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A Poem for World Mental Health Day
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020 at 12:19 pm by Jon Kestell

A good friend of mine and member of the Spiral Wellbeing family wrote this poem for World Mental Health Day.

Inspired by the 'My Black Dog' book written & Illustrated by Matthew Johnstone (Also a great read)

‘My Black Dog’

I had a black dog, his name was ‘Depression’,
He made it so hard to escape his possession.
When he barked all the time he really wore me down,
my regular smile became a constant frown.
When he wanted to go out he would tug at my leg,
I would do anything for him without him needing to beg.
And every time we left the house to roam,
he got all anxious and wanted to go straight back home.
Then he would disturb my sleep and jump on the bed,
and I would wake up exhausted with a weary head.
I was tired and wired, my Black Dog didn’t care,
he just sat in the corner with that judgemental glare.
And just when my confidence would start to come back,
I would sense him there, about to attack.
And when I managed to get out of the starting blocks,
he would growl and snarl until I crawled back in my box.
Sometimes I went out and I would feel so aware,
that others could see him, I would notice them stare.
He was with me all the time whether I was home or out,
sometimes I just wanted to cry, scream and shout.
Even when people would look me right in the eye,
my Black Dog made me keep up an emotional lie.
He made me irritable and difficult to be around,
hard to reach, more lost than found.
He would sit by my bed and he’d whisper to me,
so many words all filled with negativity.
My Black Dog didn’t make me sad, down or blue,
he just stuck all my feelings together with an emotional glue.
Each time he would bark, I responded in fear,
I tried running away but he was always so near.
As I grew older he stayed by my side,
I lost count of the times I tried to hide.
Older and wiser with thicker skin,
yet no matter what, I’d always give in.
He would make demands of my thoughts and my exhausted mind,
when all I needed was love and compassion and for him to be kind.
I’d accepted the only outcome was that I’d always lose,
so I tried masking the pain with pills and booze.
All the while my Black Dog sat there twisting the knife,
and I began to accept that this was my life.
Then somebody told me others have Black Dogs too,
and this was when I discovered what I had to do,
I trained my Black Dog with determination,
some talking therapy and medication.
By connecting with others and sharing my story,
I was no longer in some kind of purgatory.
And that whenever I felt in that pit of despair,
there was help around me from people who care.
I learnt that to have a Black Dog isn’t a crime,
and they can be trained if you give it some time.
It might not happen quickly or overnight,
and at times it may feel like you’re losing the fight.
But know that once your decision is made,
memories of your Black Dog will start to fade.
And in those moments where you may feel alone,
go spend time with others or just pick up the phone.
With some self-compassion and more self-care,
try a change of scenery or just get some fresh air.
Perhaps some exercise, yoga or mindfulness,
socialise more with friends and try drinking less.
Embrace your journey and your challenging past,
embed your new thinking with healthy habits that last.
With newfound confidence and the happiness it brings,
and finding more gratitude in the most simple things.
On those occasions you may find him sat back on your bed,
just roll over quietly then gently stroke his head.
Whatever you think at the time or however you feel,
rest assured all Black Dogs can be made to heel.
So now you’re in control in so many ways,
you can put behind you those Black Dog days.
Enjoying more of things that you love to do,
and perhaps reaching out to others and helping them too.

Inspired by personal accounts and the work of writer and illustrator Matthew Johnstone.
'My Black Dog'
2020 © Paul E Sherwood


© 2022 Jon Kestell, Spiral Wellbeing, trading address 115 Marldon Road, Paignton TQ3 3NN. Providing staff training, wellbeing training, stress management and stress prevention courses throughout the UK, United Kingdom, England, Scotland and Wales.