Part 1 - Introducing The Black Dog

Hello. My name is Mark, and I’d like to tell you a story about a journey. But surprise surprise, this was no ordinary journey. This was the scariest, most daunting and challenging yet greatest, most exhilarating and rewarding journey I’ve ever been on. It took me by plane and train, bike and boat, car and foot, from the brightest and bluest of skies to the deepest and darkest of caves, from countryside to city and across many countries and continents. Without ruining it for you, I’m pleased to say it also has a happy ending.

I’ve seen my fair share of the world, yet this story has nothing to do with the actual places I’ve been to. You see, this particular journey all took place within my head wherever I went. This is the story of my years-long battle with anxiety and depression; my long, slow dance with the black dog.

As I write this, it is September 2011 and I’m now a happy and healthy forty-year-old Scotsman of Italian descent. I’ve been living in Melbourne, Australia for 14 years and I have what many would say is a decent responsible job. I’ve also been married to the beautiful Tess for nine years, and we have two adorable sons – Jack, five and Freddie, two. We live near the beach, where I regularly go running in the sun. The seemingly perfect life, so you may think.

Growing up in Glasgow on the other hand, where at times it felt like it was raining all summer long, and the annual heatwave (if any) might be measured in minutes rather than days, I used to dream of a life like the one I now have. But to a black dog dancer like I used to be, good things happened to others – not to me.

Yet for more than a year now, life truly has never been better – and it has nothing to do with living near the beach. No, life has never been better because to complete my brief résumé, I’ve been taking antidepressants every day for more than a year, and I may well continue to do so for the rest of my days.

As well as being on medication, I’ve also spent several hours on the psychologist’s sofa – and I am not even slightly ashamed of either. But my story is not about medication or counselling – these are simply two courses of action that ultimately helped me defeat my own black dogs. My story is about encouraging sufferers of anxiety and depression to speak up – to seek, find and take whatever course of action works for them, and to be proud of their bravery in doing so, rather than ashamed of their fear.

As you can no doubt imagine, living in Australia, looking like an Italian, and talking with a Scottish accent often leads to misunderstandings. Whenever anyone hears my name before my voice for the first time, they tend to look somewhat puzzled by the strange post-introduction rumblings that subsequently emanate forth from my lips. I’ve even been in restaurants where I’ve ordered baked fish with seasoned garden vegetables – and ended up being served bangers ‘n’ mash (no really, I have!) I’ve been in Aussie pubs when I’ve been driving so I’ve asked for a coke – only to be be served with a beer by a somewhat confused-looking barman, who opted to assume rather than clarify. Though to be fair, I have also had some locals look at me with a bemused smirk on their face and say, “mate, I don’t have a clue what you just said but can you say it again – cos it sounded greayt!”

Likewise, one of the purposes of telling my story is to address apparent misunderstandings in our society around the stigma of anxiety and depression, and what it’s really like to undergo counselling or be on medication. I’d like to show that what they are really like and how people assume them to be are often as similar as a fish and a sausage, a coke and a beer.

In the same vein, I’d like to shine a big bright light on one of the black dog’s greatest illusions. I’m sure you’ve seen it many times before. You know – the one where the bitch always makes the lives of others sound so great compared to ours, yet we don’t have a clue as to how much anxiety and depression lingers beneath their surface. These conditions are far more prevalent than many of us may care to realise, and I intend to do my bit right here to expose the great black dog fraud.

Through writing openly and honestly about my past experiences – my endless bouts of racing irrational worries and resulting depressive episodes – I also want to help those who are struggling with their own inner demons realise there is nothing inherently wrong with them. If this sounds like you, rest assured you are not crazy. What you are going through is in fact quite normal; furthermore, no matter how deep and dark a cave you may be in, your anxiety and depression can be beaten. You can go on to live a life far more normal, far more enjoyable than you ever dreamed possible – a life where you’re not broken goods, a life where you truly feel a sense of freedom and inner peace. I may not be a medical or mental health professional, but I do know this is all possible because I did the one thing I can tell you that you should do: I took appropriate action. I sought professional help. I took the fight to my own inner demons – and I won.

Of course, you may be reading this having never suffered from anxiety or depression yourself. You may therefore struggle to empathise with, understand and support friends or family who are suffering. In telling my story, I’d like to help you understand what it’s like to always have a growling black dog on your back, and how very vivid, real and nasty a beast it is.

