08 February 2016

Hello Black Dog, Familiar Friend

Beneath the suffocating darkness of his thick heavy fur lies a delicately curled tulip bud crouched in empty heavy silence amongst the deep fast echoing beat of a heart that feels ready to drop and an unchangeable mind that wanders too much. Yet just like a flower unfurled and exposed bare, you are more than the familiar emptiness thudding through your pulse and purely an existence of intricate complexity that pulsates beauty in the thunderous waves of your wanderings. Your beauty exists and shines through your boat rides between where you've been, where you now and where you will be once the smothering blanket of despair breaks into clarity upon the shore.


Want to know the worst thing about it? Not the feeling of remote desolation or the foreboding disquiet lurking round every corner nor is it feeling that such a numb existence will never find closure. No, it quite possibly is the negatively unjust disregard and invalidating stigma towards it. It being a very real, very silent but very cruel illness. Those who are yet to experience the presence and all-cosuming company of the black dog just assume that others are being miserable old sods and are somewhat selfish in being unappreciative of their lot in life. Just whack on a cheeky smile,  snap yourself out of it and all will be peachy again, right? Wrong.

I want anyone out there currently struggling amongst the dark clouds of loneliness and seclusion to realise they're not alone. Being dealt the cards of depression is tough and can often feel never-ending through the consistent fear that any bout of delight will soon be scuppered and slaughtered by the arrival of the looming black animal again. In actual fact you are an individual of extreme bravery and your presence here today should be celebrated as an influential and inspirational character.

It is more than okay to find yourself in a place of struggle as it quite plain and simply implies you are in a process of growth. Life is not a smooth line of calm sailing, it is a wave of unpredictability and the struggles you experience are only blessings in disguise for change and evolution to occur. Those who do not change and do not grow are those who refuse to struggle so if you're hurting right now, keep in your heart the knowledge that it is a sign for something wonderful just around the corner.

Some of the most miraculous things in this world have been shaped and created by the very individuals who have continued to keep pushing forwards when they felt there was no hope left at all so hold onto your hope that the sun will shine through the storm clouds again.

You are valuable and worthy merely because you exist in this world, not because of how many people like you, how many friends you have online, your productivity or because of how attractive society deems you. You are valued simply for being you and that is wholeheartedly enough. Trust in the timing of your life as it is shaping something amazing - the people, the places, the timing and experiences are determining the most rewarding of journey's for you so keep the faith.

Living with a black dog doesn't make you weak, pathetic or a victim of vulnerability. Such individuals are in fact quite the opposite and represent beings of great strength and intuition. Experiencing depression enables a way of prepping yourself for a more thoughtful, tactful and happier future. Whilst in the moment the dark clouds of sadness feel like a curse, the experience allows you to gauge a sense of significance and develop a skill set that works for you in achieving more both physically and socially. The presence of the black dog opens the doors in the search for greater understanding, self awareness, life direction and peaceful grounding. This may not be the case in the here and now but eventually, the darkness will fragment to enable the light to shine and guide. The darkness of depression does not make you a coward, a failure, a nobody but pushes you to make the answers to the holes existing in your life. It makes you quizzical, attentive and brings you in touch to the wider picture of appreciating the beauty and fragility of life. It brings you more in line with authenticity and that in itself is an act far greater and more worthy than fear.

Individuals dealing with the shadows of the black dog are often met with negative vibes - not only from themselves but more loudly from society. Either depression is ridiculed for being an overdramatised "bad day" where the societal effects just deepen the depressive effects of that individual or it's received with nonchalance and ignorance. Depression is one tough illness to define and affects individuals in a plethora of different ways yet what it isn't is a target for disrespect or insensitivity. An individual is exactly that - an individual - not their illness despite depression often robbing someone of their natural temperament. The black dog can sit and mask the positivity and truly beautiful qualities of the affected but that doesn't mean they're no longer there. They very much still are but tiptoeing around them on eggshells and treating them indifferently like a walking arrow will never coax their true selves out of hiding. Treating an individual as their true and whole self - not the illness they may have - radiates a sense of respect and acceptance of that individual in whatever stage of life they're living. Celebrating who they are and not the difficulties they're struggling with helps to remind an individual whose lost their sense of value just how remarkably valuable they really are.

