Did you ever get the feeling you were being followed, but you looked and nobody was there?  You might hear a footstep,  glance a shadow, but no matter how fast you turned around, it was just you and the street and the road and the cars and the houses and the sky – and nobody was following you.

I had that once when I was about 23.  But I really was being followed – I was being followed by a black dog.

I’d hear his paws padding on the pavement on my way to work, his claws would scratch the concrete.  Sometimes I could even hear his breath – deep and steady, determined to keep up no matter how fast I went.  I never saw him, but sat at my desk I’d find his hairs on my skirt.  How had he got so near to me without me realising?

Every day I felt him, just a few paces behind, getting closer.
One evening I heard a growl outside my house.  I looked outside and saw Black Dog.  He’d followed me home.
Black Dog barked all night and the next night and the next.  I’d toss and turn in bed, my partner sleeping soundly.  All I could think about was Black Dog.  Sometimes I wondered whether it would be easier just to let him in.
Weeks went by.  I grew feverish with worry that someone would leave the door open and let him come inside, I wondered what the neighbours would think of this snarling dog hanging around, I feared the repercussions if anyone found out that such a dangerous animal was anywhere near my little girl.  I stayed vigilant, awake, ready.  It was exhausting.
Then one morning I came downstairs to find Black Dog in my living room.  He stared at me quietly and I stared at him.  I knew that he was here to stay.

Black Dog lived with me now.
Shortly after that, my world fell apart and when my little girl and I moved house, Black Dog came with us.

We were alone a lot of the time now, just me and Black Dog.  That was how he liked it – Black Dog didn’t like crowds.  When friends visited he would howl in the corner, so I would play a part, laugh loud and sing and shout.  “Nobody must know about Black Dog.  Drown him out, drown him out.”   I’d wear clothes that screamed “look at me look at me, don’t look don’t see the dog sitting in the corner.”

I got used to him after a while.  He went everywhere I went.  If you knew me then you knew Black Dog.

Black Dog was aggressive, manipulative and mean.  He told me what to say, what to think, what to dream.  I tried.  I tried so hard, but eventually Black Dog took over everything.

 

Time passed, we moved again and in the next house, the light was different.  I saw more clearly and in the new light I began to make things.  Cakes, crafts, art.  I created beautiful objects and surrounded myself with them.  I made myself so busy, staged so many distractions, that I noticed Black Dog less and less.

One day he stopped following me when I left the house.  It was odd to go out without him, I’d forgotten what it was like to be alone.  One day Black Dog was in the garden and he didn’t try to come inside.
He still watched me though.  Sat at the windows with his eyes fixed.
He watched as Phill moved in with us.  Black Dog didn’t like him at all.  He watched as we celebrated holidays and sunny days and days with sparkly diamond rings and big questions….but he didn’t come inside anymore.
Tough times returned.  The crowds of people were gone and the door was open.   He tried to get in but he was too weak and we were unwelcoming.  Black Dog was just a stray on the street outside and eventually he was gone.

It took four years.

Vintage dress baby clock lindybop bentsThe thing about Black Dogs is that once they’ve lived with you, no matter how much time goes by, they never forget where you live.

Last year, I started to find black hairs on my clothes again.   We put up higher fences.  Walking to work, I’d hear the familiar footsteps behind me.   We tightened the locks.  Then we had a beautiful baby and for a while I stopped looking over my shoulder.

One afternoon, Dorothy and I came back from the park to find Black Dog sitting on the doorstep.
He lives with me again now.

 

I’m sharing my story because today is World Mental Heath Day.    It’s taken me two months to write this and all day to pluck up the courage to post it.  Phew!

Love Rachel

  • Liz Purkis

    wow what a piece, no wonder it took you so long to write it. I can so relate. It’s bloody though to get through.

    • VintageFolly

      It is indeed x

  • john adams

    Very cleverly written piece. I love the analogy of finding black dog’s hairs. Very poignant given the week.

