The ‘black dog’ of Depression!

The ‘Black Dog’ is the medical condition known as chronic depression, an experience that I have known a long time. I’ve had suicidal episodes in my younger days but even when manage well, the ‘Black Dog’ will always come to visit, now and then. Man and dog are companions, closest friends beyond all other creatures on earth. Depression too is an intimate relationship, unique and close to the person. Depression like relationships with a dog is not normally a brief or fleeting affairs, they are normally over a long period of time, it evolves, grows and deepens. Dogs are also unpredictable and sometimes prone to bite despite years of seemingly subdued and obedient behavior.
The statesman and politician Winston Churchill drew upon this image to conceptualize his own struggle with depression, and it is with him that the metaphor is generally associated. Churchill made frequent references to his Black dog as a powerfully expressive metaphor that appears to require no explanation. The combination of ‘blackness’ with the negative connotations of ‘dog’, noun and verb, seems an eminently apt description of depression: an ever-present companion, lurking in the shadows just out of sight, growling, vaguely enacting, always on the alert; sinister and unpredictable, capable of overwhelming you at any moment! Further, the ‘dark hound’ is an archetypal object of fear, with a long tradition in folklore and myth. Black dogs in dreams are interpreted negatively, often representing death; from all over the world come tales of nightmares caused by oppressive black dogs crushing the sleeper’s chest.
“I don’t like standing near the edge of a platform when an express train is passing through. I like to stand back and, if possible, get a pillar between me and the train. I don’t like to stand by the side of a ship and look down into the water. A second’s action would end everything. A few drops of desperation.”
Churchill was so paralyses by despair that he spent time in bed, had little energy, few interests, lost his appetite, couldn’t concentrate. He was minimally functional – and this didn’t just happen once or twice in the 1930s, but also in the 1920s and 1910s and earlier. These darker periods would last a few months, and then he’d come out of it and be his normal self. Churchill seemed to be aware that his depression was a medical condition. In 1911 a friend of Churchill’s claimed to have been cured of depression by a doctor. However, Churchill was writing at a time before the development of effective medication, when the main medical approach to mood disorders was psychoanalytic. Even though medical science is researching a cure for this mind-altering, personality-changing disease, the cause remains mysteriously elusive.
 Prevalence of Mental Illness
  • 6.9% of adults in the United States, 16 million had at least one major depressive episode in the past year.
  • Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.
  • Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States, the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–24 and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.
  • Each day an estimated 18-22 veterans die by suicide.
I pray that you will care for those you know and love, who may live with chronic depression and or Mental Illness. Depression is a flaw in chemistry not character; it’s not a failing; it is a medical condition, and, in a certain perspective, possibly a gift given by God to certain creative and empathetic souls.

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