Struggling to shake off the black dog: former councillor's battle with depression

NOT LIVING IN FEAR: Peter Hetherington says depression is a vicious beast. 

NOT LIVING IN FEAR: Peter Hetherington says depression is a vicious beast. Photo: ROBERT CRAWFORD

IN a week where millions of people mourned the tragic death of comic genius Robin Williams, who had battled depression for many years, former Orange councillor Peter Hetherington decided to speak about his own battle with the illness.

Mr Hetherington, who relocated to the south coast of NSW, hopes his personal account of his own struggle to survive depression will not only help people understand a little more about the condition but also encourage anyone who suspects they may need help to reach out.

I LOVE my dog Oscar. He is a big black Labrador; 45kg of bouncing fun and energy. Oscar gives me plenty of laughs. He is always with me and rarely leaves me.

There is another black dog that rarely leaves me. It is called depression. 

Depression is a mongrel of a thing; it offers no fun or joy. It is a vicious beast that snarls and growls without respite. 

Snapping, barking all hours of the day and night. Its din will fill my mind to the point where I think my head will explode. 

In the middle of the night depression will howl until it wakes me. So dark I can’t see the black dog. Like a child I will pull the blankets over my head but I can’t hide from depression. 

On a bright sunny day surrounded by friends and family, on a crowded street depression will find me. Not just a black dog but also a tracker dog, a radar-guided missile loaded with a contagion so vile that it can kill or maim in an instant.

The after-effects of what depression brings can leave those around totally devastated. Then there is its angry silence. 

You can’t hear depression but you just know it is there - stalking you. It waits to strike no matter whether you are fit or frail, it seeks to devour you. And it can. In a split second depression can defeat you.

I pray that someone will come to kill off depression but I know that even a bullet laden with Kryponite can’t stop it.

 All I can hope to do is keep depression at arm’s length, contain it, lest it drags me down to finish me off like so many others before me. 

Depression has sired its killer breed across countries around the world without care for race, creed or colour. 

Although I am far from Hollywood and fame, it seems Robin Williams, unfortunately, had a black dog from the same breeder as which mine came. Depression is a commonality which no person should have to share or need to suffer.

However, depression is something of which every person should be vitally aware so that it can be identified and helped to be kept in check.

Try not to be afraid of the black dog. Tell your doctor, tell your family, tell your friends. They will help you watch out for it, as those that are close to me have done. 

I love my black Labrador, Oscar. So far I am one of the lucky ones.

Readers seeking support and information about depression can contact Lifeline 13 11 14, MensLine 1300 78 99 78 or  beyondblue 1300 224 636.


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