ONE YEAR AGO TODAY…
One year ago today I was lying awake in the middle of the night.
2.15am to be precise.
Suddenly I was attacked by an enemy; an old adversary I had known all my life.
I was hit in the head so hard; so violently that I thought I was going to die right there and then.
The pain ricocheted down through my body and made my heart bang against my chest, sweat pouring from my forehead as warm as blood seeping from my temples.
Everything went so black; so dark that it was as if there wouldn’t be light again – and that was bloody terrifying.
My old foe was back with a vengeance; and though I thought he’d pounced and attacked me suddenly; without warning, and with a strength I was unaware he possessed, I realise now that he had been stalking me for a year or two.
Quietly nipping away, taking small bites; damaging me so subtly that I had changed the way I lived – or rather, didn’t, live my life. I stopped socialising as much, made excuses.
Blithely convincing myself I was content.
Using one of my biggest fears; aging, as justification for my sedentary life. Yet knowing that, at 47 years old there was no excusing the choices I was making.
Comforting myself with food…and drink; blotting him…and myself out.
Maybe everybody knew?
But then again, no!
People were leading their lives, weren’t they?
Getting on with things?
Working, playing, planning, hoping, living.
How COULD they?
Why the hell weren’t they shit scared?
I knew I wasn’t normal but simply couldn’t fathom how everybody else could go on behaving as if they were.
Then I kind of understood that everyone else must have issues.
But they weren’t being me!
The attack that night inflicted injuries I hadn’t ever contemplated.
But it wasn’t sudden.
It didn’t just “happen”!
I had known it was coming – but not how.
A shocking punch in the brain I hadn’t thought possible; seeing me hospitalised miles from home for weeks, medicated long-term, and in psychological therapy for a year.
The severity of my nemesis’ attack was such that I re-evaluated absolutely everything, had to make substantial life changes; quit certain things and embrace others.
I have had to learn to live with him; this angry, destructive, soul sapping, joy stealing old beast.
However much I loathe him he is always going to be there.
The loneliness can be excruciating; the terror exhausting; the blackness so empty; so devoid of colour that it becomes white!
A white depression.
And it’s the loneliness you inflict; the reflected gloom – on a loved one.
Listening to him pierce and microwave a ready meal for one, because you are too full, too engorged with the enemy to have appetite for anything else.
Cast sideways glances and watch him push the food around his plate, lacking any appetite.
Acting like he is one – alone; not two anymore.
Knowing you should eat; you should engage with him when he tries to make you laugh again.
See his brain wishing you better; desperately wondering what to do next.
You should show him you still care; that you love him even more for coping with you.
That you don’t want to drag him into the pit with you.
Wanting to push him away from the enemy; hope against hope he doesn’t hate you for the foul crap the enemy has dragged into your shared life.
But he has never met the bastard. Never seen the beast you describe.
Only what it does…it’s talent for misery.
You lay in bed listening to your loved one’s breathing change, until you know he’s asleep and away from you, not mired in the mud of your mind swamp for a while…and you breathe – grateful to be left alone in your pit.
More than anything you want some strength back, to fight fire with fire.
You want the enemy gone!
But talking about the black dog weakens him. Starts to deny him food, removes the sustenance he craves.
Blunts his bite and muzzles his bark.
Medicating him can help for a while…or longer; subduing him – dulling him just enough to give you chance to think a little clearer.
Makes a bit of room in your mind – space to think about your thoughts; to heal and scab over what you’ve picked raw.
Learning coping strategies give you skills; ways to calm things down enough to live. Like removing the lid from a pressure cooker, it lets off steam for a while and the water stops boiling; quietens…
As with all bullies, acknowledging what they are. Confronting them. Telling people about them and shining a light on them so they don’t have the power they once held.
Get help to calm your black dog; to train it and learn about it. Maybe feed it a little less and walk it more often.
Mental illness prefers the dark to the light – so let’s turn our full beam on it – bathe the black dog in light.
Rather than letting it lurk in the dark.
One year on – and I’m OK…
…and I really, really like dogs!
©Billy Reynard-Bowness – pofacedpoetry – All Right’s Reserved – 2019