"My Mum’s got the black dog!" Bog Boy announced as he trotted into Nursery this morning
Lorna, the nursery assistant looked a bit baffled and tentatively peered outside to see if there was a large black dog tied up there. I contemplated my next move; I did have a black dog and for the moment it was tied up – figuratively.
"It’s our way of explaining my depression," I told her blithley, I mean how else would you describe it?
Bog Boy seemed totally unfazed and prattled on about his smoothie and wanting to have honey on toast for hsi second breakfast - he has as sunny a nature as any Hobbit. For him my depression is a statement of fact, the ordinary, the normality of his life, no big deal.
Would that I could think of it so prosaically.
This morning I told the boys that Daddy would not be home until tomorrow and that it was very important to try and be good and not wind me up. Now this is a difficult thing for children, let alone boys, to do – it’s in their very natures; it’s not deliberate but when I am in an episode, when the black dog is visiting, it is difficult for me to remember how very little they are. I cannot deal with anything out of the ordinary. All focus is on the Black Dog.
I have known it was coming for what seems like weeks and up until recently have been able to keep it at bay. But a series of sleepless nights with ill children and various other worries has meant that this time the Black Dog will not just wait outside.
All the systems are in place, phone calls have been made, and plans are being followed. We are on Defcon 1. I am under attack and all my energies are focussed on containing the problem. There can be no collateral damage.
I know what I have to do, the things I need to get done, for the bills come in and the work deadlines have to be met over and above the day to day minutiae of my life, however crap I feel. There is no emotional slack for the unexpected, even the smallest of problems can spin me out of control; the car not starting, the boiler going blink, there not being enough cat litter, running out of milk…
Unfortunately, boys not doing what they are told, or complaining they don’t like what they are given to eat etc can equally set me off and that is something I have to be prepared for and so do they.
So on the way to school and Nursery, very matter of factly, I tell them what to expect from me for the day ahead. I dare not contemplate how long it really will last so I just brief them day to day. I tell them that the Black Dog is with me and that they have to help me battle it to send it away again. I tell them how much I need them to help me. I use imagery they can understand along the lines of knights in shining armour and beautiful queens with strange enchantments. It is easier this way and hopefully not so scary - at least for now.
I know that I will have friends over at tea and that Dear Charlie will be telephoning during the evening to see how we are getting on, that my evening with the children, before I put them to bed, is all mapped out and all bases are covered. It feels like a major military operation. I do not look forward to it.
Now, I write this when I would be preferring to talk about chocolate or how well my eldest son, The Boy, is doing at not wetting his bed and how he is looking forward to his first ever sleep over and of course his 7th Birthday. I just hope that the Black Dog will be under control by then and things will be back to normal – whatever that is.
Picture show: Cave Canem from the House of the Tragic Poet, Petronius in Pompeii, Italy