The black dog and the dark passenger
I haven’t been writing much lately. It is a combination of things, there is still so much to say but I really haven’t been in the mood. Which brings me to my strange title.
Most people know about the black dog. The expression is old English though references go back to Roman times. It is most commonly associated with Winston Churchill. He would talk about his black dog to describe his depression, though I read somewhere that in his dark days he actually saw one
The dark passenger comes from the TV show Dexter, if you haven’t seen it, you should, It is one of those rare american gems, Dexter is a serial killer who lives a seemly ordinary life. It describes the level of “darkness” and instability in each person’s personality that could either control them or be contained.
I have both in my head. The black dog and the dark passenger. Mostly quiet but I always know that they are there.
The black dog came first. I have always had him. I have been depressed for as long as I can remember. I wasn’t supposed to be. I was supposed to be grateful. I was the lucky one, the one without an impairment, the one who grew up. I was so good at pretending that everything is fine so no one noticed my black dog. Besides there was too much other stuff going on in my family, that really nobody had time to notice.
My dark passenger, suicidality came around when I was about twelve when I had my first suicide attempt. It was pretty pathetic really, I ate some poisonous plants. It didn’t even make me sick. I was so upset. It reinforced everything that I knew about myself. I was totally useless.
And so I have travelled through life with these two companions.The black dog tries to get out of his kennel often enough to remind me that he is there, always ready to bring me down, always ready to pounce. He has no subtlety. He is just there waiting for me to trip up. Looking for signs of weakness, anything he can use to escape.
The dark passenger is so much more subtle. He just lurks about, looking for a tiny chink in my composure. . Small whispers in my sleep, or loud yelling when things go wrong. Always offering a way out.
Back in the late nineties, they did their best to overpower me. There strength was such that I ended up in hospital having ECT. But I survived their temptations. I realised then that I had the power. They did not win.
But I know that they are still there, waiting and watching, ready to take charge, ready to offer suggestions on how to make it all go away. But I ignore them. I still have too much to do.
Sometimes, when things go wrong or my mood is a little low as it is now, their presence is more obvious. My dark passenger whispers suggestions and the black dog tries to get out.
But mostly they are just there. I know it and they know that I know it.
© Barbara Hart 2014