As my story unfolds, I will also touch on what some may call one of the secrets to living a happy and meaningful life. Though I prefer to describe as the most incredibly liberating yet simple life insight, one that I stumbled across at a time when I least expected to – while I was cowering away in my own darkest cave, at the very lowest point in my entire life.

I’m not trying to kid myself here. I know my story is no different to many millions, even billions of other stories out there. I’m not going to single-handedly change the world just by sharing mine. I do know, however, that if I can encourage just one person to reach out from their own cave and seek help, I can at least change their world. As clichéd as that may sound, I also know that it carries oh so much truth.

I was very fortunate in hindsight. My black dogs grew slowly over the years, and like many others, I was able to live with them. In fact having them in my life – having them as my life – felt quite normal, as I had nothing to compare them to. But my irrational worries, my bouts of anxiety and depression gradually became more frequent more lengthy and more gripping until a series of unrelated circumstances in 2010 pushed me right to the very edge of breakdown. But I realised that no, I did not have to put up with this any longer, this was no way to live my life. I grabbed my black dogs by the scruff of the neck and yelled out “enough!” That was the day I started to take action.

One thing I’ve learned over the journey is that the greatest experiences in life truly are the most hellish, the most daunting and challenging. They are the ones we want to turn around and walk away from, when the best thing we can do is to stand up and keep walking through, only to emerge on the other side better, stronger and wiser; more capable rather than less capable than before. On that note, a very good friend of mine recently asked me – if I could wind the clock back, would I change the hell that I’ve been through? And would I do it all again if I could learn even more of the same? My answer was the same to both questions – “hell, no.”

And so I hope you will join me as I walk you through my own wouldn’t-change-it-for-the-world-but-am-never-going-there-again journey to hell and back. Of course, please feel free to share this story with any of your friends who may benefit from it. Who knows, perhaps he or she is the one person whose world can truly be changed beyond their dreams.

 

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107 Comments

Iggy Pintado responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Dan Elliot responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hey Mark,I just wanted to drop you a quick line in appreciation. It's staggering that so many people take this journey and yet one can still feel so alone in dealing with BD. After a number of false starts over the years with AD's, therapists that didn't work for me, and countless days lost I've finally found a councellor that is helping me move forward. It's not easy, it's bloody painful and sometimes I feel shitty but it's always moving forward.I'll continue to follow this with great interest and once again you have my respect and admiration. Also a nice line in patter...Kindest and warmest regards as always, Dan.

Geraldine Moreau responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Mark - you are to be commended on your courage and honesty and I will read with interest. Geraldine Moreau

Claire responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Good one Mark - I've been in the same boat for years - and changes climates from UK to Australia plus anti-deps were major breakthroughs for me. And I've also just starting sharing my story 'cos I'm largely through and it feels good to reach out a hand (see clairestretch.com if you're interested. Hope we overlap more in both cyber and 3D worlds!

Kay responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Mark,what a great start to an uplifting story, and I'm sure sharing it will go a long way to help lifting the mist. I know a few people in the same circumstances, and think you are really brave but so sensible to do this . I'm reading this on the day Ken and Anna return to Oz.I wish all three of you a safe journey and much love. Kay

Sharon responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Mark Pacitti.... well done, really...well done. I will read, as I always do with great admiration of the boy I knew all those years ago. Your words are inspirational, witty and heart felt, loads of Glasgwegian support over the ocean to you. Sharonx

boomeranger responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

boomeranger responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Good morning Mark. Well done indeed. At first I thought, not the tone of your usual written communications, and then I rethought that and decided that it was true to the old Pacitti approach - common sense, with a slice of life and a decent dollop of Italo-Glaswegian humour. Dry, self-depracating without being maudlin, and above all, honest.I look forward to being a future passenger 'on the journey'.Drew

Kathie responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Mark you really are inspirational and even though there was never any indication of such anxiety in your lovely face and it was not written in French I understood every little step of your dance. I look forward to more in the future.Kathie x x

Liz Millard responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Mark, It is difficult to express the mix of empathy, admiration and relief that I felt as i read your blog. Empathy because I have battled the same curse, and have gone down the same roads trying to work out why I felt this way when so much in my life was good? (I now realise this has nothing to do with why I was feeling the way I was), admiration for the strength and courage you have to not only fight this battle but to reach out and share your insights and experiences with all of us in the hope of helping others, and relief not only that you have sought and found the help that you need - no victory for the black dog here - but also to realise (yet again) that i am not alone, that anybody who suffers from anxiety or depression is not alone. I look forward to reading more of your inspiring blogs Mark, and as a fellow sufferer can I just say how proud I am of you :) Liz Millard xo

Elephant's Child responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Thank you so much Mark. I am going to try and get my partner to read you. I recognise your story from my own perspective and I believe and hope he could find some similarities too.

