Brangelina), I came across this article.

First of all, true to Yahoo standards, there are so many things wrong with this article that I'm going to quote Mary Jo Shively from Designing Women addressing Julia on an article about a dog who won a car at some auto dealer: "You know what amazes me about this article: first of all, that you read it..."

The conversations on Designing Women always make me wish I worked at their design firm until I realized that our conversations at the library aren't much different sometimes, and we have a parade of clowns coming in to boot.

Anyway, back to the article.  It's a very short article with a video from Country Living about a young German shepherd who jumped her fence, got picked up by animal control, and when her family came to the shelter, she thought they were coming to pick her up. Instead they were there to pick out a different dog. The article left out a lot of details and was written with only quotes from a shelter volunteer giving her account and perception of the situation. I was a shelter volunteer, and I was fifteen when I was a shelter volunteer. I tended to exaggerate stories myself at that time.  The article didn't mention if maybe the family had decided the dog wasn't right for them and wanted to rehome her and get a different dog. I can sympathize with that. I rehomed that hellhound I adopted that tried to rip out Tess' throat one afternoon. The article also didn't mention if the shelter actually adopted another dog to this family (and if the family really was just "trading" the dog in for something else then that just makes the shelter look stupid for adopting another dog to them). The reason the dog was surrendered was stated as she was sad and crying since another died and she wasn't the same happy pup. A lot of the article wasn't clear, other than the fact that a dog was abandoned. If the reasoning behind the abandonment really was because she was sad, depressed, and grieving then that truly is despicable.

Tess has been depressed lately and I'm not sure what to do about it. I'm not going to dump her at the animal shelter, though.  I don't know if some of it is just her getting older and slowing down. She definitely sleeps more. She chews more too. She still loves to go for walks, and she will still go all day long if I let her. She runs and plays and sniffs around, but at home she's usually sacked out on the floor.  She doesn't even sit in a corner anymore and watch me cook in the kitchen. Now she just flat out lays down on her side and goes to sleep.  Some of it could also be the weather. It's getting colder so she's inside more and there's not as much to do. When she was younger she loved to be outside in the cold, but now that she's older she'd rather be inside.

I think she's lonely.  Outside she's lonely because she's by herself. At least when she's in the house she has the cats.  In the past three dogs lived next door, one of whom was Tess' very good friend. They used to play and amuse each other through the fence.  Now it's just her out there in the yard with no dogs next door. I think she also misses Surina and California Guy during the week. On the weekends she perks right up and acts like her old self, even if Surina isn't the most playful companion. I wonder if Tess sometimes feels like half her pack is missing during the week. She's an alpha mentality after all and likes to have her whole pack around her.

Depression is an emotion I identify with all too well and I wonder sometimes if Tess isn't feeding off me. Dogs are very sensitive to moods, and shepherds especially are as close to mind readers as a dog can be. She could just be feeling my mood and reacting. Depression is frustrating because many times there is no major reason to be depressed. I have a nice house, a good job, a steady paycheck, four of the craziest most lovable animals in the world, a nice guy with another crazy dog, and good friends. My life is nothing but good things, but I tend to be affected by the general mood of others around me - people just seem sort of pissed off lately - and what goes on online because I spend a lot of time online for my job. There are days when I can't read one more book review because they are just depressing. Sometimes it's depressing because the critics are so mean (and I mean the professional ones AND the everyday reader ones on Amazon, many of whom need to tone down the vitriol), and sometimes it's depressing because I see all these fantastic, wonderful, amazing books come through and I hate myself because I know I don't have half the talent these authors have. Then I get angry when I read some punk ass jerk's nasty review about a certain book and wonder, "Geez, asshole, rip apart someone's project. Have YOU written a novel?"

Like Tess, some of the depression is loneliness.  I'm around people constantly and I have a few good friends, but I keep in touch with them mostly over texting or social media. I miss the days when I used to go out with a huge group of friends and we'd dance and drink and have dinner and just enjoy being with each other. I miss the days when I'd go out in this town and every other person I ran into I'd have a conversation with because we all knew each other. But we get older and tired, and we move on and feel more comfortable staying home, isolating. California Guy is only here on the weekends, and when he is here we tend to isolate ourselves more because no one really wants to hang out or do anything anymore.  Friends have moved on, moved away, or just plain disappeared, and I know how Tess feels, wondering where her buddies next door went.

Depression is ambiguous. It can come on for no reason at all, because there's not enough in one's life or perhaps because there's too much. It can come because of lack of nutrition or lack of exercise. It can come because of ennui or a wish to change one's career without knowing how, or maybe just a realization that things are changing and one can never go back. I miss certain people, certain times, certain feelings, and most importantly certain feelings certain people gave me. And I miss the innocence and naivete that comes with youth. Wisdom is a good thing, but sometimes too much knowledge can cloud one's mood and overall enjoyment of life.  We know too much. We have too many experiences that are bad. We've been there, done that, and we are tired.  We are tired of rejection, of having our hearts broken, of failing, of watching our loved ones fail or have their hearts broken.  I believe the reason some people keep living in the past because they can't let go of it is that they were less cynical and more innocent. The past is also where my dog was young and vibrant and energetic. The past is where I've had some of my best times.  The future is just full of uncertainties. When we were younger it was full of possibilities and thus we still felt excited at the prospect of it. It was easier to look forward.

Cesar Milan says dogs live in the moment. They don't worry about the past and they aren't worrying what's going to happen next. They just seem to content to stay in the moment of their lives, living each day one at a time. True, Tess misses her friends and this might impact her mood, but it sure doesn't seem to keep her down when something interesting is presented before her like a new bone, a run through the snow, a puppy to play with, a doggie pop. Tess might have her depressed moments, but she still enjoys moments of experiences that bring her joy.

I still do too, but maybe not as much as I used to. I may complain about not going out as much anymore, drinking with my friends and dancing, but part of that is my own fault. I'm just not as spry anymore, and I get tired at ten o'clock now. I can blame age and weight gain, but honestly, Tess doesn't let that stop her from still enjoying her favorite moments.  Now it's just a matter of being grateful in each moment and finding joy in the small things, like my dog does. Maybe I do get tired at ten, but that doesn't mean I can't go out at seven and still have a good time for three hours. Maybe as we get older it's time to aim smaller.  Stop expecting so much of ourselves and stop taking every failure so personally.  Depression is hard to battle, but it can be done.

And on the days when it's too overwhelming, maybe we just have an extra piece of chocolate cake, an extra glass of wine, and stay home from work for a mental health day. Give ourselves a break. One of my favorite things to do is still take my dog on a run along the river. It makes her happy and watching her be happy makes me happy.

After all, my life isn't so bad. I'm still laughing, I'm still enjoying certain people and certain experiences, and there is still chocolate.

However, that trip to Hawaii won't hurt.

I just wish I could take my dog, too and realize that recurring dream I have of us swimming in the ocean together, and running along the beach. There are still some happy dreams to be realized, and there is still the hope that they will be realized.





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