I was hoping that when I woke up this morning he would be gone, but the moment I opened my eyes, I sensed he was still around.
All my life, I have been subjected to dark, depressive moods to such an extent they seemed normal. Something that happened on a regular basis to me and other people, something I could do little about.
Looking back, I often wonder, which came first, the disasters or Jesse? Could he be the cause of all the trouble in my life, or simply the end result? Did some obscure supernatural force that masqueraded as a large black dog curse me?
No stranger to the conflicting thoughts and emotions that churn around in my head, I knew what it meant. Not going to be a quick visit then, but when was it ever?
I also knew there was little point in arguing with him, as it had never worked in the past. Had I been working too hard in my haste to finish writing my book and move on?
I knew I had, but this couldn’t be what had summoned Jesse again. I love being a writer. Words, sentences and chapters were my friends.
The most important part of writing a book, is the choice of cover, and for some peculiar reason, I just couldn’t do it. I tried repeatedly to first find the inspiration, then to create something suitable, but I didn’t like anything I came up with.
Not one to give up easily, I even commissioned a cover from my friend Chris Graham who is far cleverer than I. But after three failed attempts I had to step back. Something must be seriously wrong this time. Not just overwork or frustration, I was getting mixed signals and failing to recognise any of them. Could it be time to hang up my pencil? But halfway through writing this, I realised that wasn’t the answer.
It is never just one thing that brings Jesse back. He has learned to wait, I swear, knowing that this little car that could, will finally slip off the rails completely.
In the past, I have snapped out of it reasonably quickly, but just lately, it’s as if he doesn’t want to leave me. Maybe he is getting old too, and eager for a quiet life.
Sometimes I miss having a real dog, for all the friendship and loyalty they bring, but in all fairness, I cannot welcome this one into my heart, although sometimes it would seem he is already there.
He has been with me, off and on, for so long now. Almost by default, as he is always there when I seem to need him the most. He never berates or condemns, criticises or demeans and in the midst of all the dark silent terror that is depression, he has become my friend.
Jesse is the embodiment of my despair made manifest. He hasn’t caused my distress, how could he? People are too quick to blame him, when the truth is closer to home…
© 2015 Jaye Marie
Just when I thought this world couldn’t get any worse, that we had already seen enough disasters, suffered enough injustice and fought our way through disappointment after disappointment to be immunised against any more pain, there was so much more.
I heard it coming, we all did.
More of the same, we thought, expecting to shrug it off and get on with our lives. We have long lived with the knowledge that we are at the mercy of those in charge, and that tilting at windmills isn’t really an option.
So why does it feel different this time?
Why do we feel so completely abandoned and betrayed?
We have joked about going to hell in a handcart, but it was still a shock to see it trundling down the road towards us.
I have been waking up in the morning feeling ill, trying to convince myself it is yet another symptom of old age. I am normally an enthusiastic person. Glass half full and all that, but these last few days have seemed empty and hollow. I can usually summon up the energy to fake it until it comes back, but for the first time in my life, I don’t really want to.
But supposing the enthusiasm never come back, what then?
In a way, I am rather glad to be old. Life doesn’t mean the same to me as it once did. I have passed the point of worrying and making plans, content to potter along in my relatively peaceful retirement.
But my little boat seems to have lost its moorings, been cut adrift and left to sink into deep water, with no visible means of reaching the shore…
Today was one of ‘those’ days. You know the ones I mean, the ones you wish you hadn’t bothered getting up for.
First off, the PC kept crashing, five times in all when I was trying to read our email, so my mood was deteriorating fast. I had recently tried to clear the computer cache as it was slowing down more than I was. Now don’t ask me what this means, but apparently it’s something you’re supposed to do to improve the performance. I was getting that nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach again, which usually means I had screwed up again. I had followed the instructions, but this doesn’t mean a thing these days, as my PC can get into more trouble than I can, and sometimes without my telling it to.
When I stopped for lunch, I thought the day was getting better, but then I had trouble getting the stupid plastic lid off the butter. Most of the time they are so loose they usually fall off, but not today. It nearly broke my fingers, but I managed to control my temper. What I really wanted to do was throw it at the nearest wall.