Claire Jeffrey responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Well done Mark, it is very brave of you to open up so honestly about your experiences with depression - as you say there is still enormous stigma about it, as if it's somehow self-inflicted. I suffered crippling post-natal depression after I had my kids, and I also had an episode in my mid-20s when I became Ill with an underactive thyroid. Even now I rarely talk about it and at the time felt I had to be careful who I confided in... I'm glad the meds are helping and wish you the very best of luck going forward.... Like you I also use exercise as a form of therapy and it sure as hell helps too. xx

Jackie Moyes responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Chantell responded: 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi Mark, I just want to say thankyou so much for sharing your story! I have just stumbled across your blog and feel like I am reading my own words! I have struggled with anxiety and depression myself for most of my life, and I know just how terrible the lows can be...I also know, once you are finally coming through to the 'other side' of it all, how strong that urge is to help others, how much you wish you could shout from the rooftops that life doesn't have to be that way! I am very new to Blogger, only just joined a few days ago, with the same purpose as you ~ to normalize mental health issues and hopefully help others to understand a little more...It's nice to come across someone with the same philosophy! :o)

Jolme Limvilla responded: 5 years, 3 months ago

Mark, we loners will love it. Some know-it-all folks out there would hopelessly think they can change the world according to their version of the world. The fact of the matter is that we humans can't change it for the better or worse. If only we are all tied to single brain, we can change it into anything. The truth is the opposite, thus, let's just watch and learn while we do our best to change our inner world. I loved this line: "wouldn’t-change-it-for-the-world-but-am-never-going-there-again".JOLME333;)

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 3 months ago

Thank you Jolme for your kind words! And thank you for your help

Ellie Forster responded: 5 years, 3 months ago

Mark, you are an inspiration to the world. You just spoke for millions of people who walk this earth wondering what the hell is the matter with them. Stand tall and know we are all right behind you in everyway x

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 3 months ago

Ellie, thank you for your kinds words, anyone who reads my words needs to realise that I am no special case. The only difference between my story and the potential story of those millions you refer to is that I chose to tell mine. I am also enjoying telling it, so in many ways I have been lucky. Thank you so much for your support, it means a lot x

steven mcs responded: 5 years, 3 months ago

Well done Mark.I will read on with interest.All the best from all tyhe old st pauls boys X

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 3 months ago

Thanks Stevie, hope you enjoy the read!

Sophie responded: 5 years, 3 months ago

Mark, I am a friend of Rebecca Xuereb's. Having suffered severe anxiety over the past 20 years l can entirely relate to what you are saying. I am lookng forward to ready what you have written. I am glad you have come out the otherside, as have l and are expressing your journey. Sophie

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 3 months ago

Hi Sophie, thanks for the note and I'm glad you can relate to it, always good to hear if I'm hitting the spot. Glad to hear you came good too. If you want to get my future blog posts via your Facebook Newsfeed just go to www.Facebook.com/dancingwiththeblackdog and click on the Like button. Have a great weekend! Mark

Tim responded: 5 years, 3 months ago

Respect mate! As a fellow dog chaser I can relate.

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 3 months ago

Thanks for the feedback Tim – short but straight to the point! I wish you well in your own battle, hope is out there! Cheers Mark

Debyl1 responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Hi Mark.Thankyou for sharing and giving hope to many.Can you please tell me if medication works when depression is from a persons situation and not a chemical imbalance?I know some people think a tablet cant change their situation so they dont go for help x

