Black Dog Day, Afternoon… And Evening

There are numerous metaphors used to describe living with depression. They include descriptions of living in a void, experiencing hollowness, feelings of an explosion or fire in the head, as well as others surrounding self harm or death.

As I’ve written before, I have a friend with depression who I recently tried to engage in a discussion on what it’s like during his darker times.

Initially he told me to mind my own business. However, after I gave him £2.53 in copper and promised not to mention the ‘horse incident’ again he relented.

When he did open up, my friend described his life as a double edged sword. He told of a mind constantly making sorties down various avenues, returning with innovative ideas, as well as reminders like he needs to pay his gas bill.

Unfortunately, that same prolifically creative mind has a propensity to also wreak negative chaos which ultimately drags him down, filling him full of self loathing and doubt.

To try increase my understanding, I asked how he would metaphorically describe living with this illness. He responded by saying that the ‘black rod’ comparison utilised by a sector of fellow sufferers was the most accurate metaphor he’d come across.

black dog

“Do you not mean ‘black dog’?!” I questioned rhetorically. Before adding “I think ‘black rod’ is the guy who rigidly knocks on the door with a pole during the annual State Opening of Parliament!”

“No I mean ‘black rod’!” he replied firmly. “It feels like my head is being banged relentlessly with a pole, by a guy dressed in black!” he explained.

I conveyed to my friend, who wishes to remain anonymous, “That sounds a real pain in the ass, Frank Artichokes of 123 Horseguards Crescent, Thacklethwaite!”

Admittedly, It wasn’t the most insightful thing I’d ever said, but what do you say to people with depression?

I did ask him was there anything constructive I could do to help him, to which he responded “Yes, you could build me a patio!”

My limited understanding of the illness advocates that you provide a listening ear, a caring demeanour, support and re-assure them they aren’t alone, DON’T say “Snap out of it!” and ensure they take their medication.

I suppose I should also add DON’T say “That sounds a real pain in the ass, Frank Artichokes of 123 Horseguards Crescent, Thacklethwaite”, as it isn’t helpful and you’ll blow his anonymity……. Although it appears I already may have!

They are easily achievable actions for the carer that, I’m told, can make a huge difference in banishing ‘black rod’…… For the short term at least.

I found the chat with my friend enlightening, which heart-warmingly appeared to lift him. I feel that I’ve learned and hopefully grown from our conversation.

One thing for sure is I’ll never watch the State Opening of Parliament again without thinking about Frank Artichokes of 123 Horseguards Crescent, Thacklethwaite!

Actually coming to think of it, I never watch State Opening of Parliament anyway as it’s boring as heck. Strike that from the record!

Anyway, I must dash, Frank Artichokes’ (of 123 Horseguards Crescent, Thacklethwaite) patio won’t build itself!

black dog 1

** ‘Black rod’ was of course fictional. The ‘black dog’ depression awareness campaign, however, is very real. The text below giving a brief explanation of ‘black dog’ is taken from the website – http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au :-

‘Black dog’ is a powerfully expressive metaphor that appears to require no explanation. The combination of ‘blackness’ with the negative connotations of ‘dog’, noun and verb, seems an eminently apt description depression an ever-present companion, lurking in the shadows just out of sight, growling, vaguely menacing, always on the alert; sinister and unpredictable, capable of overwhelming you at any moment, the ‘dark hound’ is an archetypal object of fear in folklore and myth.

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