tisdag 10 december 2013

Battling the Black Dog

So this is my 200th blog post, not counting the handful of drafts that never were finished. I promised a give-away when I reached this number, but not today. Maybe tomorrow, or the day thereafter. Soon anyway, I'm currently pilfering around and excavating the nether regions of my lead mountain for suitable items.

The Lead Mountain according to Wikipedia. Yes, it's a real place!!!
But in this post I want to talk about something else; I recently suffered a bout of depression. Churchill described getting visits from "his dreaded black dog" now and then. It's really a fitting description. It's hard to explain how it feels to people who haven't suffered from real depression, but I will try. Feel free to skip the text and only look at the eye-candy at the end if you don't like to read my ramblings. Don't forget to tune in for the giveaway next time, though.

Some 14 years ago I suffered from burn-out, or "stress induced depression" as my doctor called it. I was lucky and only got a mild case since I had the good sense to quit the job that caused my burn-out in time. Since then I get re-lapses, usually during autumn. Something with the disappearing light I guess. The thing with depression though, is that you rarely notice it yourself before it's too late.

The first thing that goes away when you are stressed is compassion and empathy. You turn into a bitter cynic. You can usually function socially and manage your job and everyday life, you just turn a bit rougher around the edges. But when the stress turns into depression you also loose the ability to prioritise. Since you can't decide what's most important you try to do everything at once. That's generally a bad idea and you only get more stressed and try to work harder instead. Then your ability to make any decisions goes away and you turn into a robot. You probably don't sleep very well either. (I realise there are different kinds of depressions, but many of the symptoms are the same.)

Just to get up in the morning, eat breakfast and go to work take an immense willpower at this stage, but most people don't realise something's wrong. "I'm just a bit tired right now" is a common phrase. After work you go home, crash, buy something ready made for dinner. You usually do not socialise or meet friends since this involves making decisions and you can't do that at this stage. If you don't realise what's going on and continue trying to function you WILL crash and burn.

When I did this 14 years ago I was way past this stage, but luckily I don't usually go this far nowadays. This year I did, and I didn't notice the signs. I was jumping on kick-starters to left and right, enthusiastically buying new stuff with a fervent vigour. I blamed the Oooh Shiny! syndrome, but I was really trying to chase away the black dog with more purchases. Painting was not fun anymore, I blamed painter's block and a particularly bad kit (an Italeri Caproni bomber) while ordering italian figures from Mirliton. Figures that lay unpainted until the night before they were supposed to be used at a local convention. Blogging was also turning into a chore, but somehow I wrote a couple of posts. I even managed to get my kids off to school, but each morning was more stressful than the previous and I'm afraid they got a bit yelled at without deserving it.

It wasn't until I got a cold and had to stay at home from work that I managed to figure it out. First I thought that I could get some crucial hobby time in between the sneezes and coughs, but I just lay in the sofa watching day-time TV instead. I just couldn't decide what figures to focus on or plan how I was going to paint them so I did nothing. Two days before the convention I realised what was going on and told my wife. The strange thing is that as soon as I recognised what was wrong the Black Dog started to get smaller. It was like something clicked. There was a logical explanation to my bad mood, my painter's block and everything else: it wasn't me, it was my black dog.

Illustration from "I had a Black Dog" by Matthew Johnstone, isbn 978 1 84529 3147.
(Used without permission, no infringement intended.) 
Seeing the cause, I also knew it would go away if I just slowed down and let it pass. Now getting rid of depression isn't just a matter of "manning up" or "snapping out of it". You simply can't. It's a lengthy process but just realising that isn't your fault is an important first step. And as it hadn't had time to develop into a fullblown depression this time I feel better already. I went to the convention, met with my friends and had a good time. I participated lightly in the game, assisting in moving figures and looking up rules but I wasn't as involved as I usually am. I explained to some of my friends and they seemed to understand and it really felt good.

I took some pictures from the convention, so what do you know, eye-candy!

Me and Thomas proudly displaying our Lard Ambassador shirts.

