Picture a mindmap (spider diagram? I”m never sure which is which). A mass of individual ideas linked and interlinked by lines. If it’s a serious mindmap it may use some form of colourcoding. Perhaps some ideas are circled, there may be an element of venning between the circles. Now picture a really classy mindmap with all the above – and depth. A 3D mindmap that can express different layers of urgency or importance. Imagine this is the map of everything on your mind over the course of a month – from washing your smalls, to sending a birthday card to your great-aunt, remembering to collect your children from school early on Thursday, and phoning the bank to organise a new mortgage. Your life is complex but also completely transparent – you can take it all in at a glance. You are on top of all your situations. Now imagine that – suddenly and without much warning – your map becomes monochrome, 2D and loses all its little connecting lines. Your ‘map’ is now a chaotic nightmare. And you have no idea what you should be doing right now – all of it at once?
Welcome to life with the Black Dog. Some mornings I stand at the bathroom door and can’t even work out which order to shower, brush my teeth, dress in. Some mornings I can’t even focus just on tasks to do in that room and am frozen with indecision between showering, making breakfast, phoning the bank, going to the shops… I find the low mood that the Dog drags in hard to live with but its the chaotic fog that descends and all but imobilises me that I find most unbearable.
So today I went back to basics and began to impose some external organisation – like a plaster cast to support your limbs while the bones knit I now have prompt cards to stabilise me until my brain knits together again. I have a checklist for the morning – put on the coffee (essential as my antidepressants are mildly sedative), stick on the laundry, shower, pack the lunches, make the beds, etc – nothing exciting, the things I normally do on autopilot. Similar lists are made up for lunchtime, the school run, bedtime and all are on little file cards pinned up in the kitchen. When I find myself paralysed with indecision I have somewhere to go for a ready-made answer now. I am in equal measure relieved to have taken steps to deal with my mental chaos and humiliated by the admission that I need this.