Enter The Black Dog

Normally I’m pretty good at cloaking my moods.  I’m trained in the art of dissembling.  One of the hidden maxims of medical training is, “Control your face.”  Don’t let the patient know that you’ve just found a….you’ve just done a……and barely got yourself out of it….your surgical assistant is the most beautiful thing in the world…you just farted.  Etc.

One thing it’s hard to conceal is The Black Dog’s visits: depression.  I’ve never been good at it.  I cry at the drop of a hat anyway.  So I’ve gotten good at noting which exam rooms are empty, so as to duck into one for a good bawl, and exit red-eyed.

“What’s wrong with your eyes?”


Yesterday I woke up feeling like somebody had clubbed me over the head.  I couldn’t tell where I was in time or space.  My brain felt like chocolate pudding, but not at all tasty.  Actually, I didn’t wake up at all.  If a friend hadn’t texted me at 1:45 pm, I would probably still be asleep.  Poor starving Noga lay next to my head, resolute.  If I had kept right on sleeping, I don’t think she would wake me up to feed her.  I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

I felt kind of like I felt when I took my bedtime medicines in the morning, except this was even worse.  I was hoping it would wear off as the day (what was left of it) wore on, but no.  At bedtime last night I resolved only to take those medications which if you do not take them you might get a seizure, which happened to be the same meds I go to sleep by.  How convenient.

I was quite sure that after a good day’s/night’s sleep, certainly whatever I had taken would have worn off, but no.  Well, it did, to some extent, but then I started feeling cross and weepy.  I yelled at my dog.  I’m very relieved that she seems to understand, and cuddled up with me for a lie-down-not-nap after I got from the grocery store.  I’m amazed that I got back, since I really, really should not be driving in this condition.

I still have not put away the groceries, six hours later.  I have not put away the enormous piles of laundry that I took to the laundromat the day before the day before.  And I just read an article about the habits of Brown Recluse spiders, that they sequester themselves in the fingers of your work gloves (!) and in piles of laundry left on the floor (!!).  Well, these are in black plastic bags, if that helps.  (The reason I was reading up on Brown Recluse spiders is that I found one uncomfortably close to where I sleep, the other day.)

Last night, the night between Days One and Two of the Feel-bads, I had one of my thankfully rare episodes of chest pain.  They occur sometime in the middle of the night, and are so intense that I can’t move.  Even if I thought it was a heart attack, I would not be able to move to call the ambulance.  So I have learned to have the attitude that if it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go, and I am a Do Not Resuscitate specimen anyway.  I toy with having that tattooed across my chest, but my religion specifically forbids tattooing.  I mean, come on, like 5,000 years ago there was a law against tattooing?  What, Moses was afraid we would all become, like, Goths?

Where was I.  Oh yes.  This episode of chest pain occurred between Days One an Two of the Feel-bads, and I was not at all sure I was going to wake up at all, but in fact my alarm did rouse me, as it hadn’t on the previous morning.  I rose, feeling hopeful, but a wave of nausea washed over me and I sat down on my bed again, uncertain, until I remembered that my mother had to go and have some tests at the hospital and I was supposed to go and sit with Dad so that the morning caregiver could go to his second job.

I managed to crawl out of the house at noon, after waking at nine.  Given that I don’t even have a shower to loiter in, which I would have done had I had one, I can’t account for the time at all.

My mother was at home already, triumphant that even though they had done the wrong test, it was negative and therefore she knows more than me.  But she needed tomatoes, so if I were going to the store, would I get her two?

I hadn’t really been planning to go anywhere, given my foggy mental condition, but I caved in to her request and got in my car, very slowly and carefully, and in that condition drove to the store, where I discovered that I needed at lot more than just her two tomatoes.

On my return to the P’s house I caught my wrist in the tailgate of the Outback as I was closing it, and my paper-like skin split over the back of my right wrist.  I didn’t notice the blood until I got home, though, which is what prompted yelling at the dog, because I was bleeding all over the place and she was blocking the passage between myself and the sink full of dishes, where I wanted to wash my wound and see how bad it was.  It could be that she knew something was up and was concerned about me.  That is probably the case.