    • VintageFolly

      Thanks John xx

  • This was incredibly clever written, you should make a book about this I was so drawned to it. I have also talked about my mental problems, thank you for sharing! x

    • VintageFolly

      Thank you. I’m not sure I have a Black Dog book in me 😊

  • Claire Thomas

    Very brave of you to share such a difficult subject. Big hugs, everyone is here for you xx

    • VintageFolly

      Thank you lovely xxx

  • TheBrickCastle

    It’s a fabulous post. It’s not the depression I experience, I have no black dog, but I think I understand you a little better, and the kind of blackness you experience. I can certainly relate to drowning it out, and you really have done an awesome job of hiding him.
    It’s really brave to admit to yourself that something is wrong. No-one expects me to have coped, that makes it very easy for me to openly admit to, and to admit to myself. My hard bit happened publicly one morning, I just have to serve the time. I am really in awe of anyone who stands up and says they are struggling. I hope that you can get some help to beat him back out into the garden, and hopefully one day he won’t always be watching and waiting xx

    • VintageFolly

      I genuinely can’t imagine or even begin to imagine what you go through every day. And yet you’re still one of the kindest people I know.
      X

      • TheBrickCastle

        Oh bless you, you soft sod 😛 xx

  • Old Fashioned Susie

    This is a beautifully written piece about what is a murky part of your life. Bravo for putting it out there darling- you are doing brilliantly xxxx

    • VintageFolly

      Thanks Susie. I’m giving this illness it’s eviction notice x

  • Claire Mason

    Fantastic piece of writting. So many people ask me to describe how I feel and you nailed it in one. I’m going to share this as it is a beautiful read. You should be proud of yourself for not only writting this but having the courage to share. Thank you from one black dog owner to another xxx

    • VintageFolly

      Thank you Claire, that means an awful lot to me. X

  • Kate Veggie Desserts

    such a beautifully written account of something that is so important to raise awareness and understanding of.

  • mumtoamonster

    Fantasticly written. As someone who lives with a black dog who seems to run off occasionally I can totally relate.

  • Such a fantastic piece of writing and I’m sorry to hear about the black dog. Hope you can give him a kick in the arse.

    But seriously if ever you need to speak to someone we’re all here! xx

  • Laura Wilson

    Absolutely perfect. I have the black dog here too, I’ve not had him for a while and I am trying to keep him at bay but slowly I’m finding it easier to filter out the others in my life and let him take over as much as I fight it. Thanks for sharing xxx

  • Sim @ Sim’s Life

    Oh sweet pea – such a well written post and I am glad you got in out there. We all love you and are here for you when you need to chat. Hoping that the Black Dog will bugger off in time and not come back xxx

  • Lisa

    This is just beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. I have no experience of the black dog but you have given me such a clearer understanding. I hope that Black Dog pisses off real soon xx

  • Martin Lee

    I have never had depression but I have never been closer to understanding it’s effect than now, thanks for sharing. This can’t have been easy.

  • Big hugs Rachel, I have experience Black Dog many times in my life and he makes regular appearances even now. I love the way you’ve written this xxx

  • A brilliant post Rachel, so well written. I’m sorry you have ever been in a position to be able to write it. It doesn’t matter how high your fences or how vigilant you are, sometimes Black Dog still sneaks in. I hope the dog catcher comes soon x

    Ps – it was lovely to meet you and Dotty at Blog On xx

  • Big hugs lovely. I have experience of this and written about it a few times. It is hard, but please know you are not alone. This is a beautiful post and here if you ever want someone to talk to I’m here for you x

  • Sally

    Beautifully written x

  • Victoria Welton

    This is a beautifully written post Rachel. I am so sorry to hear that you have had to deal with this – and that it has returned. Thinking of you xx

  • LucyDorrington

    This is such an amazing piece of writing. Firstly, you are incredibly brave and strong to be able to write this, and secondly, you are an amazingly talented writer to be able to illustrate it in such a clever way. Next time Black Dog rocks up, you can tell him that! xx

  • Wow, this is so beautifully written. So brave and incredibly powerful. I hope you managed to get Black Dog out in to the garden where he belongs x