Walking With Black Dog

Black Dog is kind. She has a red collar, sits for treats and protects Boo from fierce dogs. Funny then that I should name her Black Dog. Not Red Collar or Bouncer. The irony walks with me, that my Black Dog has left me and been replaced with an actual Black Dog.

Black Dog comes with us on our walks along the beach, over the dunes, sometimes across scrub land if Boo sees chickens. She’s made our walks easier and more fun.

Boo swings in circles, ploughing up the sand, absolutely delighted to run and run and run. She’s been with us long enough now to go off the lead, and to come back to me – with the help of her favourite dog treat waved in the air in a neon pink bag!

finding a way through depression

In Vietnam most dogs are left roam. In our little village beside the ocean some dogs are fierce with fear, some are kind. Black Dog is Boo’s best mate and she is kind.

Churchill was the one that named depression Black Dog.

When I first heard the expression I thought it should be Black Cloud. But I get it now. Black Dog trails you. Sometimes you can see it running ahead, sometimes following behind. Sometimes nipping at your ankles or chomping your toes.

But always, Black Dog walks beside you and the more afraid of Black Dog you are, the more uppity and antsy it will get. Try and ignore it and it will push it’s nose into the back of your knee and unbalance you.

You can shout at Black Dog and Black Dog will bark back – ferociously.

Let Black Dog be. Acknowledge it. Pat it on the head. Let it know it’s ok to be there. It’s ok Black Dog, no need to be afraid of me. I’ve lived with you long enough to have made friends with you, to know you will always walk beside me.

There have been years and years when I haven’t noticed you next to me. Sometimes I caught the scent of you, but then you were gone again.

This year, with the wet season and the typhoons, my cancer scare and my menopause, the pandemic and missing my family, you have come back to sit with me. I didn’t notice you at first. The heavy sadness that pulled me down into the dirt, confusion and paranoia. Didn’t notice that the colour had seeped from my world. That the trees, the birds, the paddy-fields were all shades of black and grey.

I held my kids and my husband tightly, hooked myself to their giggles and wonder of life – when I couldn’t find mine. Then Boo came along, in need of a home, in need of love and wonder, and we started our daily walks.

dealing with depression

First I aimed for the closest beachfront cafe shack to our house. About a hundred meters. I could manage that without my walking stick, even with my hips creaking in the pain of rainy season.

A few days later we aimed for the shack in the middle of the row, then more days passed and we got to the last cafe on our beach. Next walk we headed for the broken down fairy castle. The one that will one day be part of a holiday complex – when they start building again. Then one day I looked up and I could see all the way to Tan Tan Beach – the next beach along from ours.

It was a jolt. Knowing I could get further than I thought was possible. I’ve had this feeling before.

The day after that I got brave enough to let Boo off the lead. She’d been with me for three weeks. She knows me, loves me, runs to me for protection. It was time to try letting her off.

That was the day that real life Black Dog joined us for walk and I found myself calling out to Boo and naming Black Dog Black Dog. That’s when I noticed my Black Dog was gone.

Three weeks of walking with Boo, of listening to podcasts about ideas and philosophy, writing and digital marketing, and here I am, sleeping through the night, feeling positive, remembering that summer will come back.

the key to overcoming depression

It’s been a long dark winter but hope is on the way.

Possibility is in my heart and my head. And as always I say thank you for this blessed life.

One last thing – I don’t even like dogs, I’ve never wanted one. So how come all the dogs on the beach are now walking with us? Coming up to me with wet noses and wagging tails? Making my heart laugh?

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8 Replies to “Walking With Black Dog”

  1. How utterly beautiful Janie. So many of us are tagged by the Black Dog at some stage in our lives. Sometimes it stays forever, sometimes it comes and goes and sometimes it comes once and then leaves never to return. Never to return and yet never forgotten. And yet, so often, we feel as if we are alone with this Black Dog…. when, in reality, so many walk this path with us. Thank You for bringing it out into the open. Namaste, Mai.

    1. I love this Mai, the idea that we are all walking with our Black Dogs. I think I’m going to work this idea up into a story. I am hearing from people who have Black Dogs that I never realised had them. We should take all our dogs out for a play on the beach and let them be heard 🙂

  2. This is so uplifting. I have been feeling guilty for feeling low but the Pandemic and the state of the world is working on my subconscious! Sleep is difficult. Your walking the dog is a lovely story. Keep walking!

    1. Hi Mary, Thank you for your lovely words. It’s nice to know I’m not on my own with these feelings.
      I think if you feel guilty about having a Black Dog the guilt feeds the dog but it’s not easy to not feel guilty!
      Writing definitely helps me to make sense of how I feel – and walking also helps me get my head back up. I hope you can find some relief too because I think I understand how you feel. When worries work around my unconscious and keep me from sleep it’s really horrible.
      I’m glad I’m not seeing many posts about ‘living your best self’ or ‘what I learnt in lockdown’ anymore! These things feel like they’re designed to feed my guilt. The reality is that we are all going through a very scary time. We can get through it, but that doesn’t stop us feeling sad about it.
      We are all messy, sensitive, vulnerable humans and that’s ok.
      J xx

  3. Lovely writing Janie as always and so many people will connect with your words as its a rare person who doesnt feel the nip of the black dog as they go through life especially in these uncertain times.
    Keem them coming x
    Claire

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