The Cold Wet Nose Of The Little Black Dog – How To Use The Rolled Up Newspaper Of Experience To Keep Depression At Bay

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Winston Churchill famously suffered from depression. Even more famously, he called his depression the “Black Dog” on his back. In my mind, this has always conjured up the image of a massive, black hellhound with slavering jaws and glowing red eyes. Evocative as this image is, it is far removed from my own experience of depression.

When my Black Dog pounces, it doesn’t pounce like the Hound of the Baskervilles taking down a gentleman who is rather foolishly taking a post prandial stroll across 19th Century Dartmoor. In fact, for me, the Black Dog doesn’t pounce at all. It insinuates. It encroaches gently. In short, it just outwits me.

When the process of depression starts, it’s like I’m sitting on a metaphorical sofa watching my favourite television program on my metaphorical television. Relaxed, comfortable, safe. Metaphorically speaking. Now, my sofa backs onto a wall, as many people’s sofas do. Therefore the Black Dog can’t jump me from behind because even hellhounds can’t make it through brick walls. The Black Dog employs a far more stealthy method of attack.

At first, I barely notice the Black Dog as its cold wet nose gently nudges the back of my hand. This is because my Black Dog is not a great big “Beast of the Moors” type of dog. He’s more a little, cute “Eddie Off Frasier” kind of dog. Except that he’s black, obviously.

After I’ve noticed him nudging the back of my hand, he looks up at me with his sad, imploring eyes. Eyes that say: “Please let me up on the sofa.”  I try to ignore him, of course.  Inevitably though, I eventually pat one of the cushions and say: “Oh, go on then. Just this once.” And then that’s me well and truly fucked.

Me and the Black Dog curl up on the sofa and he nuzzles up to my neck and we get on with the comfortable business of me falling apart. I say comfortable, because the depths of a major depression can be an oddly comforting place. The line between what behaviour is caused by the illness and what is caused by you just being a bit of a dick becomes very blurry. As a result, you feel very little sense of personal responsibility.

Also, you feel so bad that nothing that happens to you can possibly make you feel any worse. It’s like wearing a virtually impregnable suit of armour. I have barely even noticed events when I was depressed that would have had me crying and tearing my hair out when I was feeling well.

So, on my oddly comfortable metaphorical sofa, me and the Black Dog watch all the good things drop away from my life. We go “ooh” and “aah” when these things drop, like they’re just so much springtime cherry blossom falling to the ground. (Yes, he’s a talking dog but only in the limited fashion of the dog that said “sausages” in Esther Rantzen’s “That’s Life” program). We sit and watch daytime television and the Black Dog licks my face as the joy is vacuumed out of my life speck by speck until there aren’t any specks left.


Whether your Black Dog is a snarling hellhound or a guilt tripping Eddie lookalike, you know what you need to do. Get the rolled up newspaper of your experience and smack him on the nose with it. You know what the early symptoms of your depression are. You ignore them because they terrify you and you hope they’ll just go away, but you definitely know them. (If you want to know what mine are, see The Seven Habits Of Highly Reflective People : http://tinyurl.com/n4zpkxe).

As soon as these symptoms rear their heads, do some pouncing of your own by seeing a doctor, pronto. It’s a difficult thing to do, but it’s not as hard as allowing yourself to slide down the razor blade of mental illness. You should really only snuggle up on your sofa with your beau or lady love. Or your actual dog if you happen to have one.

© Copyright Michael Grimes 2014

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About thedailygrime

At that awkward age - too young to be a grumpy old man, but just acerbic and downtrodden enough to have an opinion. Read it here.

5 responses to “The Cold Wet Nose Of The Little Black Dog – How To Use The Rolled Up Newspaper Of Experience To Keep Depression At Bay”

  1. bwanadik says :

    I know all about this vile hound of which you speak. For years I would lay in bed with the curtains drawn listening to Stravinsky and feeling like the world was coming to an end.

    Then I discovered NLP. Their theory is that depression isn’t something you get, it’s something that you do. And like everything else, the more you do it the better you get at it.

    And so, I just stopped doing it. I still get the blues sometimes, but i never let it set in. I got my first tattoo the same day that I decided to stop being a depressed and angry psychopath. I’m now covered in tattoos, each one representing a change.

  2. thedailygrime says :

    Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that in many cases depression isn’t an illness at all, just a normal human reaction to a bad situation. Sort of like a pain reflex. Your brain’s way of flagging up that things have to change.
    If you feel pain, you take your hand out of the fire. Unfortunately, the situations that elicit a depression response are often things which take a while to change. So we don’t change them and regard depression as an illness. After that it just becomes a habit.
    I’ve got a copy of NLP for Dummies. Never read it. Maybe I should.

  3. Please Bring Me My Wine says :

    Hey sir, completely agree it’s something that your lifestyle dictates, but it’s just so hard to turn it around. I got lots of help from friends and family and still it was touch and go for a while.

    CBT, meditation, exercise, hobbies, and cutting out the crap (food, people, the way you spend your days) from your life does help.

    The other thing is spending time with others who have suffered to talk your way through it. Makes you realise it’s not just you going crazy. You ever seen Matthew Johnstone’s book? Here’s the narrated youtube version…

    All the best with things

    • thedailygrime says :

      Interesting video. Thanks for the link. It’s an unpopular thing to tell people with depression to “pull themselves together”. Quite rightly so, because no one can just do that. There’d be no such thing as depression if they could. But if you’ve been successful in hiding your black dog, there does come a point where you have to say to yourself “You know what, I’m completely bloody sick of this” and do something about it. There’s no doubt it’s hard, probably the hardest thing you will ever do. It’s not as hard as living you life with the black dog sitting on your chest.

      Thanks for taking an interest in my blog
      All the best to you too sir.

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