The story of my dog

Published 10:41 pm Tuesday, September 4, 2018

By Nathan Rice

I received a dog when I was 16 years old, but this isn’t your typical dog story. This dog wasn’t an expensive purebred that I had always dreamed of owning and was surprised to receive on Christmas or my birthday. It also wasn’t a stray that showed up on my front porch, dirty and mangled, that I nursed back to health while convincing my parents to let it become our household pet. It’s not that type of dog story. This dog is mean and nasty! It has bitten me more times than I can count, and it simply refuses to go away.

This dog is depression. How the term “dog” started to be used to refer to depression isn’t fully clear, as its origins go back quite a while. No matter how it started, the term has stuck for many who deal with the growling, biting dog of depression.

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Depression is hard to describe to those who have never dealt with this unique type of pain. Most of us have probably dealt with some form of loss or disappointment and can sympathize with the feelings of emotional pain. Many can understand that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach that comes when tragedy strikes. This is perhaps the closest that those who do not deal with depression can come to understanding the pain that comes with this particular struggle.

Depression has many forms, so I can make no claim to explain how it feels for anyone other than myself. I know my depression is something that I can literally feel at times. My stomach and chest feel heavy, almost as if the dog is inside me trying to force its way out.

I’ve dealt with this dog for 22 years. My family knows of my struggle, and many of my friends have supported me along the way, but I’ve not fully talked about this struggle until today.

I almost penned my thoughts on my own struggle when Robin Williams tragically ended his own life in 2014, but I hesitated to be a part of the influx of those who came forward at that time. I respect those who shared their own struggles in 2014, but I did not want to be a part of something that I knew would quickly fade, nor did I want to appear as though I was simply part of a bandwagon.

I have decided to publicly share this struggle now, and what I have learned along the way, over the next several columns in the hopes that my thoughts on this sensitive topic will help others who are fighting this same dog.

There are undoubtedly those who feel as if the dog will destroy them. Bloodied, but in a way no one can see, they wish the dog would take the final bite in order to end the pain. I’ve decided to come forward for them, and for those who love them, while praying that my thoughts and lessons learned in my battle can be helpful.

Don’t give up! Don’t quit! I know the bites from this dog hurt in a way that is hard to describe, but I also know there is hope. I know it’s worth the fight.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number is 800-273-8255.

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at