Welcoming the Black Dog

I like books.  And podcasts.  And history.  And letting my mind wander when I run.  Sometimes,  ideas coalesce and I reach great insight about whatever bubbles up.  Even more rarely, that insight actually makes sense when said out loud.  This first blog post is one of those times.  The ideas:

  1. In a recent podcast by Tara Brach (linked) I was reminded of a story from the Buddhist tradition about Mara.  In simple terms, Mara represents fear and comes in many forms–monsters, armies, etc.  As the story goes, Buddha is preparing to address an audience when a loyal attendant notices Mara lurking on the edges of the venue, and alerts Buddha in a panic.  Buddha, instead of ignoring Mara or driving him away, acknowledges Mara and invites him to tea.
  2. Winston Churchill, like so many of us, lived with depression.  Churchill referred to his dark times as visits from the “Black Dog”, a term Victorian nannies used for bad moods of children.  This idea has been used as an analogy for explaining depression by many sources, including in some great animated videos from the World Health Organization (linked).
  3. In an episode of the fabulous podcast of the Hilarious World of Depression (linked), a caller explained that she has had some success in facing her anxiety since she named it Steve.  (No relation)

Result:  Instead of thinking of Depression as something I suffer with, something I combat, what if I invite it into my life with open arms?  What if, I approach it as a big, furry, lovable dog that I have the pleasure of having in my life?  A favored pet that may lay in my lap and make it difficult to get up, but also would benefit from exercise and good nutrition.  A pet that sometimes takes naps in the corner, but if ignored for long will demand attention.  A beautiful, life-long canine companion that I could check in with often, and sit with.

Every dog needs a name. When asked for input, my daughter replied “That’s tough.  Naming your Depression is something only you can do.”   Touche, my sweet smart girl.  Yesterday on my birthday run, my dog and I spent time with names to reflect its emerging nature: non-intimidating, approachable, lovable.

So friends, I’d like to introduce you my big, furry, warm, lovable amorphous life companion with 2 names:  Oso and Orzo… those ideas haven’t totally coalesced yet.



For More:

Tara Brach Podcast: Path of spiritual surrender

WHO videos (see website for many more): I had a black dog, depression was his name (general info about depression);   Living with a Black Dog (Caregiver focus)

The Hilarious World of Depression: Placebo episode: Listener call in