Black Dog Days Will Pass

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 do.

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…

My mentor, Pain.

We are human.

This means that we are fragile. We are susceptible to pain. We hurt, we bleed, we break. Sometimes we have the scars to prove it, sometimes the wounds are invisible.

I will repeat this: We are human.

This means that we are imperfect at times. We make mistakes, we act out, we give in, we give up, we hurt, we kill, we destroy.

We are human.

This means that for every tear we’ve caused, we’re capable of getting a smile. Whatever we destroy, we’re able to build it back. We can give back, we can create life, we can start over…

So what is it? Why do we have to suffer? Is it because of our faults? How many of you believe that suffering is a punishment?

To my astonishment, I am here to share something with you I have learned not too long ago. You ready?

Pain is your teacher.

That’s right. You’re not trippin. You heard me right.

Pain is a mentor, a guide, an eye-opener, a perspective, a life changer.

To suffer is to live. It’s a part of life. Name me one person you know that has never felt pain… I’ll give you some time, in the meanwhile I’ll be watching an episode of Modern Family…

…Still nothing?

That’s because they don’t exist!

It’s like the “normal” person I’ve been talking about. I’m still waiting on someone to bring me back one of these.

So, recently, in the midst of experiencing some truly tragic events, I found myself at a devastating low.

There I was, unraveling in the hurt, the pain, the agony, the regret, the guilt, the fear, the gut wrenching feeling of having lost something that meant the world to me.

48 hours later, you know what I realized?

It was just not meant to be.

There are no mistakes. If you feel like you’ve outgrown someone, it’s for a reason!

We don’t need to hold on to something just because it’s what we know.

Anyway, I’m deviating. Back on topic, Pain.

I’d like to share some wisdom I’ve acquired from watching an Anime series called Naruto (we can make fun of me for that later)

Naruto Shippuuden Quotes10

You remember the infamous quote:

“Everyone wants happiness,
No one wants pain,
But you can’t have a rainbow,
Without a little rain”

So if you would please indulge me, I’d like to do a litter experiment with you, awesome reader =]

1. I want you to think about one of your happiest moments. The first one that comes to mind! Don’t over think it.
2. What is it? Ok, don’t tell me…
3. I want you to remember everything about it. I want you to visualize it, feel it, smell it, breathe it. Say it out loud.
4. How does it make you feel?
5. Did you smile? Did you heart swell up with joy? Did you exhale a tremendous sigh?

My memory: I closed my eyes and remembered the time I was on a plane. It was a trip I was taking to an unknown city. I was letting go of the world I knew in pursuit of my dreams. I finally made it. I was finally doing it. It was a proud, exciting and perfectly joyous occasion for me 30,000 feet above sea level.

Now… let’s do the same thing with a negative memory.

My memory: I remember when my grandmother died. I was 10. I remembered not being able to assimilate it for days. I was convinced she was still there, alive somehow, because I could feel her with me. And it hurt me more than anything that no one else could see her.

So… what was the experience like for you?

Now… this might sound crazy…
But just bear with me here.

Try and imagine a world where the negative memory never happened. Where you were never hurt. Ever! Nothing bad has ever happened to you. You have no idea what that is…
Now think back on your happy memory. Does it still feel the same to you?

In my case, it really doesn’t. Because the joy I felt came from achieving something. It came from my struggle to get to that place. It was so hard for me. I had many battles to fight to get there. I had proved many people wrong to be sitting there. Against all odds, I made it. That is why it was such a special moment for me. If I didn’t have to deal with any of that, I would’ve probably taken it for granted. Wow. Come to think of it, I’d probably be a bratty adult too and this blog wouldn’t exist 🙂

I have a confession to make: I can say without a doubt that I am the person I am today thanks to all the “stuff” that I’ve been through. My experiences made me. Every wound, every mistake, every regret, every tear, every sweat, every doubt, every breakdown… has brought me closer to myself.

It is that pain, that hardship, those times we fall right down to our knees, those scars and cuts and bruises that make us. They break us down, yes but they also help build us up.


Do not let the fear of pain conquer your desire for life, for adventure, for spontaneity, for love. In fact, let it guide you.

When confronted with an abyss, just leap forward. Just jump. You’ll have plenty of time to think about it during the fall. Just kidding 🙂
There are no mistakes in life. Just experiences.

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.

Beautiful people do not just happen.”
– Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

So go forth you beautiful human being and just be! You honestly never know how amazing something could turn out to be. So just leap!

PS: The song doesn’t have much to do with my post, I was just listening to it while writing. It’s one of my fav tracks. Sia has an amazing voice. You can check out more of her stuff here.