Thursday, October 20, 2011

Black Dog

If you are going through hell, keep going.
~Winston Churchill
Churchill knew about Bipolar Disorder firsthand.  He was stalked by this own black dog; just as is my father, just as I am.

The dog hungers for anxiety. It lives on fear and self-deprecation. It has a nose for the tragic.

Medications can chain the dog. They make him invisible. They make me wonder if there ever was a black dog in the shadows of my mind, in the darkness at my door.

But the dog is real, and when that barghest fixes you with his baleful stare the color drains out of your world and you remember all of the pain that can be laid at your doorstep.  You are accountable, and the dog is judge, jury, and executioner.

Carry your guilt and the dog will grow teeth to gnash at your soul. If you have worries, fears, the dog will sneak in on padded feet and poison your thoughts.

You must fight the dog.

You cannot take it out back and shoot it. No. That rage only feeds the beast. You cannot abandon it at a shelter, no matter how many times you might check yourself in, or attempt to check out.

The dog will find you where you live. It will roam around you, just out of sight, yet you will sense the terrible weight of its great shaggy bulk slowly smothering you.

You will hear it howling in the darkness. Sometimes you might spot its heavy paw prints in the dirty places of your mind. Do not follow its tracks. The dog is crafty and will try to lead you off of the path of recovery.

Kill the dog with sunlight, with joyful songs, and silly films, and warm hugs from loved ones. Kill the dog with kindness. Forgive yourself. Be gentle with yourself. The dog will slowly starve.

Let go. Forgive. Reject guilt.

Kill the dog.

You can read more about Churchill's own Black Dog, here.


  1. This reminds me of an old Cherokee story:

    One night an elder teaching his grandson about life told him about a struggle that goes on inside of people. He said, "Son there is a battle between two wolves inside us all."

    "One is dark - he is shadow, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego."

    He continued, "The other is light - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith."

    The grandson reflected on this for a long moment and then asked, "Which wolf will win Grandfather?"

    The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

    Open your heart Nat, all is full of love. I wish you the best of it.

  2. That was beautifully put, my sister. I understand, to the extent that anyone can ever truly know another's heart, though I fear your battle has been much fiercer than my own. Love and strength to you.

  3. Well I am going to try this again, hopefully it allows me to post this time. There is a story I know of where there is what is called the "Shunka", black dog. The black dog is used in stories to tell that there is no "end". There is an old lady who lives in a cave someplace secret and she sits by a fire weaving. Next to her is a Shunka, when the old lady stands to stoke the fires the black dog pulls a little of the weaving out and as long as the old lady stokes the fire and that black pulls the weaving. The world will not end.
    I have always felt that the metaphor for this story is multi-faceted. In your case I feel that whenever your black dog presents itself it is your subconscious telling you that your reality is becoming too much to bear. I know that you love being a librarian but I know that you also desire to withdraw from society and people. Like the old lady in the cave. I too have to push myself to get out there. I used to suffer from horrible panic attacks whenever I would go out in public but after I went through my awakening I no longer experience them. I am wondering if your moments of mania are moments of awakening that you are facing or running from? I know that most people that are bi-polar are very spiritual as you are and have extreme awareness. Maybe being around the public is contributing to your times of mania.
    In shamanism, the medicine people also had moments of psychotic explosions and they were respected for them. I see them as being a type of healing instead of something that inhibits or represses. Like everything else our society says that these types of behaviors are not "normal" but in Indigenous cultures and with Shamanism without them are we truly able to help others with the same issues. I would have to say honestly to help the majority of society we must all be a little crazy. Of course, you know I mean nothing by that.
    I have always felt drawn to you since we first met and I have always no matter what tried to stay in an ear shot from you. I know that you can overcome this and hopefully be able to use these lessons to assist others in their journeys. When we travel the spiritual world to help the lost souls we must always have our black dogs with us as our guides who else will bite us when we have gotten too far above the clouds.

    In her service...Love you!