Dear Black Dog,
you and I have a strange relationship, at one time you were there in my life making your presence felt everyday, blocking out the sun and demanding attention. I learned to tame you by befriending you, by acknowledging your presence, and by giving you healthy if occasionally broken boundaries. It was a learning process for us both, I guess it still is or I would not be writing this, I wish I could have banished you from my life, but that is not to be, and so we must learn to live with one another.
So I live with you, and you with me, I know that you would prefer more attention, that you’d like to sit and cuddle up with me on the sofa under a dark and soul dampening blanket, but I know that we need exercise you and I so I have learnt that when you become insistent that I need the motivation to get out and walk, if only around my garden.
You are not fond of music, but I am, I find it helps me to take my focus from you and to seek other horizons, writing and drawing/ painting do the same, so I try, even from the darkness of the sofa to draw, to write, to listen. I might pat you on the head from time to time, but please don’t insist too much on my attention.
I ask nicely, because I know that trying to evict you from my life, and beating myself up for ever letting you in are not options for me. I have spent long days wondering how you came to choose me and looking in detail at what I might have done to welcome you, all of that was unhelpful of course, and only made you feel and act much bigger. When I fill my days with “if onlys” you enjoy the attention it gives , somehow me beating myself up makes you snuggle up to me more and more, so I am not going to do that, I am going to accept that you are a part of my life, but you are going to have to accept that with the exception of occasional lapses I am not going to let you run things they way you did at first, and if necessary I will get help from others to make sure this happens.
Now and then however you sneak up on me, you have done over recent months slowly demanding more attention and stubbornly resisting my resolve to keep you in check, for a couple of days now you have loomed large in my life, and while I recognised the busyness and warning signs that should have alerted me to your sneaky ways, I was not prepared for the way you climbed into my lap and stuck your nose in my face.
Today, I am saying no, I am calling you to heal and demanding that you climb off my lap, today I am going to turn on my music and get out into the fresh air, today I am going to talk to someone and ask for help, today I am going to face the things that brought on your damp slobbery insistence, and to look for ways to deal with those.
So for now I am going to pat you on the head and tell you firmly to get off my lap and lie down. I am going to refocus as much as I can, and not beat myself up for the things I can’t do, I am going to seek my hopes and dreams and seek God, the God who greets me in the darkness, and who walks with me through the chaos of your making until the valley gives way to the plain and I find myself once again in a spacious place, a place where breathing is not laboured and the light is not darkened by your shadow.
I will take things step by step, receive each day as a gift, each moment as an opportunity, and when (not if) I turn to find you gazing into my eyes and looking for that opportunity to snuggle up on the sofa, I hope I will have the resolve to say no, but if I don’t please know that that resolve will return for I am choosing life, real life and not your dullness of living.
I am fortunate I know, because I have a faith and friends who help me to pull through, I have hope, and confidence and even joy at times, others visited by you and your friends are not in such a good place, and sometimes you defeat them. Sometimes the shame of your presence is so stifling, the silence you insist upon so all enveloping that help is not sought when it could be for fear of being misunderstood. Sometimes we try to disguise you, or ignore you, or drag ourselves day by day with you like a lead weight pulling us down, but I know this, when I dare to call you by name, and when I dare to speak out, and let you be visible then your power is diminished.
So I am calling you by name Black Dog, you are depression, and you can take a variety of forms. I am calling you by name and asking you to get off my lap so that I can stand tall, I am calling you by name and telling you that the doubts and fears you are whispering to me are just that whispers and rumours. These doubts and fears are not who I am, I have gifts and talents, I have interests and dreams, and I will not be defined by you even when you loom large.
Dear Black Dog, today I am choosing life!