According to the World Health Organisation, more than 300 million people, or four percent of the global population, were living with depression in 2015. It is increasing worldwide.
Mental health awareness is a topic very close to my heart, and is one of the five dimensions of health I've been devoted to studying. Famously, Winston Churchill referred to his depression as “the black dog.” For being an image so closely associated with the former Prime Minister, it is surprising that the image of “the black dog” goes back centuries. The black dog joined me when I was a teenager after my Daddy passed away.
Where has my vitality gone? Why are the colours of my life snapped away in an instant? How did this 'numbness' come over me? What can I do about these feelings of flatness, clutter and mind fog?
These questions and my GP both confirmed that the black dog is lurking in the dark shadows after seemingly being absent for a long time. It's a tricky and frustrating one for me, because I already know and teach the tools when it comes to health. The reality is our life involves pain and suffering, and sooner or later we’ll come face to face with sickness, crises, death, broken relationships, rejection, disappointment and failure. And the elusive feeling of pleasure will disappear. However, it’s possible in these moments we are still able to live a rich, full and meaningful life.
Being followed by a black dog
Dealing with depression requires action, but taking action when you’re depressed can be hard. Sometimes, just thinking about the things you should do to feel better, like exercising or socializing can be exhausting.
Though the focus of my life in recent years have been learning about mindfulness, it's still easy for me to just go into default mode and autopilot. Sometimes I forget and from that place I push away that which is unpleasant and try to avoid pain.
Thanks to the Mindfulness Master John Shearer, I was reminded that the black dog is always there. All I need to do is to be mindful, pause and connect. And treat the black dog like an old friend. I will take notice and refocus on our values.
I realised that owning my story can be challenging but not nearly as hard as spending my life running from mental health issues. I love what Brene Brown said, "embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
For those of you who have experienced the black dog what helps you to get through it?