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Hi Deby and thanks for your words of encouragement for me! When I first started writing this blog I promised myself I would not turn away any requests for advice but at the same time I would not rise above my station ie I am not a medical professional. I am just one man sharing my story on how depression and anxiety presented itself in my own circumstances. So I’m afraid I’m not in a position to answer that for you. What I can say however is that for many years I lived with what I thought was normal having such lows that I write about, and I baulked at the idea of both seeing a psychologist and taking medication. Deep down though I knew one or other or both would help me live a better quality of life! What I have found however is that by speaking openly and honestly to both my  doctor and my psychologist, they are the best judges. It also doesn’t hurt to get second opinions. So its not a case of convincing people so much that a tablet can in fact help change their situation, but rather by convincing them that by taking action and asking the doctor and the psychologist, the experts can then be the judges of that. Half the battle is of course removing the stigma of both, which is one of the main reasons I am blogging about it, to do whatever I can to help lift the stigmas. I do hope this helps, you asked a very good question and I gave it a very indirect answer! Cheers Mark

Debyl1 responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Thankyou for taking the time to write back in such depth you lovely man.You are an inspiration .All the best to you and your family x

lonelymind responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Hi Mark. For now I just want to say, well done! Also would like to know how to get my own blog?? This the way I would be able to get my thoughts down and actually feel better about my condition. It's something I've lived with almost my entire life, which resulted in my children having to watch my continual meltdowns throughout their childhood. My psychologist has told me that it's time I emptied the buckets full of misery that I've been carrying around for 64 years. 64 years is a long, long time to feel like your life is worthless. Could you please tell me how to create my own blog?? My sincere regards to you and keep your writing going, it's great therapy and will give comfort to others, as you have to me! Best wishes, Mark. XX

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Hi lonelymind, thanks for the note and kind words. Setting up a blog is free and easy – just go to posterous.com and create an account and the name of the blog you want (you can have many blog names under the same account) and start blogging! Commentary, likes, etc they are all provided as part of the posterous service, and each post you create gets a unique URL. Only thing is that it puts all posts in a single long stream, so I had the front page at www.dancingwiththeblackdog.com created as an index page - didn’t cost that much but helps I hope with first impression. Happy blogging and please do let me know when you get started, happy to spread the word of your blog on facebook & twitter.

Kiersten responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Hi Mark,I just wanted to leave a message and say how wonderful and grateful I am that you have spoken out. I was bought here to your blog via your article in MX. As a young, professional female who is just emerging from her own 'cave' I echo your sentiments in that those who suffer from the Black Dog can go on to live incredible lives. I cannot remember ever feeling this good. And I don't mean good in the euphoric sense, I mean in a balanced, in-control, grateful sense. Life is so damn amazing.I will continue to check back in with your blog as it is great comfort to know I am not alone.x

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Hi Kiersten, thank you very much for your kind words, and I am truly glad to hear that you have reached the same destination as me. It has absolutely made my morning reading your comment! I can totally relate to your balanced, in-control, grateful sense of good rather than a euphoric one. Lets keep fighting the good fight for those still at the start of the journey! Have a great weekend! Part 7 I hope to have out in the next few days, a week tops.

Brian responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Thanks Mark; I have this feeling that your blog will be much needed inspiration as I try to kick the black dog from my life. No matter how I try, under my own steam, that mongrel just keeps hanging around. I have no desire for medication at this stage, but think I may have no option. I will read your pages with great interest. Thanks again. Brian

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Hang in there Brian! Those beastly black dogs are no match for sheer determinism. Only you will know when or if you need medication, in conjunction with your doctor. If you do go down that road, do not be ashamed of it! Stand proud... Merry Christmas to you! Mark

Mike responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Respect mate! As a fellow dog chaser I can relate, and it feels good to hear that someone apart from myself also has the same feelings that thoughts that I do, love your blog.. keep it up.

Mark Pacitti responded: 5 years, 2 months ago

Mike thanks for the feedback! I will most certainly keep it up

The Bipolar Project responded: 5 years ago

Hi Mark,Thanks for tweeting me the link to your blog. Your aim is admirable, and I like your writing style. I am already "changed", as you said, but I am very interested in your story. I will be sure to keep on reading. Sara

Shann74 responded: 5 years ago

Hi Mark, sharing something so personal is a very brave and generous outlook and I admire your reasons behind it. In hindsight of battling depression and anxiety, to come out the other side is like taking your first breath of life as it can be a long terrifying road. I have battled depression and anxiety since childhood but just I thought that was the way I was because of my childhood but I didn't realise I was ill until I hit rockbottom a few years ago. I succumbed to medication after advice from my doctor and therapist and finally came off on my own accord three weeks ago. I was dependent on meds for 18 months and it turned my world around in a very good way, it was the boost I needed. I did say to myself at one stage I think I might just stay on these for the rest of my life as I felt completely constant in my emotions, no real ups or downs, but real life isn't really like this and I still wanted to keep my 'real' self. Whose to say it won't return and if it does then, hopefully now I am better equipped to deal with it. I am looking forward to reading your blogs and I sincerely wish you and your family all the best. People like you inspire people like me to take a deep breath and do the best we can.