Then the toaster decided to keep my toast. If it wanted some, all it had to do was ask, not steal mine. One slice was available to me, but the other seemed to be wedged inside the contraption. Now, I know better than to dig around in there with a knife, but the nearest wall was starting to look appealing again, so I forced myself to keep rattling the toaster like a mad woman until it came loose.
By the time I had eaten the toast, my head was pounding and my mood was awful. In the past, my temper has been memorable, but the years have mellowed me quite a bit. At least I thought they had.
If the weather was better, I would have gone for a walk, but it was freezing out there and I was supposed to be recuperating from three weeks of radiotherapy. None of my routine jobs looked appealing either, so I decided to play solitaire for over an hour.
Unfortunately, this didn’t improve my mood the way it used to. I felt so guilty for playing hooky, my mood was no better than before.
I resolved to do something, anything, to relieve this guilt. I would be even more cross with myself if I didn’t. Hopefully I could pick something that wouldn’t crash, or go wrong the minute I touched it. For I knew I wouldn’t be responsible for my actions if anything did.
So I finished reading the book I was reviewing and in no time at all, I felt noticeably better. The headache had receded and I no longer wanted to break something.
I probably should stay away from machines, as we really don’t get on. My life would be less hazardous, but incredibly boring, so they are a necessary evil.
They don’t seem to play up for most people, so why me?
Jesse turned up again today.
I had been feeling predictably edgy for some days now, but hadn’t given him a thought. My routine was all to hell and my workload suffering because of it. I was forgetting what I was doing, right in the middle of doing it!
The impending radiotherapy was starting to haunt me, that’s if my breast ever healed enough for them to start. It was still uncomfortable and felt as though they had stuffed something in there, instead of removing anything.
Thinking about not seeing Jesse for a while, I assumed it was because he probably knew I was way out of his jurisdiction and would be wasting his time coming to see me.
For what was going on now was not the small frustrations of an aging woman after all. This was something pretty big, or could have been.
I was still surprised to see him when I came downstairs, and his dark and brooding presence was so welcome, I cried.
Most people describe their own personal ‘black dogs’ as something to detest, something to be got rid of at all costs. But Jesse has been with me for so long now and seen me through some terrible depressions that I cannot resent him. He has become an old friend.
I know he shouldn’t be, for he is just a figment of my imagination after all. A symbol of all my failings and weaknesses. But when you are left with nothing else, you desperately cling on to anything, even a mirage of your own making.
I had a real black dog once when I was a child. A black Labrador retriever called Folly. She was a wonderful dog and was very kind to this miserable child when she really needed a friend. She gradually taught me how to hide all the sadness away, although I liked to imagine she deliberately took it away from me for a while.
All dogs are able to do this, I think and I miss having one of my own so much. This is probably how Jesse came into being, and although I cannot touch him, or feel his soft black fur, I can feel his calming presence in my soul, and will be forever grateful…
Jesse was waiting for me when I came down stairs this morning, and for probably the first time ever, I did not resent his arrival. Those sorrowful eyes echoed my own and I did not feel so very alone any more.
I used to resent his arrival, knowing the black mood that threatened to descend was about to get a hell of a lot worse. But I have grown fond of him over the years. No one else has ever bothered to stick around, although I can hardly blame them.
I miss not being able to touch him, or put my hands on his noble head. To put my face against his thick fur and feel his warmth and compassion, as I have done in the past with the real dogs I shared my life with. Jesse gives me unconditional love; I just hope he knows that I care for him too.
I have been looking at other things a little differently too, wondering if it would be the last time I see them. I would miss so many things, but not all.
I have been trying not to think about what might be happening to me, but like so many times in the past, I will probably survive this too.
The results will be negative again and my miserable life will continue. That is what I was concentrating on anyway. Not the miserable part though.
But Jesse knew.
He always knew what was in my heart, acknowledging the truth of the situation long before I did. Animals have no illusions, do they? They seem to accept what life throws at them, warts and all, but sometimes
I would love to know what they think about. Experts tell us that animals have no emotions, but how can they know this to be true?
I have been accused of having none either, as I appear to turn to stone in certain situations, but that is only what I allow to be seen and probably how I will conduct this latest trial.
On the surface, I can already feel the ice crystals forming as I refuse to get upset over something that may not even be happening.
Next week I will know the truth. I will be prodded and poked, x-rayed and scanned. If it looks bad, a needle may remove some tissue so they can judge how bad it is.
Then what will I do?
