This year, the anticipated visit from my perennial winter depression had all the potential, for reasons, to be one of the deepest and darkest on record.
The worst thing about depression is how easily it grips you and holds you immobile and incapable.
The link between physical well-being and mental health is well known, and exercise, or at least movement, is generally considered the best thing you can do to prevent, mitigate or even pull your way out of the deep well of debilitating lassitude.
It is also extremely well known that absolutely the worst thing you can say to a person suffering from depression, is that if they just got out of bed and went for a walk, everything would be better.
It might be true, but it sure as shit ain’t helpful.
Which brings us to the pigs.
I am quite rude to them. It's my way of showing love. And it amuses me in a childish way.
I body shame Fat Tony. I tell Brunnhilda she eats like a pig. I don’t even try to hide my disgust when Marilyn eats still-warm shit. There is no doubt about it - they are indeed pigs.
And I fucking love them. Brunnhilda demanded hugs yesterday. She kept crying at me when I tried to leave. Tony has a special grunt which he only uses when he sees me. I think it might be my name in Pig. Marilyn is always the quickest to pick up new words - she’s so smart, and she seems to have a real joy in learning. When I say "bed time, piggies. Go inside", her ears prick up and she trots happily off on her fingertips to bag the best sleeping place.
The three of them gambol in the snow when they hear me coming. Who couldn’t love them?
But at 7am, when it’s still dark outside; and The Black Dog skulks at the foot of my bed, slowly starting his long steady creep across the covers looking to take his place sat atop my head and I lie rigidly defenceless to stop him; and the melancholia starts it’s low incalzando, the desire to get out of bed and carpe another shitty diem is only detectable by the gaping void it left behind when it retreated to somewhere beyond reach.
Piggies need feeding. There is no sense of duty or responsibility in this. Certainly no feelings of love and devotion. Not at 7, 8 am. It is just a fact.
They need feeding.
So I go and feed them. It’s that straight forward. Automatic pilot.
I mix up a bucket of food - hog pellets, horse muesli, dried hay cobs, whatever is on the menu today - keeping it varied in texture and flavour like any good chef. Maybe they get a few chopped up mangolds or carrots or vegetable matter to hand. Slurry it all up with 10 litres of water in a bucket and trudge, still three-quarters asleep, through the snow.
They mostly ignore me.
Piggers, for all their intelligence and personality, are absolutely ruled by their stomachs. If they are eating, forget any hope of meaningful interaction. If it’s breakfast time, make sure you don't interrupt the line of sight between their bellies and the food.
They don't much want to talk to me at this time of the morning. That, I understand, believe me.
But they all get at least a bit of a scratchy rub of their fat hams, and a couple of love-infused insults thrown through the snow "Slow down! You eat like a pig!" and that’s it.
And I notice that I am dressed and up and out of bed and I want a cup of tea.
Looking forward to something, and making a plan, even one as simple as “I shall go and make a cup of tea, and it will be good” is the opposite of depression. I'm up. I'm alive.
It’s a fix for today. Tomorrow will probably start much the same.
But for now, I drink my too-hot tea and know for sure, there will be a tomorrow.