“When I’m having a bad day (I have many), a ‘black dog’ stands at the bottom of my bed, holding its lead between its teeth, wanting to be walked all day.
“I first saw the term ‘black dog’ in an animation on Facebook. That’s when it hit home for me that that was what I was seeing – before then I only saw a dark shadow which made me feel down and weepy and regret that I’d woken up that morning; but now I knew what I’d been seeing.
“It all started at school. Between the ages of five to 15 my so-called classmates mercilessly and regularly mentally abused me – calling me names, stealing my trainers, basically making my life hell. This was in the mid-80s to early 90s, when depression wasn’t a word in my vocabulary. If I had gone to the teacher, I thought I would have been called a snitch and told to pull myself together. Thankfully there’s now a bit more dialogue around mental health and depression isn’t seen as such a bad word, but there’s still a lingering stigma with depression.
“By the time I left school to pursue whatever career I could, the irreparable damage had already been done.
“Many people find that anti-depressants or counselling are helpful. I’ve tried both and unfortunately neither worked for me.
“I know most men would rather not talk about their feelings at all, but what did really help me was finally finding the courage to speak to my mum about my struggles. I was surprised when she told me she’d taken anti-depressants before too; and it was such a relief to talk to someone about my experiences that I just cried and cried.
“My salvation, if you like, was finding my love for music – both playing and composing. Now whenever I have a bad day or a bad feeling I try to get ten minutes playing my guitar and listening to music.
“I also have an incredibly close friend who for thirty years has been my teacher, my psychologist, and my best friend. For me, that’s much more useful than any drug or professional service – although I know everyone is different and that might be what works for others.
“That’s my story. At time of writing I’m a 38 year old man who has a long way to go to feel better. I’m not so blasé to think I’ll ever be free of my depression, however I do hope to get to the point where I have more good days than bad.”