The Black Vise

Biblical quotes always seem relevant to depression for me!

Where then is my hope– who can see any hope for me? – Job 17:15

Depression is a funny thing. Funny as in queer (in the traditional, Tolkienesque sense). It is an emotional, spiritual illness as well as a mental one, and often a physical one. To this end there isn’t a medical-only cure. Unlike ‘the diabetes’ where you take insulin and it has a physical, biochemical effect on the body, depression medication doesn’t ‘fix’ the problem. It can help, like how clean water and bandages can help a deep wound, but without eventual stitches and antiseptics you will keep bleeding and get infection. Indeed many essays, poems, art and all sorts of creativity have been expressed to try to explain or at least convey the feeling. Churchill called it his ‘Black Dog’, something that would hound him and kept lingering, coming back to drag him away.

This is how I would describe depression using pictures from a popular collectable card game. In this instance the depressed person is the cute little doll thing:


Basically you’re stuck. You can’t escape. You move and pointy things poke you, you don’t move you get squished by pointy things. You need external help to free yourself.

It’s dark all around and seems hopeless. You’re tired from struggling, struggling hurts and makes you more tired and more weary of the world since it’s dark all around anyway. Even with help escaping the Black Vise is hard.

When you wiggle free you are crushed, battered and hurt and reduced to your core self. It’s still dark around but it’s not as oppressive. It’s like being that little match in the darkness. Finite, but not being extinguished just yet as it falls to the ground below the darkness.

To regrow you need to fall onto fertile soil, like family, friends, medication, counselling, love, comfort, reassurance. Something that keeps the ember of that match warm while it germinates in the darkness, while your inner fire gathers itself.

Let him sit alone in silence for the Lord has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust—there may yet be hope – Lamentations 3 28/29

Then with a bit of light, you poke out a root, re-embedding yourself in Life. Anchoring might take time for not all seeds grow at the same rate. Some need more water than sunlight , some need more warmth than light – we are all different. But eventually you can extend a shoot with a little leaf and absorb all of that goodness that exists in life. Yes nighttime comes once a day, and some days are cloudier than others, but with all that nourishment you brush it off until you regrow and hopefully flower once more.

5 Replies to “The Black Vise”

  1. Read Lizzies companion entry to this. Both are incredibly honest and informative. Nicely done! Hopes and well wishes that you guys find some peaceful space without sharp pokey stuff attached…maybe in a nice light filled place!

  2. Having read Lizzi’s blog, I had to come here to read your’s too, Joe.

    My hubby has Bi-polar disorder, and this third person in our marriage is, as Winston Churchill coined it, the Black Dog. It visits hubby at any given time, night or day, whether he has been very happy, or not.

    I so very much recognised everything that Lizzi was saying, in my own relationship with hubby but, if there is any consolation for you, Joe, it’s that it is possible to keep away the darkness enough to survive, and even to fight your way into the light, as we have, for the last 30 years. Although there have been as many downs as ups, our intrinsic relationship has always been the thing that got us both through the down times.

    Maybe a part of it, is that we’re both too stubborn to let it get the best of us – and so this has helped us keep on going – or maybe it’s a bit of the old stiff upper lip British way we were both brought up with, that refuses to give in to it’s insidious ways – whatever it is, we know to keep on fighting it and, for me, it’s as it was for Lizzi – it’s in those moments of unexpected sweetness, that I’m reminded of the man I fell in love with, and married – for better, for worse, richer or poorer – in sickness and in health 🙂

    My prayers are with you both that you can survive the storms that may come in your lives 🙂

  3. Thank you for sharing your experiences. It is not easy but it’s good to know that other people, like yourselves, are managing to get through it. I’m hoping that eventually it will become a ‘thing’ that sometimes resurfaces but that we can deal with by battening down the hatches and plodding on.

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