Bringing ‘the black dog’ to meet my ten year old Labrador was a last resort, but the right call, as it turns out. My Labrador is possessive, he does not like to share my attention, and he is doing his very best to chase away the black dog that has been chasing away everything I wanted to hold onto. I spent a long time hiding the black dog – after all, there is a ‘no pets’ policy inside my mind and I didn’t want to upset the landlord (the person I’m trying to be). I’m not sure who let the thing in. I’m not sure how to get the thing to leave. For some reason, turning my emotional state into a cute furry analogy (which admittedly is not my own creation) makes it easier for me to talk about it, and easier for you to hear, I guess. We live in a weird world.
For various reasons (physical health, multiple near death experiences, being pushed to take a year out of university, family issues, my complete inability to confide in anyone who isn’t my dog or either of my uni parents… On top of the stress of leaving home, assignments, normal uni life… You get the picture.) the last last few months have been like being on an emotional trampoline – immense highs followed by low moments, hope followed by hopelessness… but I always put my faith in the springs, pushed off, and jumped again. Sometimes multiple times a day. It has been exhausting. But I miss it. I miss the ability to pick myself up and start again, to bounce back in the face of difficulty and eventually find positives in every situation. No matter how difficult life got, or how unwell I became, at least I have a life. I know people who are no longer that lucky.
I don’t know if the trampoline broke or if I did. One day I tried to jump and all that trampoline did was hold me off of the ground. I pushed off with my legs again and again but my feet would not leave that trampoline. And then, under the weight of the issues I was facing, the springs broke. And I found myself laying on the concrete below. There was nobody there to catch me, but there was a voice telling me to tough it out, that sensible would see me through. There were words on a phone screen but a complete inability (on my part) to write any back. The black dog ran over then, he put his paws on my shoulders and he laid down on my chest, crushing me under his weight so that I could hardly breathe, let alone get up. And I smiled at the people that walked past and told them I was fine. That was enough for them to keep moving. I tried to ask for help, but the black dog didn’t look threatening to anyone else. Uni parent told me to tough it out, that I’d been tough enough to get through everything the last few months have thrown at me… But the black dog put his teeth to my throat then.
I realised I had no hope left to feed it, no strength left to fight it, and that nobody else was going to help me tame it. I realised its heartbeat was my heartbeat. The only way to kill it was… (Think ending of the film Fight Club). I got drunk so that it was too drunk to clamp its jaws shut around my jugular. I accepted that it was just me and it. Inside I knew it would get better; I knew that once I’d let the immediate slap of the current health/ general life situation stop stinging and processed everything, I’d find the strength… maybe not to free myself from the black dog, but at least to figure out how to carry him.
But when I woke up at 8am this morning and walked my Labrador in the early morning sun, we left the black dog at the front door. I forgot about my health, I forgot about how difficult it is making each day at the moment, and I forgot how far behind I am with my studies. Physically I felt awful but the fresh air and birdsong overrode my brains attempts to acknowledge the health situation. For 45 minutes my dog (the real one, not the black one that is a metaphor for my current emotional state) and I were in a bubble. The trees in the woods blocked out the rest of the world. Walking another of the routes we used to run together brought back fond memories of the days when running made everything feel ok in a way that nothing currently can.
I have never been so happy to have mud all over my trousers, to almost be dragged after hissing cats, to watch the water vapour rising from the ground like the whole world is on fire. I have missed the smell of fresh air – not London air thick with pollutants and engine noise, Kentish air, crisp and refreshing and full of birdsong. I didn’t want to go back to the house, I didn’t want to ever leave the shelter of the trees. I knew reality would hit, and I knew the black dog would run to meet me when I opened the front door.
I showered and ate and cuddled my dog and tried to study, and then left again. I bought some stuff for next door’s puppy, and some toys for my own dog, to thank them both for their awesomeness… And after vacuuming the entire downstairs of our house, I spent two hours cuddling a very sleepy puppy, saving it from my little brother (who in the brief time he was there managed to almost drop the puppy at least six times) and talking with my next door neighbour (who happens to want pet ducks almost as much as I do).
Having overestimated my body again, I eventually surrendered, returned to my parents’ house, curled up on the sofa, and slept. My body was equally as annoyed when I woke up. And my dog was equally as determined to banish the metaphorical black dog that has opportunistically moved in.
There, I did it. I let it off it’s leash.
(I want to delete this post. A lot.)