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How the White Dog Is Helping Me to Keep the Black Dog at Bay

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I struggle with anxiety and depression, and these two contradictory mental illnesses make each day a fight to do anything, let alone look after myself. I think possibly the hardest part of having depression and anxiety is the lack of concern about yourself. I don’t do what is good for me, because I have no reason to. Popular lore says Winston Churchill famously referred to depression as a “black dog,” and that analogy really fits well for my current situation.

My black dog barks away in my head at night, keeping me from sleeping. When I wake, it is sitting on my chest, holding me in bed, pinned down, unable to motivate myself to get up. When I do get up, the black dog continues its assault all day, causing me to not cook nutritious meals, and just stick to quick, unhealthy food to purely sustain myself. My black dog is a constant companion that I would gladly give up if I could, but I can’t. I didn’t choose to have it live with me, and so I can’t just choose to get rid of it.

What I have done though is find myself another companion — a white American Bulldog pup who I named Rocky. He is my rescue dog who has not been with me for long, but he has already undone so much of the work that the black dog has spent so much time perfecting.

Rocky is as much my savior as I am his.

He was a stray, he has a couple of physical defects, and they just make him even more perfect in my eyes. He is the white dog that is already keeping the black dog at bay.

So, how is he helping me?

woman lying down with white american bulldog lying beside her with head resting on paw

The black dog keeps me in bed until, sometimes, the afternoon. The white dog needs me to feed him in the morning, so I get out of bed.

The black dog stops me from leaving the house, even on a sunny day. The white dog needs exercise, regardless of the weather. So I leave the house with him at least twice a day.

The black dog stops me from cleaning the house. The white dog needs a tidy house… what is left out gets chewed.

The black dog steals my motivation to even enjoy my garden. The white dog will spend hours in the garden with me, while I play with him or just watch him playing.

The black dog makes me feel alone. The white dog comes and cuddles me on the sofa, reminding me I’m not alone.

The black dog stops me from looking after myself. The white dog needs me to be well in order to look after him.

The black dog tells me that my friends and family don’t want me to bother them. The white dog gives me so much to talk about and post about on social media, and shows me that people are interested – in not just him, but in me too.

The black dog makes me anxious about meeting new people, making me avoid social situations. The white dog is the biggest social attraction. People approach us wherever we go, and he gives me something we can talk about without focusing on me.

The black dog makes me want to cry. The white dog can be such a clown that I can’t help but laugh and smile. Other times I need to be strong for his training.

The black dog made me think I should be grateful for any relationship – even the toxic ones. The white dog has helped me to see that I am worth more than I think I am.

The black dog was winning the battle. The white dog is helping me to win the war.

Even after such a short time in my life, my friends and family have already noticed a difference in me, but more importantly… I have noticed a positive difference in me.

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Images via contributor

Originally published: June 15, 2017
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