Walking the black dog on a daily basis can leave an individual exposed to the blows, gusts and winds of thunderstorms and heavy black clouds. An all-consuming sky of self-doubt, confusion and paranoia about life and direction becomes the vision they see the world with. Your aunty may be really talented at making ceramics just like your mum may be really good at not getting jokes! The simple fact is that no matter how clueless and muddled we feel about our place in our world, we all undoubtedly have talents. Those walking the black dog may not be able to see them for themselves which is why it may be that your new found talent is going on a mission to help them find what makes them tick. Seek out a journey you can take together to help grow, hone, develop and nurture the passion and talents that naturally reside in the dog walker. The demons in their head are not who they are, nor are they the only talents they can play with - helping to unearth new interests will inevitably help to release the invalidating identity that the black dog tries to mark upon them like a permanent scent and unveils a profile of new-found passion and significance.

Dealing with the black dog can be difficult and tiresome not only for the one consumed but also for the support network of family and friends. The black dog is sneaky and sly and can sliver up when least expected, bringing with him a foggy haze of disengagement, irritability and inexplicable numbness. Whilst it's frustrating and agonising as an outsider to watch it before your eyes, it's an even harder battle for the one going through it as more than anything they want to scrabble to find the escape button that remains so cruelly hidden. Boundaries of expectations cause conflict and guilt between both parties - often family members wanting to rescue and save the loved one from free-falling but truthfully the fight to quieten the black dog and put it back upon a leash lies in only one set of hands. Theirs. It is their battle, their fight, their quest to navigate and overcome and no amount of involvement, nurturing, interference and willing from another will magic away the negative energy or the scars of the dog bites.

Firing advice and wisdom laced with "shoulds" only fuels the hypocritical joy of the black dog. An individual struggling with validation already holds a self-scripted checklist of "shoulds" which is what limits their appreciation of themselves in the first place. Explaining to someone that they "should snap out of their funk", "should stop feeling sorry for themselves", "should be more appreciative of what's already around them" sets up a relationship of condescending displeasure. An individual with a black dog is exactly that - an individual with their own mind and own demons, not a child with an underdeveloped mind or no will of their own. Telling a depressed loved one that they "should" behave in a certain way only leaves you more disconnected from them as a wall of defence and barrier of protection from criticism will instantly be build by the black dog.
Encouragement, suggestions and positive, strengthening questions radiates respect and acceptance that who they are and what they do in this very moment is enough and makes no difference to their value and importance in your life. The key message here is that affirming and positive encouragement  helps bolster an individuals' self-esteem and value far more than any negative and demeaning words ever could (no matter if they are delivered with positive intent) as they can only but feed the hungry dog and inflate his strength and depressive ego.

My parting words to any of you who are currently suffering or are often frequented by the black dog is don't ever let your sadness make you feel ashamed of being you. Be stronger than the bones of the dog as he doesn't have to be your backbone if you choose not to let him beat you down. Refuse to never give up the fight, refuse to never back down no matter how low he grinds you to the floor and refuse never to give up on yourself as you are stronger, wiser and more resilient than a black dog will ever make you feel. To waste your valuable energy in feeling guilt and shame at being human is a wasted source of energy you could be using in leashing that black dog.

Remember that experiencing the black dog is never your fault, he doesn't diminish your place or value in this world, those who matter and are important will love you regardless, you are you and not your demons and lastly...you are not and never will be alone in your battle of leashing the black dog. 

[Photo Source Inspiration: Pinterest]


  1. brave thoughtful piece...well done

  2. This is incredible Sarah...nearly brought me to tears. Your way with words is most certainly one of your undeniable gifts and talents,love you millions xxx

    1. Thank you so much for your lovely words Soph! Means the world to me, as do you xxx


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