Jackie responded: 4 years, 11 months ago

My friend, and also yours, recommended this blog to me and I read part 1 this am. I wait with anticipation to read the rest. I suffer from Bipolar Affective Disorder, or manic depression as it used to be called. Looking back I have had this my whole life. I am now 40. I have been in treatment since 1996 when I was first hospitalised. Since then I have been hospitalised 30 times from 2 weeks up to a year at a time. I have undergone 2 years of daily psychotherapy, seen several psychologists, been on many medications and undergone 5 treatments of ECT. Unlike you if I could turn back time, ther is no reason on earth that would ever go through this again. My life has been destroyed and there is no way of getting it back. I have now been out of hospital for over 2 years but I feel the cloud descending once more. I look forward to reading your blog and seeing what could possibly make you not want to change things. Sorry to be so negative but I find it hard to find a positive.

Mark Pacitti responded: 4 years, 11 months ago

Hi Shann Im so sorry I am not sure if Ive responded to you yet as I am getting through a large backlog of emails and found this one. I just wanted to say thank you too for being open – I like yout analogy of coming out the other side like being your first breath of life – darn why didn’t I think of that one?! ;o) Thanks also for sharing your story of medication – Im still on mine and don’t feel I need them but Ive heard too many stories of people who come off them and realise they do still need them. I will probably try to come off them one day but Im not going to pressure myself into it and Im not going to beat myself up if I don’t. Keep doing the best you can – and remember, all I did was share my story, there must be millions of other similar stories out there just waiting to  be written – why not yours? All the best Mark

Mark Pacitti responded: 4 years, 11 months ago

Hi Jackie thanks for taking the time to 1) read and 2) comment. I am sorry to hear of your own struggle, Ive never been bipolar so can only try to imagine based on my own experiences. Please realise though that your life has not been destroyed – that is EXACTLY how I felt 18 months ago but I picked up the pieces and soldiered on after years of repetitions of the same cycles of worry, anxiety and depression. I enjoy my life more now because of what I went through, and YOU CAN DO THE SAME!! You just have to believe you can – which is one of the main reasons for me telling my story in this way. Keep fighting the good fight, hope really is out there, you just gotta find the right kind of hope for you. Very best of luck!  

Sam responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

"As a kid growing up in dreary Glasgow, where at times it felt like it was raining (horizontally) all summer long, and the annual heatwave (if any) might be measured in minutes rather than days,"Too true Mark - great blog and respect for sharing.BestSamp.s. also now living by the beach on the Sunshine Coast and v happy. A world away from the grey of Govan.

Nathan Britten responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Hi Mark. Really encouraged by this blog. I have suffered with depression most of my adult life but only just recently stood up to it. People around me are completely oblivious to depression and I think you can only fully understand if you suffer with it yourself. Its a amazing feeling to realise your not a freak and that you can beat it. Its so important to advertise this so really excited that you are on the mission. I am a christian and have fort my depression with that guiding me. I also wrote a blog and was encouraged by the feedback and the understanding that I got from it. Thank-you for making people aware. Means a lot to people suffering I know.

J Mark Dodds responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Well done for putting this together Mark. Steven Fry noted it on Twitter at about 1.30pm GMT on 20 April 2012: Stephen Fry ‏ @stephenfry A wonderfully witty, candid account of one man's victory over anxiety & depression ~ by @MarkPacitti http://bit.ly/porMGl

Julia Hadji-Stylianou responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Hi Mark. This has been a huge inspiration to me and I know I'll be reading it a lot to help me get through my own anxiety and depression which, like you, has grown over the years. I have completely spiraled out of control in the past few months, nearly driving myself to suicide, till it completely wrecked a very intimate relationship of mine, which suddenly made me realise that I have to finally overcome my inner demons. Your blog has definitely helped me understand that talking about our problems really can help. It is a great comfort to know I am not alone. Thank you so much. -Julia

DebHyde responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Well done Mark, so important to beat the stigma on anxiety and depression. :)

D Thompson responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Thank you Mark for your blog, I thought I was reading about myself! Best wishes from a 41 year old man dealing with depression.