As you see, I have diverted you from thinking about the fact that somehow or other, The Black Dog has made his way to my doorstep.  Ah, that was what Noga was bugging me about!  It was really as if it hit me right as I walked in the door: the wall of depression.  Smack.

I don’t know what triggered what, in the Feel-bads scenario.  Could have been either one, doesn’t matter.  This morning I took my meds as usual, and I think I did on The Lost Day before that.  If I don’t feel better tomorrow I’ll increase my Lamectil by 50 mg.  My shrink, who has been my shrink since 2001, he and I have protocols for everything.  Depressed?  Add more Lamectil.   Psychotic and/or manic?  Seroquel.  Anxiety?  Clonazepam or Lorazepam.  And so on.

But tomorrow is another day, and this one ain’t over yet.  My lie-down with Noga helped, and I know she’ll want to cuddle at bedtime–she always does.  She’s very predictable.  She runs on ritual, on routine.  And by default, she causes me to have a modicum of routine, which I would not otherwise have, being unemployed and an undisciplined writer.  She has just had her evening bit of obedience training–she demands this every evening at 8:30, not because she so much enjoys the training as she does the treats that accompany it.

And now it’s time for evening meds, brush the teeth etc., arrange the nighttime necessary things in the sleeping area: tissues in case of crying and its accompanying snot, bottle of seltzer (I really like my water to sparkle on the palate) bottle of Ouzo (I like a little Ouzo before sleep, if I don’t fall asleep from the meds before I have a chance to drink it), pee bottles (pee bottles?  Right.  I don’t have a toilet).  And one little fuzzy golden Lhasa Apso, who will no doubt jump up in the spot where my feet are supposed to go and give me the “Apso Look,” which is indescribable; if you have seen it you’ll know what I mean.  But what she means is: “Show me that you love me and haul my 13 pounds up to your face and give me kisses and hugs.”

Which, of course, I will be delighted to do, at the peril of soaking portions of her fur with my tears.

Leave a comment


  1. i enjoyed this post. It amazes me how my dog knows before i do that im having a melt down before i do.. he tells me over and over that “im not ok” and i just tell him to stop it… then i see what he does and thank him for trying.. he gives me kisses and says.. its ok mommy i love you anyway….

    • I’m so glad you have an “alarm dog”…my shrink is a neuropsychiatrist, which means he did residencies both in neurology and psychiatry, so he melds the two…he tells me that bipolar and certain other “mental illnesses” are actually more akin to seizure disorders, and that our meltdowns are actually more like seizures and the emotional effects are due to brain waves misbehaving. In seizures the brain starts having abnormal brain waves way before the seizure itself is perceptible, and our animals, being more perceptive than we are, can detect this and alert us that we’re about to melt down. If your dog does this, then he is a Psychiatric Service Dog because he alerts you to your oncoming meltdown. He sounds so sweet!

      • He is..i cant remeber how i got along without him…i sometimes have stress induced seizuers..

        • Oy…stress can certainly bring on a seizure when you have a sensitive brain…my shrink-o-lator says that some people have sensitive stomachs, some have sensitive lungs, and some have sensitive brains. I think that is the most brilliant thing I have ever heard. It explains why some of us will get a seizure when stressed or assaulted by life’s difficulties. Thank God for our four-legged Seizure Alarms who love us no matter what, even if we don’t understand what they are trying to tell us and we tell them crossly to go lie down but they still persist–“Mommy, your brain is going wacko, take a pill (or whatever) and lie down…” and they give us sweet kisses…

  2. And this too shall pass, right? Hang in there, friend.

  3. Good thing you have a golden dog to stave off the black dog, or at least to remind you that you can love and are loved.

