Imagine taking a large, uncooperative, black dog with you everywhere you went. It would make some places very awkward, uncomfortable and difficult. You may not go to some places because of it, and alternatively the dog will drag you places you don’t want to go. The dog will make you do things you don’t really want to do.
Feeling down, feeling low, or feeling depressed are terms we’re all familiar with. Depression is often referred to as a ‘black dog’. The idea of a black dog symbolising depression comes from Winston Churchill, who suffered from low mood and depression all his life, and dealt with it by keeping as busy as possible. Even on holiday or when he retired, he kept busy, as a keen gardener, artist and dry stone waller. It’s a very strong image and that’s why it has become a very popular phrase when talking about depression and low mood.
A therapist I know would often say to people who were depressed that they were having a ‘black dog day’ and that the dog would run away soon. Some people say that dogs are a man’s best friend. Dogs will stay with their owners through thick and thin and it is equally difficult for owners to let go of their dogs when they die.
This is also true for depression. It can be very difficult for some people to ‘let go’ of their depression. They own it, they feed it, they protect it, and it’s a part of them.