Jo responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Hi Mark, great insight into your experiences with depression and anxiety. I have suffered on and off since I was 18 (i'm now 30). My most recent (and current) episode began 6 months ago and is now seemingly starting to 'lift' I think (and desperately hope) following 6 months not being able to work, splitting up with my partner and having to move back to my parents house as I was too low/ anxious and in 'grief' to support myself. I took an overdose for the first time ever several weeks ago, and am just not allowing myself to beat myself up about this too much as otherwise it would make things worse! I totally agree that exercise and fresh air helps massively- i've just started to work on a horse yard for free just for the physical and psychological benefits and to have some structure again to my life after being 'stuck inside' for so long. Medication does not seem to 'solve' the problem for me, as personally I believe that it is not in my case related to being chemically unbalanced per se, but a reaction to the way I've lived my life, behaved, thought, been brought up etc etc. With the help of a pschothepraist, I am now looking to take as long out of 'conventional' life to assess myself and my life and no longer attempt to paper the cracks with taking tablets and pretending all's solved. Not meaning to sound like I know it all, otherwise I wouldn't be on here- just a message to say that if we can try and look within ourselves we may be able to give us more control over this condition by beleiving we can making making other positive changes. As my psychotherapist says, you will then no longer then be a sitting duck waiting for it to occur again! Peace and love to All on here, Jo

admin responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Hi Nathan, I am so pleased to hear my blog encouraged you, but of course sorry to hear of your own struggles. I applaud you for standing up to it, such a misunderstood and feared condition, a shame that the fear and misunderstanding becomes self perpetuating when people dont talk about it. So well done, you, for talking up too!

admin responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Thank you Mark! Putting it together has added a whole new sense of purpose to my life too. What a journey it has been!

admin responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Hi Julie, thanks for taking the time to comment. I am glad to hear my story was of some help (there is more to follow - working on part 11 at the mo) I think too many people underestimate the power of talking about our problems, and there is still too much of a stigma around depression anyway, so its a double-hurdle one has to leap over to get on the road to recover. Keep fighting the good fight! Mark

admin responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Many thanks Deb! I agree - the stigma must leave the building via the first available exit!

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admin responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Thanks D! Keep fighting on, my story is but one of many.

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admin responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Hi Jo - what a unique insight into how what works for some will not work for others! And good on you for working on the horse yard cos its what you love to do and recognising that medication doesnt solve the problem for you. Which is exactly what I am trying to say overall through my own story - encouraging others to take action, not necessarily medication. Peace and love right back atya! Mark x

admin responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Thank you, I will do my best - many more to come! Mark

Tracy responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Hi Mark, Thank you for sharing your great story. I am in the process of going through the same journey. It's interesting to read yours which seems so "together" and beautifully written whilst I am still floundering in mine. I have added the link to the post that I think explains how difficult I am finding this and even though I share what I think I have learnt - there isn't a day that that goes by that I think "I don't know if I can do this". Feeling so exposed is awful but I also feel like it is healing and as you say, maybe by starting to share and showing my own mess, someone else might be able to find their way back. I recently posted asking other people to share - it's interesting to look at it now and see it almost as a way out of having to share myself and how quickly I try to put the walls back up. Thanks again, Tracy

Marie responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Just leaving a message after listening to ABC radio, so you can work towards beating Stephen Fry! And to let you know that its always encouraging to hear the good stories and that its not a life sentence. A fellow sufferer constantly working on it - I love the story of your son. Mine constantly makes me feel guilty and at the same time gives me a reason to keep trying!