Jocke getting into character for the LRDG game.
The convention is called FlemCon, a small boardgame convention in Flemingsberg in Stockholm. The Scandinavian Lardies demoed Chain of Command in the form of a highly hollywood-style LRDG raid with small vehicles zipping around machine gunning and blowing up an Italian airfield. We had managed to lure Ville over from Finland and he demoed Chain of Command as well, but this time with a more conventional infantry skirmish set during the Finnish Winter War.

Somehow we managed to attract the attention of several young girls who very much enjoyed the frantic style of the LRDG game. We suspect it was the Lardie polo shirts though.(More field tests are required on this subject!)

We managed to get in two games on each table before calling it a day and we had several interested spectators chatting with us and asking questions about the games and models. All in all it was a very successful day and we will be bringing Chain of Command to more conventions in Sweden during 2014.

Ville's ingenious Jump Off Points for the winter war: skis stuck down into the snow. They are even numbered 1-3!
One of Ville's beautiful T-26 tanks. I think they were UM models, this one is converted into a command version.
The raid is on! The LRDG race toward the unsuspecting Italian check point.
My Caproni Bomber being serviced by Jockes ground crew.
The venerable Airfix Control Tower in Italian guise. The sandbags are from Amera Plastic Mouldings.
Both games in full swing.
Ville is checking Daniel's placement of his Jump Off Point
Ville explaining the scenario and the rules.

Koen and one of the players in the first LRDG game. I think they are discussing what to blow up next...
Second LRDG game, Thomas and Koen are assisting the players who raced eachother to see who could blow up most stuff.
The set-up for Ville's second game. This time the forces would clash over a small village.
Today I'm heading back up to the surface... still not 100% ok, but definitely getting better. I have even painted a couple of 40K figures, just for fun. Now its time to start digging in that lead pile again for the give-away. Don't miss it!

10 kommentarer:

  1. Good post! And good to see girls gaming!

    1. Yep, it was great fun to have a mixed audience for the game. Best part was that the girl team won their game hands down while the boy team just barely scraped together a victory!

  2. It's difficult to reply sensibly when someone is bitten by the Black Dog, because (to mix metaphors) falling into what appears to be a bottomless pit of depression leaves 'normality' a long way behind. There is a Scots word - 'thole' (sounds as if it might be Scandinavian in origin) - that is, to some degree, applicable. It sort of means 'struggling through'. When the Black Dog is about I suppose one just has to 'thole' it, keep saying, 'this, too, will pass', and take offers of help. Anyway, all the best, old chap!

  3. Thanks for posting. You described depression rather well there and gave me some thing to think about. Glad you could enjoy the convention.

  4. Depression sucks, the general attitude of get over it does not help at all. I have had a couple of goes at it and you would think you would recognise it coming on but that's the point you made you and your closest don't which is what makes it so tough to deal with.

    Small steps and hope you get it licked again


  5. Thanks for the insights into 'black dog'... certainly interesting reading. I indirectly deal with this in my work, though more from the dispensing the medication side, rather than diagnosis or counselling... but I can still empathize with managing this debilitating condition.
    I don't think I have ever been true depressive, but I know I am definitely a pessimist, and sometimes ponder if this puts me a risk of this condition?
    I wish you the best and hope you leave your black dog behind you in due course...

  6. Thanks for the post, in addition to being a wargamer I'm a clinical psychologist, and it's really helpful to have more guys talking about these sorts of troubles - makes it easier for others. I see the WHO recently released this vid of the Black Dog:
    (My partner reckons it not so helpful if you like dogs, but a lot of people seem to find it useful!). All the best for the future and great looking game too!

  7. Painting miniatures is one of the few things that help me deal with mine. The most important thing though is to know you're not alone and there are others who understand exactly what you're going through. Fight hard and good fortune to you my friend.

  8. Thank you for all the great replies guys!

  9. Good to hear about it, and been there.. About 10 years ago, and a job that was killing me. Went very close to the brink of total burn-out. Had no idea about how bad it was when I was there, and I'm still bitter about my doctor not diagnosing it, when he knew other people from the same place I worked and knew what we were going through.
    Now I know how to take it easier, and painting really does stress me down.
    It was nice seeing you during the game.


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