In collaboration with WHO to mark World Mental Health Day, writer and illustrator Matthew Johnstone tells the story of overcoming the “black dog of depression”.
How many of you have seen The Black Dog?
How many of you had kept it as a pet in your own home?
How many of you still take a walk with it everyday?
I’ve struggled with the black dog my entire life.
As a child, I wasn’t the most “ordinary” girl. The other girls wanted to play with Barbie dolls and go shopping, I wanted to climb trees and go exploring. The things that made me happiest or made me feel accomplished (attempting to climb a tree and actually reaching the top) were of no value to my parents. In fact, they would yell and be disappointed at my lack of lady-like mannerisms. That’s when the puppy appeared.
As a pre-teen, I was overweight. Acne and extra belly fat is a bad combination at any age… But at 10 it’s all too horrific. The puppy grew a little more.
As an adolescent, my everyday routine could be condensed into one word: Struggling.
I was at that age where I was able to assimilate all my thoughts and emotions, I was able to give them words and meanings. I was so tortured now that I think of it. I would bathe myself in hurt everyday. Everything would weigh me down. Not living up to expectations, not being pretty, not being smart enough, not being creative, gutsy, not knowing what I wanted to do, not taking risks. I missed out on a lot of my life because of fear. And then I hated myself for it. Plus, I was dealing with some serious self-denial about my sexuality. Plus, I had developed an eating disorder. To say the least, I was pretty suicidal in college.
That is why it humbles me down to my bones everyday to remember where I came from and to know that I’ve gotten to a beautiful place I like to call “This”. My present. My moment. To remember my limiting beliefs, my lack of self confidence, of self esteem, of emotion. You can read my “Confession” in my previous post Pain, My Mentor to know what I’m talking about. I’ve had to overcome a series of painful events in order to break free. But I’ve learned that’s how life works, isn’t it? The harder we fall, the higher we fly.
Today, however, one of my long standing monsters is “Discipline”. Self-control has never been my forte. That’s why I can never stick to a schedule or a diet or a routine. That’s why I’ve been scrambling to find the time to meditate for weeks, that’s why I’ve been begging myself to sit down and write during the night because… I have no order. I have no discipline. I know what my problem is and what I need to do in order to improve on it… but some days I fall short. Very short. Luckily, I’ve learned the art of forgiving oneself so it keeps me afloat and I know that each day is a day for me to try again.
I’m nowhere near perfect, but I’m a person that gets up and tries everyday to be better and that is good enough for me.
I know a lot of people are out there right now struggling. It hurts me to know that some are battling with no light at the end of the tunnel. I wish I could tell me that dark days don’t last forever, that the sun always shines. I wish I could tell them that they’re innocent and they’ve done no wrong, that it’s ok to just be down at times. I wish I could shine some light into their lives.
Please share this if you or someone you know is suffering from depression. Help shine the light and know for a fact that sadness doesn’t last. Before you know it…