madge responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

well done, heard you on radio in melbourne today. The most difficult people to deal with ( having a similar story) are g.p.'s (doctors) who seem terrified that you will become dependent on medication - which in fact gives you an opportunity to lead a 'normal' life! I have not heard of diabetics being denied insulin and told to 'pull themselves together.' Second point ( I'm also never short of words!) most alternate treatments to prescription drugs are expensive. I would have happily gone to counselling (psychology) hypnotherapy/ meditatation etc. if it had been available and not as costly. cheers

admin responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Hi Tracy thanks for your comment. Believe me I had my floundering days - BIG STYLE! I read your own blog post - what an amazingly brave thing you did! So what if you took it down, you tried to express yourself as best you could. I love love love this: "I cannot control, manage or make anyone believe or see anything, I cannot make anyone happy, sad, embarrassed or uncomfortable. All I can do is share my thoughts and experiences as honestly and clearly as I am able to. And in doing so, allowing myself to be vulnerable and hopefully provide the space for someone else to do the same, the rest is up to you" I wholeheartedly agree. I also believe, however, that we can influence others. And you have done so to me by reiterating that all I and anyone else telling their story is to share their thoughts and experiences as honestly and clearly as they can. Ive just posted Part 11 of my story, which by no coincidence I am sure also touches on this. Many thanks, and take a courtsey - you did good! Mark

admin responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Thanks Marie, I wasnt sure if I was being clear enough when I was telling that story and felt I had to reiterate my point! It seems however that you got it! My son was talking about HIS dad from his perspective - ie me! Your own son will know that you are being brave. Heck if my son thought I was the bestest Dad in the whole universe ever that day, when I was at the lowest of the low in my life, then we gotta be real bad to get knocked off their pedestals. I can still so clearly remember his beautiful warming words! Thanks

admin responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

A good point madge, in fact several good points. Only thing I would add is that meds might not work for some where counselling may - just my opinion not my experience of course. Still a grossly misunderstood illness - several illnesses in fact - but as my psychologist said, even though we still dont understand it, at least we have the tools (ie medications) available to us today to help us through - and beyond! Thank you for reading and for your comment. PS - Part 11 just out!

admin responded: 4 years, 10 months ago

Hi Vitamin D - great to hear! Writing about the experience can also be extremely helpful to the writer. Good luck with your own blog.

Gail responded: 4 years, 9 months ago

Hi Mark, Heard your interview on ABC, loved your approach and honesty. Is there a way to get your blog to print out properly so I can share it with my not so computer literate friends? Keep up the great work, you ARE making a difference :) Cheers - Gail

admin responded: 4 years, 9 months ago

Hi Gail thank you for your email and feedback, glad I was coming across loud and clear and glad to hear I am making a difference! My site doesnt yet have the ability to pring properly however you could try highlighting the text and copying and pasting into eg MS Word. If not sure how to please let me know and I can email direct to you. Thanks also for sharing this with others. Apologies for taking a week to reply, it has been a mad mad week! Mark

Lee responded: 4 years, 8 months ago

"Hell No" ??? I've been battling this since my early teens. It has had a huge negative impact on my life. I'm not quite sure how I've made it this far. "Hell No" ??? I say "HELL YES!" I'm sitting at my desk at work. Not really achieving much. Just keeping up appearances. It's only a matter of time before I get found out. The Black dog wants to dance with me. He is calling me up to the building roof top. I think he's up to 'no good'. "Hell No" ??? ............I'll read a little more.

Mary-Anne responded: 4 years, 7 months ago

Well done Mark. You really hit a nerve today. I just read your article in the Herald Sun Weekend. For the first time ever I felt I was reading about someone who had travelled a similar path to myself and REALLY understood what it is like to suffer from this insidious illness. I too have decided, that amongst other things, anti-depressants will be a part of the rest of my life. I no longer feel ashamed or embarrassed about this. As you say each of us must find what is right for us. Soon my workplace will be conducting a workshop in Mental Health. I have already offered to "bare my soul" if needed, to show people the "who" and "how" effects of depression. I am about to read the rest of your website. (After I have been to the Doc to get a repeat script for my medication)!

Jim Marshall responded: 4 years, 7 months ago

Hi Mark, I'm quite new to feeling depressed and alone. On the 20 Dec 2011 I had a fall while hill running rupturing my right quad & quad muscle, to cut along story short I was misdiagnosed, because of that my knee has not got better and I'v let myself slip into a depression that I cannot get out of. I have been offered an op, but i bad experience with knee surgery 10 years ago and makes me go into panic attacks and cancel, my friends and work don't seem to understand and I have gone deeper into a black hole. I have just started reading ur blogs and hope it helps me get out of a place in my mind I can't deal with . Jim

isabel responded: 4 years, 7 months ago

Thankyou for being so brave and speaking up for all us who suffer from depression and aniexty. I to have suffered all my life but I am not as brave as you in speaking out but you have given me strength and hope for the future Regards Isabel