  4. stump3d

     /  June 28, 2014

    Take care and I hope that this one passes as soon as possible. Somebody needs to throw a bone at that Black Dog to keep it busy and away from you. 🙂

  5. Midwestern Plant Girl

     /  June 28, 2014

    Black dog needs to be sent to his room!
    I’m glad Noga is there to comfort you. 🐶 hope things look up soon!

  6. Darleen

     /  June 28, 2014

    I sleep to 10am I feel bad as I set my iPhone to 9am need to take meds.. Being winter I feel it is seasonal affect bipolar as I am so sensitive, everything is getting to me.. I feel sad all the time, I’m at a low.. I’m not usually like this..

    • Darleen, I’m so sorry you’re feeling this way. Hang on, it will pass, eventually. Knowing you’re not usually like this is a very good sign. In the deepest dark of my worst depressions, I couldn’t remember a time when I didn’t feel that way…so knowing that your feeling like that is not normal for you is a good sign. That said, have you given your shrink-o-lator (psychiatrist, I just call mine that and he grins) a shout-out that you’re in the dumps? Maybe a bit of a med change might help….sending ((hugs)) and good energy for healing…

  7. I hope you feel better soon. I love dogs but the Black Dog I hate!

  8. Yikes. When it rains it pours, right? The art of dissembling…. interesting. I have never heard it put like that. I call it wearing the mask.

    Hope things improve for you

    • Yes, wearing the mask is it…I just happen to be a fan of 19th century literature, so “dissembling” it is. My first writing professor at The University of Chicago (stuffy old place to insist on capitalizing the “The”) took me aside after my first assignment and informed me that this was now the 20th century and people don’t write like that anymore. I was, of course, flustered by that, and learned to write 20th century style, but I’m not in that school (or school) anymore and I can write however I like! If I want to write sentences that go on for two pages, like Jane Austin, I bloody well can! Pish-tush to the stuffy old Alma Mater!

  9. Thank goodness you have Noga to help you through the darkness……hope things turn around for you soon.

    • Thanks, Janet….I’m starting to feel things lighten up…hope this is a continuous upward trend! Would be nice…

      • Nice, that is, if it doesn’t flip into the “other side of darkness.” That is a title of something, book, movie, play…but I can’t remember what it is. Darn good title, too. Do you, or anybody here, know?

  10. savemefrombpd

     /  June 29, 2014

    Hi Laura,

    Oh, this is not nice to read! For how do these episodes tend to last for? I see you commented above that you are starting to feel a little better. I hope you are feeling better than yesterday and will feel even better tomorrow… Your dog sounds so lovely. What an absolute cutey!!

    Take care and let us know how you are doing.

    • Thank you, dear. I am feeling better today B”H. As for how long they last–before I was properly medicated, I was pretty much permanently ill. Mostly crashingly depressed, interspersed with episodes of very destructive hypomania, bordering on hypomania. I thought for a while I might have BPD, but my doctor feels that it was “just” mirroring the verbal and emotional abuse I suffered at the hands/mouth of my mother. Yes, little Noga is the sweetest! You take care too. Let’s all heal together! I would love to have a big party with all the wonderful bloggies I’ve met here–even though I normally avoid parties like the plague, this is one I’d dearly love to have!

      • savemefrombpd

         /  June 29, 2014

        So glad you are feeling better. All this mental health stuff is scary business hey!? What a roller coaster of stuff all the time.

        Cutie Noga.. Give her a kiss and a pat for me!

        I’d love to have a bloggers party of all of us! I avoid parties and most things social but like you, this is one that I would love to do!! I guess we can drink non-alcoholic cocktails lol and just have a big laugh! Sounds fun!

        Be speaking to you. Take care and hope all is OK.

  11. istralouise

     /  July 2, 2014

    I’m glad you are feeling a little better. It sounds like your dog is a sweetie. I have one too, but he isn’t so much of a cuddler. No shower or toilet would be depressing just in themselves for me. I applaud your tenacity and strength.


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