Will Jesse stay, or will I send him away, this time for good?
What will I do with what life I have left?
It already sounds as though I know what will happen, but I do not. Maybe, deep down, it is what I want, but I do not think so. My life is not wonderful, but I am not ready to relinquish it just yet…
Round about now, quite a lot of those people who made New Year resolutions are feeling guilty, as most of their good intentions have fallen by the wayside.
I didn’t make any resolutions. Not much point really, for all the things I would love to change have evaded any control on my part for years. The absence of any good intentions has not meant that I started the year in any better mood though, quite the opposite really. My own personal black dog of depression is back and reluctant to leave me. If he were a real dog, I would enjoy his company, but as he isn’t, I don’t.
How can you be so enthusiastic one minute and under the table the next? My life is beginning to be choked with overwhelming chores, suffocating the creative in me. I am finding it harder and harder to make my brain understand what I am trying to do. Very confusing, but this will pass, they say, and I for one, cannot wait.
They say that once you have learned how to do something, your mind and body will never forget how. ‘Like riding a bike’. But have you ever attempted to ride a bicycle after several years have passed? You will remember the basics, of course but it will feel strange, and some of you will come unstuck and fall off.
This is why we should all practice our craft every day, and this includes writing. If we fail to do this, thinking it will all come back to us, it will not be the same. It cannot be the same for our minds and bodies don’t remember all the details. I know mine doesn’t.
The nuances of style and technique dull with lack of use and become blunt. Even tiny fragments of brilliance need to be polished frequently to maintain and improve its shine. So all I have to do now, is find a fragment and a duster!
I finally found myself a lovely new camera, one that I can actually use. The first one I bought was a complete disaster. It was supposed to be idiot proof and it wasn’t. This was probably where the black dog made an entrance, as I felt frustratingly stupid.
Then I had a brainwave. (I do have them from time to time) Maybe the makers of my old faithful had a more updated version on the market. Lo and behold, they did! It is substantially better than my old one, with more features, yet with all the familiar controls.
Along with writing, photography is very important to me, and with this new camera, I hope to enjoy it more and more.
Maybe 2015 will be the year for more of these achievements. I sincerely hope so, for I am not getting any younger.
Speaking of achievements, I have just uploaded The Ninth Life to Smashwords.com and for the month of January, the eBook is free.
If you have ever done this, you will know it is not easy. They have this thing called the meat grinder, which you have to get past, formatting wise. I have always fallen foul of this thing when I have uploaded Anita’s book there, and this is the first time I have managed it with no problems whatsoever. I must be improving. (Or something!)
It would be wonderful if some of you could read it, and maybe say a few words?
The weather has turned and not for the better. It is freezing and wet outside. Dark, miserable skies that match my mood, and I sense a non-active day descending and I am in no mood to fight. I check my emails and notes, but my heart just isn’t in it. Nothing for it, I would have to take the day off and crawl into a book.
The next day the weather couldn’t be more different, but unfortunately my mood hadn’t changed. Normally the sight of a blue sky will do wonders for my get-up-and-go, but I fear it has left me, hopefully not for good.
I get these black moods occasionally, and it takes some fighting to leave one behind, so I concentrated on routine tasks as the brain was refusing to even look at anything else. The general thought was, if I ignore it, maybe it will go away. But despite all my attempts at positive thinking, it clung to me like the smell of onions, long after the meal.
The following day it was still hanging around and I had had enough. It put up a struggle no matter what I tried to do, ignoring it hadn’t worked, so I decided to down tools and go for a walk and convince it I didn’t care if it hung around or not. Sometimes this worked, but it looked like rain, so it was more than probable it would all go pear shaped and I would be no better off.
Several hours later, after a lot of walking, a cheeseburger at my favourite place, and more than a little rain, I went home, reasonably cheerful and very wet.
Today, there was no sign of it and I was pleased to say the least. I am not happy being miserable, it tends to get in the way of anything productive and I hate that it can do that.
There has been a lot of talk lately about depression and how we handle it. I can understand being depressed when things go wrong; when life gets too hard, but why at other times?
Sometimes I am convinced that depression has to be an actual entity of some kind, intent on making us unhappy for reasons of its own and if anyone can come up with a cure for it, they should make them a saint!
Hopefully, the weather and my mood will have improved the next time we meet…