He arrived unannounced, smirking and lurking, knowing his presence would cause some major distress. I'm talking about that ugly old Black Dog. I'll assume you know the one I'm talking about, I dare not say his name as I do not want to give any more power to him.
I knew he was there as soon as I opened my eyes that morning, I could feel him and smell him and it provoked a reaction that scared me because it had become gloriously unfamiliar over the past 12 months. This thing is like a predator that feeds on exhaustion and guilt and to be honest over the past few weeks I have been gambling with him a little. I kind of of liken it to leaving your fish and chips sitting openly on the sand at the beach - you are practically inviting the seagulls to swipe your food. I left my exhaustion and guilt sitting on a plate warm, inviting and oh too tempting to this little black bastard.
I took the day off work, left my hubby in charge and for the best part of the day I hid, in my bed, and I waited. I waited to see what damage he would inflict on this visit. And as I waited, I became angry and out of that anger I gained power. I have worked too hard to have this monster just turn up and sabotage all the new growth I had carefully nurtured since his last visit.
And so I armed myself in all the ways I knew how and I prepared to fight.
I was determined this uninvited shadow would not stay with me this time, he would not darken the hearts or home of me or my family with his presence.
I knew what I had to do. I slept to regain strength and when I woke I wrote lists. Lists upon lists upon lists.
The lists were part of my game plan, my strategy if you will and I wrote down all my current weaknesses that would be appealing to this unwelcome beast and I listed all the things I was harbouring guilt over. Then one by one I found armour for my flaws and I shone an imaginary light on the guilt, a light so bloody bright that the things I was feeling this guilt for started to look so naked and ridiculous in the bright light that they literally shrivelled up on the page before my eyes. And I felt lighter without the burden of that guilt I have been carrying, and I felt power in the knowledge that I had the strength to kick this mutt to the kerb.
I had left myself wide open to his visit. I have not been getting anywhere near enough sleep, I have been working too late into the night and I have been allowing guilt over the tiniest of things to fester and build. I had practically laid myself out there for him with an open invitation to come back and reap havoc.
I debated telling you about this and putting it out there on my blog, not because I am ashamed ... Ok I guess I am a little, but not ashamed of the Stigma, more ashamed of the fact that I had become so careless and complacent. He has had a taste of me before and I knew one day he would come back for more and I should have been more prepared and not allowed myself to get into such a vulnerable position. I didn't want to alarm my family and friends so I battled this one alone.... and in hindsight, this is a blessing as they can rest comfortably knowing I do have the power in me to fight it.
Last time I was unprepared and he took me by surprise. He took me by surprise this time too, but I instinctively knew what to do as the experience I gained last time was artillery this time around. This IS life.... and this is just one of the Hiccups that many of us deal with. It is not something to be ashamed of! And it is a reminder to us all that sometimes it is the people who laugh the loudest who are hiding something inside.
As I lay awake last night playing back the last few days in my mind I felt a sense of satisfaction, although I was being careful I didn't allow it to become cockiness, instead just quiet pride in the small battle I had just won. I single handidly protected myself and my family from his visit and that deserves some self pats on the back, because every time I turn him away, I gain strength and I grow and I become a less appealing target for this beast.
I will be more careful in future, and I won't become so complacent in my own physical and mental health. No amount of work or guilt is worth extending an open invitation to The Black Dog.
Contact your GP at the first signs or call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Further information can be found here - http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/
And remember to check in your friends, family and neighbours and ask the question....