Black Dog Days – A guest post by Claire Smith

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I’m honoured to be hosting this guest post by @ministryofmum- I won’t harp on too much as I don’t want my words to detract from what follows, which is a sublime piece of writing.

Black Dog Days by Claire Smith

Two years ago I got better. I’m strong. I’m exercising. I’ve been gentle on myself. I’ve made sure that I’m surrounded by good, positive friends. Heck, I’ve even cut down on crisps. I figured that an unhealthy mind needs a healthy body to support it and it’s been working. For a while.

So you can imagine my surprise when he came back, pawing at the door. I thought my defence was well-built against his ability to sniff out weakness. His sharp teeth would surely not find anything to feed on with me. Yet here he is licking my face, searching for a treat, wanting me to take him for a walk.

Black Dog doesn’t have a preference when it comes to owners. He just likes to spring up when least expected and surprise you with a wag of his tail. No matter how much you hide his lead, he will always find it and present it to you again and again until you acknowledge him. He’s relentless, he’s persistent and he’s determined. Literally, a dog with a bone.

It took me three days this time to let him in and pat his head. Three days, because I recognised him straight away and tried not to open the door. For three days I did everything I could to shut him out. It was frustrating and upsetting because he’d come from nowhere, like the whining, unwelcome visitor that he is. And he wasn’t going away.

I thought by ignoring him, not thinking his name and refusing him food that he would get bored and go elsewhere. But no, he’s too faithful for that. Black Dog recognises a friend in me and he wants to play.

This time, however, I was prepared. No matter what a shock his appearance was, I think deep down I always knew that he’d be back. I’m a good playmate, you see. Yet when I eventually got round to talking about him, it was a release. By calling his name, I was acknowledging that he is not a part of me, he is an outside creature that just likes to visit. I am not him and I’m certainly not going to let a beast define who I am.

I’ve been taking the necessary steps to train him. When he barks that I’m worthless, I’m a failure, that my life is small, that I’m not relevant – instead of feeding him, I’ve been understanding that it’s just noise, that his yapping is simply yapping and it’s not to be rewarded.

When he’s been tugging at my clothes, holding me back, I’ve been trying to make him sit and stay. It’s exhausting because he is so robust – but I’ve managed to tie him up whilst I’ve gone to do something to help me.

His vigorous bouncing and jumping has been pulling me down but by speaking to an expert, I’ve learnt some training techniques that hopefully will calm him and teach him to behave.

Black Dog is not going to chew up my life this time. I’m going to chase this mutt off before he buries me again. It’s not much fun for him when there’s another fighter in the pack, getting stronger by the day, hell-bent on being in control of their own mind.

He’ll put up a good fight I’m sure, but eventually he’ll slink away. I’ll get better and Black Dog will realise that, once again, there’s a new Alpha in charge.

The mongrel will be made to heel.

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9 responses to “Black Dog Days – A guest post by Claire Smith

  1. Great post. I’ve been trying to help a friend recently suffering the same thing. She has started walking daily with me when I take the dogs. ‘Black dog’ is only dominant if you allow it. Interesting that I put it in a ‘pack dog’ sense to her only last month as though my thoughts were read.

  2. ah yes, that old mutt. He is a bugger and he doesn’t know when to shut up. I am medicating mine until he understands I’m in charge. It’s been close to 18 months and I’m determined to be the Alpha. You are fabulous, you are strong, you are The Alpha. xx

  3. Thank you for sharing Claire. As someone who has lived with a partner suffering from depression I cannot imagine how it must feel to suffer from this illness, I could only look on feeling quite helpless at times. He has written about it himself and talks about there being many types of black dog including the yappy one you mention above.
    I take issue with a commenter above saying the black dog is only dominant if you allow it. That’s like saying that someone has control over their physiological functions. You wouldn’t say to a sufferer of an overtly physical illness to try a bit harder would you? This kind of comment just shows how little depression and mental health is understood. There were times I could see my husband having an internal battle with the dark thoughts telling him he was no good but the commenter above is basically implying that he’s weak for not fighting it harder. Also there is nothing wrong with medication, medication is not a failure. Depression is a physiological condition that manifests itself psychologically. Unfortunately there is such a stigma with this illness that misconceptions continue to be perpetuated and while that happens people will continue not to seek help. It is only with people like you Claire speaking out that hopefully others will recognise themselves and seek the help they need. Sorry for venting in your comments section. Very best wishes xx

  4. Great post. The black dog is a soul-sapping, smothering f.ecker and it takes so much energy to keep that door shut, let alone kick that mangy butt when you’ve left the flipping dog flap open. And yes there is such a thing as a dog flap, because I have one. And that is also no euphemism.

    Best of luck, Claire.

  5. Wonderful insightful post that eloquently paints a picture of what living with the unpredictable nature of depression is like. Look forward to reading more posts 🙂

  6. Pingback: ‘Childhood Memories’ | Ideas4Dads·

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