The Black Dog

I’ve posted about anxiety and poor mental health a million times. I’ve watched it almost swallow up my mum, my sister and many of my friends. Sadly, I’ve even lost friends to this vicious disease that can rob you of your very joy. However, I’m back again, just for a moment.

Since stress almost killed me, I’ve learned more about it’s causes and cures than most professionals. I’ve used yoga, diet and found myself knee deep in some fabulous books, which in turn have given me some wonderful tools but right now “it” seems to be back.

“It” is called many things but my boss James calls “it” the black dog. It follows you around wherever you go and sometimes you can shake it off, lock it in a cadge and yet sometimes “it” finds you. Following you about and causing you to always look over your shoulder, wondering if it’s going to pounce. For me, there is no permanent cure but what I know for sure is there are ways to manage it.

But before we look at the cure let’s examine the cause shall we? The answer for me is that there is none. My life is pretty wonderful, I’ve a wonderful partner that I’ve waited all my life for, amazing children and the best friends and family on Gods green earth. However I also have stresses, I’m setting up a new business and changing my work life up, I’ve two kids with very specific needs, a mammy who is also a poor wee precious and just like everyone else I have strains which aren’t for sharing on the social media, but none the less they matter to me.

Everyone has a story like this, and sometimes when you share it people will say “ahh but it could be worse” and they’re quite right it could be; but now instead of feeling fear and worry, add to that the concrete weight of guilt that you don’t “deserve” to be anxious, because yes there is someone worse off than you. How wrong this is, it doesn’t matter if your worried because your cat is sick or because you’re on the verge of losing your home or job; your worries are yours. They matter to YOU.

It’s a funny thing is anxiety, in my “learnings” I’ve discovered Endogenous Depression”. Which really means low mood, feeling sad and down, mostly due to outside stressors. One of the symptoms is feeling absolutely fine as the day goes on, in fact feeling wonderful by the evening, but by the morning feeling like facing the world is just as tough as an Everest hike.

Who has had the following:

Wanting to wake up and have a great day but instead felt like your stomach is in a vice and “daytime” brings too much fear?

Who has wanted to just stay in bed cosy rather than take on the world?

Who has cried just because they’re not “good enough”?

Who has thought that life is scary?

You? Me too!

Don’t worry it’s happened to so many people and stop worrying that you you’re an ungrateful madam because you’ve “two nice holidays booked and a new car on the way”. Never let anyone tell you how to feel, your worries are relevant. My mum once said that if someone breaks their leg no one tells them “oh stop moaning, you have another one”. They are simply saddened by the pain of the break. She also said that no one ever says “why have you broken your leg? You’ve a lovely family, nice car and plenty of money?” They, again, simply feel empathy for the pain. She is wise is my mum.

So is it all doom and gloom? No. Is it all sadness and no understanding? No. There is much you can do. I’m not a psychologist, I’m just a girl who’s tried a lot. I’ve shared before what works for me, walking, talking, reading and routine. However, I’m really fortunate to have some friends who totally get this and who I can text or call in a heartbeat. They tell me to breath, they make me laugh, then send me super encouraging DMs and they just let me be until it passes.

Maybe you’ve never encountered the Black Dog and this all seems very dramatic; or maybe you’ve never suffered from it all but still want to support someone you love. I read once, in one of my MANY books that sometimes all we can do is just “be”. Sometimes all we can say is “I’m sorry you’re sad and I can’t fix this, but I’ll walk beside you”. When I used to encounter poor mental health in those close to me, I would take it personally, what had I done to make them so sad? The stark reality is that this isn’t about you, you didn’t break the leg nor did you cause the mind to shatter. Just be while they gather themselves back together. Sit in silence. Walk beside them. Make tea.

One of my favourite quotes in the world is from the movie The Help and the maid tells the little girl every day “You is Kind. You is smart. You is important”. You are!! YOU are someone’s friend, YOU are someone’s reason to smile. YOU are someone’s mum. YOU are someone’s shoulder to cry on. YOU are the only person like you and you are important.

My boss is currently working on an issue which absolutely splits the west of Scotland. He has spoken out against, domestic abuse, mental health discrimination and much more; but now he is pouring himself into tackling sectarianism and I can see his own mental health suffer. He is giving so much of himself to what he believes that while his heart is open to change, it is also open to hurt. I dedicate this blog to him, a man who has never been shy about discussing his own poor mental health but who also gives me the opportunity to heal when I’m struggling with mine.

So if you’ve reached the end of my musings, I hope you have a wonderful day. I hope the knot in your tummy has slackened and I hope you are able to look in the mirror and say I am important. If you are worrying about a loved one, just be, find patience and love them like the sun rises and sets on them. What fixes me the most is feeling so loved, but more so finding a way to so love myself.

“I think the saddest people always try to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that” – Robin Williams

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