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Dealing With My Black Dog (Dedicated to Charlotte Dawson)

By Ivy Rose on April 24, 2014 in Other

Picture: Matthew Johnstone

Picture: Matthew Johnstone

In the delicate history of cruel and unusual treatment for mental illness, exorcism was once a legitimate way to deal with someone who was considered psychotic. In the case of chronic depression, undergoing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) was (and still is) a highly effective method to rewire certain misfiring transmitters and receptors in the brain. When all else fails, affected human beings are forced to live out the remainder of their lives suffocating under a blanket of medication. No wonder nobody f**king talks about it.

Me, I like my type of crazy; it makes me creative. Admittedly, I spend a lot of time wrestling, arguing, barking back at my black dog, but it likes to walk and if my music is loud enough I can drown out the self-addressed hate mail. Exercise always makes me feel better. Torturing oneself for hours in a gym sure beats other forms of self-mutilation and then the whole endorphin thing kicks in and you realise you’ve made it to dinnertime without contemplating suicide. Yay.

Depression is hard because life is hard. What’s scary is how common depression is. What about life has changed so much that 20% of human beings now suffer from depression? Hasn’t technology made life easier? The cruel irony of this is that we can become so caught up in this technology – from the toaster to the television to the smart phone – that we end up hypnotised by a life that isn’t even real.

What shits me about suicide is the way people assume it is something to be looked down upon or pitied. I know that if I chose to go out in a blaze of glory with my middle finger up to the world I wouldn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. If suicide is the final way of taking control of my own black dog and taking it down with me, then at least let me have that.

Maybe all this depression has more to do with the way society has evolved into being so dependent on ‘things’ that we are just slaves to materialism. Do we spend too much time pouting for selfies because we are terrified of someone seeing what we really look like when we smile? When was the last time you slept on the earth? Not because you got drunk and passed out, but out in a tent amongst nature with no phone reception?

Maybe this black dog isn’t some kind of demon that needs to be exorcised, but rather a mongrel pet that needs to be exercised and released back into the wild. Perhaps depression is our inner caveman yearning for the feeling of walking barefoot on a forest floor or climbing a mountain instead of a stairmaster. Maybe sometimes we need to be rained upon, to feel the icy cold wind on our backs and have it nullified by the warmth of a blazing camp fire, rather than sitting indoors in the comfort of climate controlled lounge room.

I don’t think I have any answers to any problems, least of all my own. What I do know is that my black dog likes to eat nutella out of the jar, drink red wine and stay up all night staring at the ceiling as it comes up with scenarios in which the world crumbles to an end and it is somehow all my fault. So if it takes beach sprints, rock climbing and the discomfort of camping in the snow for that beast to shut the f**k up and go to sleep, at least it saves me from getting electrocuted.

If you do need help, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.


  1. You are so wrong when you say that people ‘look down’ on suicide. They do not – they are shocked and upset that this had to be the final solution.
    Suicide is a very selfish act, that leaves countless people behind bewildered and depressed themselves. Families and friends of the person that suicides are left forever blaming themselves that they should have been able to do something to avert that ‘final solution’. Their lives change forever in varying degrees.
    Please never think that you go down in a blaze of glory – there is nothing glorius about suicide.

    Posted by: Roslyn | April 28, 2014, 10:09 AM |

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    • Roslyn, with all due respect, your entirely wrong when you describe suicide as selfish. To take ones own life because nothing else seems to be working, when the dark cloud and black pit are so deep and huge that there is no sunlight, no future, no present free of the doom inside you, there is nothing selfish about that.

      What so many clinicians and “experts” fail to understand is that when one is in this state, there are no thoughts of others. That’s one of the factors that make this illness so deadly.

      When you (Roslyn) focus on those you say are left behind, you ignore the one dealing with the illness. I understand the pain of those left behind. But society needs to understand the pain of those suffering clinical depression. And pretty words, soft music, CBT and ECT may help in some cases, but in many others it does not.

      People say journal your thoughts, but what if you simply can’t, like me. When I try to journal I find myself writing what YOU want to hear. My black dog is too powerful to let others see it.

      I am also a survivor of 8 years of childhood rape, violence, abandonment and family destruction… I became an alcoholic, and a paramedic, go figure that one out. I have attended more suicides than I care to remember… And I KNOW their pain, I KNOW their anguish, their physical and emotional state, I KNOW the sense that nothing will ever change, I KNOW the self loathing, the feeling of nothing is ever good enough.

      I could write a book, but I won’t. All I ask is you focus on the sufferer not on those left behind, who may well be complicit in the development of the illness and it’s continuous.

      Thank you

      Posted by: Doug | December 16, 2020, 10:58 AM |

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  2. Thanks Ivy- my black dog . I haven’t looked after him and then with my back turned he ran off with my slippers and about 8 years of my life. I stopped doing the things I loved most. Wouldn’t sleep – often couldn’t draw the curtains fearing some one might see my black dog. I find happiness hard work. Doing what I love, music, hard work? Doesn’t make sense to me – but now playing again and considering meds having talked to my Dr. I think 8 years is pretty old for a dog so … Here’s hoping.

    Posted by: Jono | April 28, 2014, 12:41 PM |

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