Get in Back

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Black Dog’s grip on me and the struggles I was having. Since then I’ve made a concerted effort to lift myself off the lounge and bring light back to my life.

“Get in Back” is a command Ringers / Jackaroos use to bring their working dogs to heel. Figuratively speaking this is what I’m trying to achieve. I suspect the dog is always there and while I may not have full control if I can maintain dominance for the majority of the time then I’m winning.

Not having access to my psych over the Christmas period has been good and bad for me as I fought the dog. At times I needed that touch point to help level myself and bring me back to a base I could start from. Not having the touch point is probably why I was down for so long. This period reinforced how important it is to have the right support systems in place. You should also have a plan in place for when there are unavoidable gaps in your system, remember every one needs a holiday,

The positive side of my Psych being unavailable is I had to accept ownership and accountability for my state and put my own plan in place. It’s not an easy thing to do and I’ll temper enthusiasm with don’t go to big too early. Your plan should be small and manageable. Below is the plan I’m following. While not rocket science a step by step approach should be taken.

My plan highlights seven focus points. So as not to feel overwhelmed it could be managed over seven weeks. In picking a topic and implementing it over a week you give yourself the time and space to get it right. Once your comfortable move onto the next focus point. By the end of the seven weeks you’ll realise you don’t need to tell the dog to “get in back”. Realisation will come that at some point during the implementation your focus shifted and you unconsciously brought the Black Dog to heel.

Anti depression plan:

  • Sleep – you need to have a sleep program with a goal of achieving eight hours of sleep a night. While depression and PTS can mean troubled sleep a goal is still required. The program should include regular times in which you go to bed and get up so that you fit into what people consider a regular day. Day naps are a no no and sleep in your bed not the lounge. Things I find helpful to shut out distractions are ear plugs and eye masks.
  • Hygiene 1 – often a point of failure for the afflicted. First up lets deal with personal. Showering, brushing your hair and dental care are daily tasks. Then there is shaving (legs, arms and anything else) which should happen two to three times a week. If you have a beard keep it trim and tidy. It’s ok to have long hair however it still needs to be tidy. Wash and trim regularly.
  • Hygiene 2 – next up is your clothing. With the exception of gym wear you should wear a fresh set of clean and ironed clothes everyday. Dress for the occasion and if your going out with your other half dress for them. When you go to bed get out of your day clothes and into night wear. This sends your body a message wake time is done and its time for sleep.
  • Home – home is our safe place where nothing can hurt us. I you aren’t careful it can become a gaol. Getting out of the house everyday is essential. While how long isn’t important I would suggest a minimum of 30 minutes so you can walk away from your front gate, say around the block. This can be reinforced through taking over daily tasks such as getting the kids to school or doing house hold shopping. This time out of the house can be expanded into a daily exercise routine, sunshine and fresh air are great for healing.
  • Tasks – Time is perhaps depression’s greatest ally. What ever time you leave infilled during the day is seen as an opportunity for depression. Filling your day and keeping you mind focused on positive and achievable goals helps you to feel useful, purposeful and productive, all dreaded enemies of depression. Your first set of tasks should be routine ones you complete everyday such as cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming, sweeping floors etc. These tasks provide daily focus and immediately benefit your household. The next tasks should be stuff that isn’t routine but are still required, mowing the lawn, oiling a deck, washing cars etc. It’s ok to make a list of these tasks but to avoid disappointment don’t prioritise or attach completion dates. If you miss a goal you could find yourself walking away from the list and falling back into depression. Instead each evening look at your list and pick one or two to complete the next day. It’s important to remember that you pick achievable tasks and complete them, this isn’t about finishing the list. You need goals to get you off the lounge and the ensuing sense of achievement and accomplishment. When you finish your task take some times reflect and enjoy the achievement. Even small goals can result in great feelings.
  • Socialise – an enormous challenge for the depressed or PTS afflicted is the ability to socialise. In seeing yourself as broken you believe other people will see you the same way, not understand you or show you pity and sympathy. At this point you need to take the advice of an Old Navy Chief and “harden the fuck up”. Your feeling sorry for yourself which helps no one including you. You need to make an effort to interact socially two to three times a week so you can feel like a person and have conversations. Humans are inherently social and not designed to be hermits. Chatting over coffee or a round of golf will seperate you from the black dog. It doesn’t matter what you talk about the interaction provides a sense of belonging and comradeship. It dispels feelings of loneliness and the need to lock yourself away.
  • Family – Last but certainly not least. Talk to your family, immediate and extended. They get you are dealing with stuff but can’t help if they don’t know what it is or what to do. If you withdraw and push them away they become confused, feel un loved which opens the door for a whole range of emotional issues in everyone. If you talk to them they will get it and will help. This is where unconditional love, belonging and encouragement come from. Once your family are on the same page half the battle is won.

So this is my plan and it works for me, now it’s in place I can be flexible with different parts as I need. There are occasions when I fall outside the program but because it exists I can reset myself, not providing the dog an opportunity to take hold of me.

While having a plan is great its no good if the dog has too big a hold for you to start. If you feel yourself spiralling then there a number of organisations you can contact for help in halting the spiral and getting to a starting point. Remember people care and can help, reach out get the help and then make a start on your plan.

Published by zimmermanwalks

An Australian military veteran, I spend my time volunteering for a number of organisations and blogging on the challenges faced by Veterans.

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