When I was a young girl of eight, all I wanted was a dog. A dog to call my own. Despite having a family pet at the time, I desperately wished for a jet black spaniel. It would be mine to take care of, and we would be best friends. We would go on the most wonderful adventures. I would call him Coal. I never got that dog. The dog with the glossy fur coat that would fetch the ball that I would throw for it to retrieve in the glorious summer sunshine never graced my existence.
Fast forward a decade, and finally, into my life waltzed a black dog.
the black dog
Except this one did not come in with its tail wagging, looking for affection and friendship. Instead, this one would be a constant dark cloud. Following me around from place to place, becoming larger and unavoidable as it grew. Attempting, and invariably, succeeding at zapping away the brighter moments. Instead of feeding it treats, one by one it was fed my dreams and hopes. Rather than sit at the end of my bed and watch me fall asleep, it would pace the room keeping me awake. Some nights just for a few hours, many nights all the way through. Making my lack of energy even more unbearable. Just as a new puppy would gaze longingly with big eyes, guilt tripping you into submission, I would get lost in the abyss of guilt and despair at how my daily life was going, and how it was impacting my future. Where people would come and pet a dog in adoration, this one would snarl and show its teeth at anyone expressing any sign of care or company.
The longer I kept it quiet and hid it from view, the louder and more isolating it grew.
this dog’s name was depression
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. That is an overwhelming amount of people who have dark clouded moments of despair, hurt and loneliness (to name a few) standing shoulder to shoulder. That’s a whole lot of black dogs. It took me a few years but I learned to understand what depression means for me. How to notice when it is at the door waiting to be let in. I’ve come to realise that speaking about it is a good thing and that people will listen if you give them the opportunity to.
This black dog will be a ‘companion’ for life, although now I know what I have to do to tame it and keep it down.