When Depression Is a Silk Cat, Not a Black Dog

They typically refer to her as “the black dog,” but the way she sneaks up on you — quiet, like black, shiny silk moving with covert accuracy — she is more like a dark, slender feline to me.

She hides in the darkest nooks of my brain and soul. She’s been there for as long as I can remember, sleeping still. And when she feels inspired to make her presence known, she creeps out of the shadows and, like a silky scarf, flowing eerily into every aspect of my life. Sheer yet dark, she casts an ominous shadow on everything — my children’s laughter, muted; the sun’s rays, blinding; passionate hobbies, rendered useless.

She wrapped her luxurious, velvety limbs around my body and eyes, pulling me back into the shadows. The day’s vibrant colors, its liveliness, its movement subdued. Sadness reigned, undeterred by distractions. Every new place I was required to call home, the cool, slippery shadow followed me.

I romanticize about allowing her to swallow me whole. Maybe this was my life, perpetually hiding in the shadows — letting it take over me completely and removing me from the crushing brightness. It was appealingly the easiest option. Why struggle so much when darkness made promise of ease and silence?

Every now and again, the black silk cat brings along a friend. A white counterpart, brighter than the sun and louder than sound. She voraciously clutches at my heart. Tightening my chest to the point of making air impossibly difficult to suck in. My brain reeling with a million thoughts that shouldn’t even yet exist, like a whirlwind of tumbleweeds swirling round and round. My heart fighting against her paralyzing grasp. Time passes, and finally, my heart is slowed and my brain is less turbulent. Sometimes the trigger is as clear as fear itself, other times her white claws unforgivably grip my body, my mind, my sanity, for no detectable reason. I can only hope her visits become rarer.

The black cat slithers back out from her hiding place. Cold silk, calming and encompassing, yet pulling me further away from the quotidian. When feelings deep inside turn into a dark, gloomy pit of angst, loneliness and despair — when looking upon humanity as though I were an extinct species, solitude and detachment poisoning my being — she comforts me. Her cool darkness slinking over my red, throbbingly tired eyes, soothing them and letting me know I am safe in the shadows. When the scorn of judgmental eyes scorches my pale skin, forcing a physical recoil, she is always there, waiting for me.

If you or someone you know needs help, visit our suicide prevention resources page.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or text “START” to 741-741.

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