When the dog attacks

Published 9:05 pm Tuesday, September 11, 2018

By Nathan Rice

I stared him in the eyes as he snarled back at me. The weight of his paws was making breathing difficult as they crushed my stomach and chest. He had already bitten me once, and the invisible wound was still fresh. I knew he would eventually come in for the second round of his attack.

Drool dripped from his fangs and fell onto my face. It mixed with the tears that were already rolling down my face. His mouth opened, and he lunged at me once again. I closed my eyes as his teeth clenched down on me, creating a pain that I’d wish on no one. I opened my eyes, and I saw my blood covering his teeth. “End it,” he said in a half whisper and half growl, “or I’ll be back.” He jumped off me with those words, leaving me to think the unthinkable as I dealt with the pain that encompassed my entire being.

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This is the best description I can give of how depression can sometimes feel. The dog of depression is always cruel, but there are times when it fiercely attacks. During times like this, the thought of ending it all is entertained by many. Everyone is unique, and every situation is different, but I have found a few things that help me when pain inflicted by the dog pushes me to the limit.

I begin by refusing even to entertain the thought of suicide. I force myself immediately to remove this idea from my list of options of how to deal with the pain. It’s not up for debate. It’s simply not an option. I’m not always successful at defeating the dog’s attacks, but I have learned to not allow him to plant this particular thought in my mind. He may whisper it in my ear, but I refuse to let it take hold. It has no place in my mind.

The dog has a way of blocking out those around you, but I have forced myself to look past the dog. The last time the dog whispered those words in my ears, I made myself look beyond his menacing face. I closed my eyes and forced the face of every child I currently work with to enter my mind. I pictured their mothers entering their rooms to tell them that I had passed away. I knew I must continue.

The greatest relief that I have found during some of the dog’s fiercest attacks comes from the arms of my Heavenly Father. I have found prayer pushes me away from the lying voice of the dog and closer to the loving sound of my Father’s voice. Reading through the Bible, even if blurred by tears, brings me nearer to the One who loves me no matter how I feel. Other times I just spend the night crying in His loving arms unable to utter more than “help.” I don’t understand the pain, but I know He is there with me, and this keeps me going.

These are just a few of the things I do, but I have a full plan in place when the unthinkable attempts to enter my mind. I encourage those who struggle in this area to come up with their own plans. Don’t wait until the attack occurs to consider what to do. Make a plan now. Be prepared to fight. Get help if needed. Counseling and medication can also be a big help and should not be overlooked.

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

Nathan Rice is a Hampton Roads native and can be reached at nrice@abnb.org.