The black dog

English: A black dog
English: A black dog (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is insidious. It can be attracted by the most innocuous of happenings, such as losing a sock. You can expect it after a mini-disaster, but it doesn’t come. It can come on a bright or a dark day, a high day or a normal day. It can come when you win the race, but stay away when you come last. You cannot predict when it will come.

I fully understand why those under its spell commit suicide. It makes any achievement worthless, makes the future into a black pit. Those who succumb may be weaker than most or stronger than most. Weaker because they give in to the black dog, stronger because it takes a sort of strength to kill one’s self.

Despair (Photo credit: fakelvis)

The black dog turns you in on your self, eats you up internally, until you are a shell. The world may see you smiling and joking, while inside you are decaying, eaten up inside like a caterpillar infected by an ichneumon fly. Everything is filtered through it, so it affects everything that you do. Everything is flavoured by it, or more correctly, over-flavoured by it. Sweetness is saccharine, bitterness is burning, sourness is acrid, saltiness is excessively salty, pungency is repelling. Everything is metallic in feel or taste or smell.

I call depression ‘entering the chrome world’. In the chrome world everything is a glitzy, like a 1950’s world in the ‘modern’ style. Everything is sharp-edged and out to snag you or harm you. All surfaces are slick and smooth and encourage things that you put down to slide and slip. Lights are neon bright and shine into your eyes. Voices are loud and raucous, high and penetrating. You know that if you put down a drink it will slide away or get knocked over, and a dropped coin will roll away either to an awkward place or will disappear. You know that this will happen, even if it doesn’t.

Chrome (Photo credit: DeusXFlorida (3,454,860 views) – thanks guys!)

You don’t feel sorry for yourself. That would involve caring. You could be outwardly cheerful and sociable, (though it is unlikely) and yet be withering inside. More often you just want to be alone, which can upset loved ones who want to help you.

Depression makes you irritable. You don’t see why others care and it seems so pointless to you. If others ask how you feel it is impossible to say. They may have felt ‘down’, and they know that they have been able to overcome that feeling with effort, or maybe chocolate and a glass of wine, so they don’t realise that depression can’t be shifted simply by making an effort, or with simple treats. If you want someone to do something and they ask why, it can infuriate you. Petty things, like finding a knife to be blunt when you need a sharp one become frustrating out of all proportion.

English: Lots of frustration spikes experienced
English: Lots of frustration spikes experienced (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Depression can only be alleviated by time or chemicals. Doctors will prescribe drugs to, hopefully, stop the onset of a bout of depression, or to dispel it. They seem to work pretty well, and with modern drugs you no longer need to be ‘doped to the eyeballs’. Nevertheless the depression still seeps through at times. If life is a switchback, up and down all the time, drugs can reduce the depths of the downs, but probably also reduce the height of the ups.

Depression is also associated with dissociation. More or less this is an extension of the lack of caring, about what other people do, what they might do to you. It’s like being in the cab of a truck, but as a passenger, not as the driver. The driver decides where you are going and you have no input into that. It’s as if the driver won’t even acknowledge your presence and indeed in extreme dissociation, its as if you have no physical presence in the cab of the truck.

1915 Packard Model E 2 & 1/2 ton C-Cab truck o...
1915 Packard Model E 2 & 1/2 ton C-Cab truck on display at the Fort Lauderdale Antique Car Museum. Cab from left. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is not a form of fatalism as you don’t care what happens, whereas in fatalism, you might care keenly what happens but be unable to do anything about it.

Depression trumps love, and depressive people often push loved ones away. If the loved one doesn’t know what is happening that can be distressing to them and may actually create a split. Even if the loved one does know, the depressive person’s desire to be alone may be, will be, felt by the loved one as rejection.

A depressive episode is endless. By this I mean that the depressed person will not and cannot believe that the episode will end. The depressed person will not be aware, often, that they are suffering a depressive episode, so they do not know that it will almost certainly end at some stage.

English: Human Experiences, depression/loss of...
English: Human Experiences, depression/loss of loved one (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll wrap up with two points.

Firstly, I believe that it is impossible for a person who does not suffer from depression to understand what it is like, just as one could not imagine what it would be like to be a bat. Sure, one is a mental difference and the other is a physical difference, but to experience something is a mental experience, man or bat, depressive or non-depressive.

Secondly, I am not currently experiencing a depressive episode, or am anywhere near experiencing one. I can’t remember exactly how I got onto this track, apart from the fact that I was trying to find a subject for this weeks blog and this somehow came to mind. So there is no need to send out rescue parties!

