The Black Dog… scenes from my mental health story

Badgyal-Jazz-Labrador-Dachshund-Tsansai-VSCO cam
Madame Jazzmine Longbottom — my photogenic Labrador/Dachschund child.

Scene one

A few months ago I adopted a lovely little dog from the JSPCA. I remember the day clearly… it was a hot, dry Saturday, a day like many others when I didn’t even want to get out of bed, let alone leave the house. My boyfriend urged me, as he is sometimes wont to do, to get up and get outside since he absolutely needed my company while he went errand running. (Say what now?) Being the fucking ray of sunshine I can often be, I snapped at him and told him I had absolutely no plans to leave my room at all, let alone to actually get dressed and go somewhere but he just wouldn’t leave it alone. He reminded me that we were supposed to go find a pet to keep me company and so, testy as I was, I eventually decided to get ready. I didn’t know much about what I wanted, it could have been a cat (I’m more of a cat lady) or a dog, but I knew that if it were to be the latter, I wanted it to be black one. I made that decision for two reasons, the first one being an article I read explaining that black dogs were often deemed more threatening and as a result are usually the last to be adopted… if at all. The second was that ‘the black dog’ is a euphemism for depression, and seeing as getting a dog was suggested as a means of me coping with my own battle, I decided why not get a black one?  That was Saturday, July 26, 2014… I’ll get back to this later.

Scene two

Now it’s four days before my birthday, September 5… and I am in the doldrums. I am pretty certain I don’t want to be around for my 28th birthday because, what have I to celebrate, really? My whole life is just a huge bag of nothing and no matter what anyone was saying to me around that time, it just was not penetrating. I certain death was the answer. I made my plans, got someone to shut down all my social media accounts, withdrew all my money from the bank and arranged for my best friend to take my dog. The only thing bothering me was the ‘embarrassment’ my family would face and how unfair it would be to my boyfriend who tries really hard to keep me from going there so I said okay, focus on getting through the next four days and try figuring out the rest later. I go on Instagram and realise that Simone Battle died… oh no, I love her, she’s awesome… so much potential… wth?

It was just the jolt I needed for the next day, but after that I was right back to square one I had my ‘tools’ around me, ready to get it over with when the phone rang. It was my mum, she said she needed to hear my voice, drats, we chatted a little bit while I convinced her that everything was great and I’m excited about my upcoming birthday. The thing about depression is it makes you an actor, a make-up artist and a comedian. How else can you convince the world that you’re okay? Before I could react to her call, my longtime friend calls, a photographer. He’s one I have a soul connection with, we don’t connect every often but when we do it’s like I saw him just yesterday, and he always seems to call when something’s wrong. He says he’s in the area and something told him to stop by. I say now is not a good time, he says too late, I’m at the gate anyway. I say great. Hide the concoction, and go around there. I try to look jovial as fuck, he buys it ZERO and insists that he is going to cancel his plans and spend the night ‘catching up’. Clearly the universe is not about to work with the plan. I asked him why, he insists that something is telling him not to leave, why don’t we talk about what I’ve been doing all day. Great! That is exactly what I DON’T want to discuss. I eventually get into it and he says, ‘Well, I’m sleeping at your door tonight, just in case.’  I know how stubborn he is, so I leave him in the chair by my door and go to bed.


Scene three

Off we went to get me a pet, we decided to look at dogs first so I could quickly get it out of the way and move on to the cats, which I was sure would be harder to choose from. We walked through for a bit and I noticed these huge eyes peeking out at me from the back of a cage, big, glassy… food and water untouched. It was dark and I couldn’t see much of her so I asked the caretaker if I could. On hearing my voice, she came forward and started wagging her tail…I took this as a good sign, let her out and she jumped right into my arms. That surprised me for a moment; dogs tend to hate me… I’m assuming because I might have smelled like cat, or burglar?) Hell, the other caged dogs were practically ripping their doors off. Anyhow, I took her for a walk around the premises while I awaited her ‘rap sheet’ which contained information about her breed, health, when and why she was left and the fact that she didn’t seem to like any other potential adopter (is that a word)? Etc, but one thing jumped out at me most ‘prone to depression’. I.WAS.SOLD! I renamed her Jazz on the spot and took her home immediately. This may seem like total bullshit, but don’t worry, it will all come together at the end.

Scene four

Fast forward to today, Jazz is under my bed (her new favourite place to sleep), she’s called out for breakfast, but no matter what, she doesn’t budge. (She even turned down KFC!) My housemate lets me know she seems to be in a funk and I smile, because I know she has those days. She’s been having a few of them lately, especially since we moved three weeks ago so I usually just leave her alone. It reminded me that no one, not even a dog is above mental illness and as weird as it may sound, I find that somewhat comforting… to have a friend there that understands what it’s like, even if she can’t speak. On Instagram earlier, my friend Wendy alerted me to the untimely death of Titi Branch —co-founder of Miss Jessie’s haircare line and I realised I needed to stop putting off this post.

This year has been one of the absolute worst for me when it comes to my mental health. I’ve been in places so dark I dare not recall, lest I end up back there again. Every day is a struggle, some more so than others and I made a vow to myself on my birthday to enlighten people on what it really means to live with such an issue. Do you think I don’t know that suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems and the long list of great things that can help? I’m well aware, and I’m the first to talk others down from that point, but I also know that in the moment, when you’re there none of that truly matters… you forget it all. I am consciously and constantly fighting this and may not feel that way every day (luckily), but when I do, I really do, and that’s why I’m so passionate about mental health and sharing this experience with others. Writing this now is a victory and I hope I can help to educate someone with this story, whether you’re the one who calls people ‘weird’, ‘crazy’ or write them off because of their ‘issues’… avoid their calls etc, or you’re the person on the ledge right now looking for a reason not to jump. You have a purpose, a place in the cycle, a role to play in someone’s life. Make it positive.

9 thoughts on “The Black Dog… scenes from my mental health story

  1. Orane Brown says:

    i hope your 2015; shines with a lot-less gray skies. Traveling could become as therapeutic as your beloved pet (jazz). i hope your literary expression will be chronicled perpetually; and refreshed with updates, particularly your insights on the topic of depression. you gain a new fan.

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