My Black Dog

Illustration by author and illustrator Matthew Johnstone

I wake up, only having had a few hours sleep, which is not enough. There is a black dog sitting silently on me so I can’t go back to sleep. It starts barking loudly and won’t shut up. The only way to shut it up is to get up, get dressed and go out. Once I am out, I have no idea where to go but the dog drags me around. The dog’s running so fast that I’m running around and I always appear to be busy. Once I manage go somewhere that I need to go, the dog is barking so loudly that I can’t concentrate. If it isn’t barking- It’s uncomfortably sitting on my lap. It rarely leaves. When it does give me some time alone, the peace is short lived and it’s usually only when it’s already too late to complete the work that I need to do. I end up rushing my work just to get it done. When the dog is tired, dragging it on the lead is just as hard as running around with it. Rather than being rushed around by the dog, I’m being slowed down.

Once I get home, I just want to go straight to sleep. Sadly, it won’t let me sleep. Sometimes, especially on a bad night, it’s sitting on my face, barking loudly. It’s daunting and can be distressing. Sometimes it can dry my eyes so I don’t cry. Other times, it spits in my eyes so I end up crying over nothing. On the days that I can’t sleep, the barking won’t stop. I finally manage to sleep but due to the loud barks throughout the night, I am still tired when I wake up the next day. This would happen every day. Some days it’s worse than others, but it’s always there. 

If I’m at a very interesting event, out with friends or doing some interesting work, the dog can go to sleep, but it doesn’t always. Although the dog is asleep, it’s presence is still dually noted. When it does sleep, it’s only temporary. Things like alcohol make the dog run a mile. Whilst it still shows it’s ugly head once or twice throughout the night, it’s easily ignored. On some occasions though, alcohol can make it bigger and louder. When it does disappear, you know it’ll return. You also know that drinking long term isn’t the solution you’re looking for; but what is? 

*I am aware that some people feel we should move away from the ‘black dog’ metaphor, for reasons explained in my blog post (click here to read it). I personally use the black dog as I feel it best describes my experiences with depression, but I would appreciate hearing other people’s opinions on this subject. 

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