Happy Face
Happy Face (Photo credit: Enokson)

Actually a third wrap up point comes to me. In discussing what makes a person, philosophers often conjecture what would happen if someone’s brain were transported into another body. My third point is the question “Assuming that it is agreed that the transplanted brain results in the transplantation of the person, would that person be susceptible to depression, or would it be possible that the new body’s chemistry would be different enough that the person would no longer suffer from depressive episodes?” Certainly a large part of our personalities are determined by the subtleties of the chemistry that takes place in our bodies, and depression can be alleviated by drugs. Maybe I’ll go deeper into that another time.

Phone Brain Transplant
Phone Brain Transplant (Photo credit: Sorbus sapiens)


Gambler (film)
Gambler (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Gambling has probably been a human activity since two cavemen had a bet over their respective hunting prowess. Or maybe it was over which of them could stay upright longest after sampling the newly invented alcoholic grog. Gambling games generally have probabilistic component, though the contestants generally try to remove or circumvent it, usually by such techniques as remembering the order that cards come out or ‘card counting’. This latter technique involves keeping track of the high cards that come into play.

For some people gambling can become a problem. Sometimes susceptible individuals can become ‘addicted’ to gambling to the extent that they embezzle and steal so that they can continue to gamble. They may rationalise this by claiming that they are only trying to regain what they lost, or repay the people who they have stolen from, and indeed, because of the probabilistic nature  there is a chance that they might be able to do that. However the chance is very very small.

English: Poker Chips
English: Poker Chips (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When a gambler starts gambling the reason that they gamble is the thrill of the possibility of winning big. Once the gambler has used up all his or her resources and has borrowed or stolen to keep gambling then the fear of losing and the fear of people finding out would be the predominant emotions, especially the fear of being found out.

They probably think to themselves that their luck must turn sooner or later and they must start winning, however this is just not true. Suppose the gambler is $100,000 in debt and chooses odds of evens. Then to win $100,000 he or she must wager $100,000 and to do that he or she would have to steal another $100,000. Such a theft is more likely to be noticed than a smaller amount and there is an even chance of losing and being $200,000 in the hole.

Slot Machines
Slot Machines (Photo credit: ragingwire)

As a result, it is likely that a ‘problem gambler’ would choose to go for longer odds and therefore smaller amounts of stake money, but with less chance of winning.

Statistically, over a large number of gamblers and a large number of wagers on something like a horse race, if all the money taken on wagers is paid back to punters then the average return, over all punters taking into account the stakes and the winnings paid out, is exactly zero! Of course, not all the money taken in in bets is paid to the punters. If the bets are on a totalizator system then the organisation running the ‘tote’ takes out taxes and administration costs so the payout will be less than the amount taken in.

English: Tote Bookmakers - Westgate
English: Tote Bookmakers – Westgate (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If the system is a ‘bookmaker’ run system then the bookie needs to cover his costs so he (or she) arranges his books so that not all the money taken in bets is returned to the punters. There is a very small chance that under some circumstances he cannot cover all the bets made, but it is rare for this to happen. A bookie will sometimes ‘lay off’ a bet somewhere else if he feels exposed as a result of a large bet.

What this means to the gambler is that, on average, he is going to get back from the system less than he puts in. What a gambler hopes is that his personal return is positive, and he will in fact beat the odds. It is highly likely that he won’t though. A ‘problem gambler’ is unlikely to be a clever gambler and is likely to continue to lose.

Lotto 5-4-3-2-1 logo in use from 2008 onwards
Lotto 5-4-3-2-1 logo in use from 2008 onwards (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lotteries are different. Although Lotto is referred to as gambling, it is different from card games like poker or betting on horses. Again the average return is going to be zero or negative. However, with a lottery, the only way to increase your chance of winning is to buy more tickets. There is no real or illusory skill involved. As a result the lottery is unlikely to attract the ‘problem gambler’.

Of those who do take part in the lottery there are some who fall foul of the “Gambler’s Fallacy”. Some people use the same numbers draw after draw after draw in the belief that their particular set of numbers must come up sometime. This is not so at all. It doesn’t do any harm, though, as their particular numbers are just as likely to come up in one draw as any other. In fact, if their numbers do come up, they are equally as likely as any set of numbers to come up the next week too.

Horse racing
Horse racing (Photo credit: Paolo Camera)

I confess that I don’t see much sense in betting on horses or dogs or whatever. I don’t have the skills necessary to increase the odds in my favour, though the so-called ‘professional gamblers’ appear to have those skills, and ‘problem gamblers’ definitely don’t.  I do buy lotto tickets, though, but I’m not too upset when I lose and the rare small win is fun.

The Winner Takes It All
The Winner Takes It All (Photo credit: Wikipedia)