I Had A Black Dog

I Had A Black Dog

Actually, that's really wrong… because right now I have a black dog and he's become my constant companion. You'll be surprised to read that though I'm not entirely sure where he came from or when he arrived.

You'd think that the arrival of a black dog into my life would be something  I'd have noticed right? The stray bits of fur, the upset cats, the happy kids, the barking and the insatiable appetite... except there was no conscious decision to head out and get him. He just arrived unannounced… and oh, he's pretty much in my head.

Which I guess I'd better explain.

The "black dog" is an expression that's often used to describe suffering from depression. The most well known appearance of this term began with former British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, who wrote often in his personal letters and diaries about his personal struggle with depression throughout his life and referring it to as 'the black dog'.

For me, I was diagnosed suffering from clinical depression at the tail end of 2014, during a time when I found myself in crisis.

I'd lost myself … even now, months on I can't find the words to describe what I was experiencing at the time. The diagnosis did not make anything clearer for me, however it put me in touch with people who are there to help and start me on the path to accepting I was actually unwell and it could be treated.

Since then my life has become challenging as I integrate the presence of my black dog (and at times, rail against it).  I've had to become more aware of how I feel and react to what's going on around me, to speak up when I'm finding it overwhelming and accept that I've got to make changes in my life.

One of the hardest changes I've had to address to date is that the effort of sustaining my life before I was diagnosed, has drained me, that I'm not as physically, mentally or emotionally capable as I once was, so things have had to go through some changes. I had to reduce my availability for work back and then slowly ease myself back. Much as been the same for appetite, sleep and exercise.  Also I've found that I've gone from being emotionally disconnected to experiencing things in a raw way.

As a result some things have been set aside for a while and one of them has been writing, another has been riding. It was extremely hard for me knowing in March 2015, Rotorua was hosting Crankworx. I'd planned out my week, organised accommodation, media accreditation and everything I needed. Then reality kicked in for me, I'm unwell, and I was not going to be capable of doing what I planned, which also left me feeling that I was failing in one of the things I'm very passionate about in my life… so I stopped publishing, I stopped riding… I just stopped.

Right now I'm working on  figuring out what my diagnosis means to me, my family and my friends… however I'm starting to come to understand that I need to do the things in life that make me happy… just bring me joy for the sake of them. I got a reminder of this on Monday morning when I went riding with my son Olle, his 10 year old enthusiasm for just riding along as fast as he could go was infectious… so much so that here I am, back publishing.

Links: Black Dog Institute

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