Lisa responded: 4 years, 7 months ago

Hi Mark Good to read the introduction to your story and I am looking forward to going through the rest of your blog. My father suffers from BD (which was first diagnosed as schizophrenia many decades ago) and I wish there had have been more awareness about it back then (40 years ago) as he may have been in a much better place today. Great to read a good news story like yours and that you have come out on the other side, stronger ! all the best. Lisa

Scott responded: 4 years, 6 months ago

Hi Mark How r u. I heard your interview on 702 Sydney this morning with Adam spencer and thought I would look at your blog. What an amazing read I have dealt with depression and inner demons for 25 years if not a bit longer. A good part of that on meds but happily I can say I have been medication free for 9 years and dealing with what happens and going to a psychologist at the same time and doing cognitive behavior therapy which once learned does wonders. You are inspiring and I am glad I have it read it cause sometimes you think you are alone out there and no one knows what u are going through. Being off meds can sometimes be an emotional rolls coaster but I have started dealing with life head on and when u have a fantastic doc to talk to which r very hard to find it makes traveling through life much easier. Also running helps I run most days of the week and am on a happy medium with that as well. Thanks Scott

ron responded: 4 years, 5 months ago

hi mark i first heard about you through my friend I've been suffering depression for years nowVever since the demise of my marriage .Like you say it's a gradual thing that happens of which you do not acknowledge the signsOne day it takes a certain situation which is presented to you of which it hits you hard and you in the mercy of the black dog.I've tried counselling and medication and still struggling with the illness.I admire of what you have done and will read your article.THANK YOU............

Alta responded: 4 years, 4 months ago

Great to discover this blog! I will take some time to work through it. On my blog are some pieces about my experience with depression which you might find interesting. Unfortunately most of my writing is in Afrikaans on my personal blog. I dream of one day publishing a book with short, as you say bite-sized bits of positive info about the black dog. The centre of my philosophy is that we must realize we CAN DO a lot of things to make it better, outside of taking medication and going for counselling. (which are the first two things to do, in my opinion). But I could also improve my life a lot by finding out what character traits, thinking patterns etc can do to my mental state. Regards!

Lynne responded: 4 years ago

Hey Mark , we were the campers on the corner [below you] at Queens Park caravan park at Lorne this past summer. .....[Mal]. keeping you up with the tennis scores . You gave us your card when you were leaving and i have finally got around to looking up your site and have started reading your blog with much interest . I also have suffered with depression and anxiety in the past [all good for now] and just had to say that i admire what you are doing . Don't underestimate the the great impact you will have on many people's lives , as they read your story and meet you in person . You are truly inspiring . .I have also spent time in Cambodia and have worked for a short time as a nurse in Vietnam and could not think of a better cause to support .Keep up the good work . Thank you Lynne

Duncan responded: 3 years, 11 months ago

Mark, I was in attendance at your talk to the Victorian Bar and I wish to whole-heartedly congratulate you on your own victories, but also on a very brave and thorough address. As a sufferer in a very high-stress profession, who formerly considered the bad times as 'part of the job', I can only advocate seeking help and not simply 'getting on with it'. I know it helped me greatly and has had an extremely positive effect on both my personal life and practice. I hope others in attendance will be inspired by your story to deal head on with the BD, rather than suffer in silence. regards.

stewart gibb responded: 3 years, 9 months ago

Mark, Apologies for taking so long to follow the link. Great stuff and look forward to reading the rest soon. Anything I can do to help raise the profile in the old country of the hozizontal rain, let me know - it was sunny today for a while though. Hope you and the family are doing well. Cheers, Stewart in Edinburgh

Anni responded: 3 years, 9 months ago

Hello again Mark - It is so gratifying to connect with people who share the Black Dog's visits. I think it was always with me, I think it is heredity - long black days of silence in the house, the Nuns of the glorious cult of handing out penance on a daily basis. Rebellion did not help but humour was and is my bible. My medications are called my "mad Pills" and they are not going anywhere! The death of a twelve year old sister in a family which does not allow crying - bite the inside of your cheeks - death of a daughter from heroin was the clincher. I thank God for the wonderful support from Dennis my husband and such wonderful friends and for you and the time you take to follow your journey. Great grandkids I have, beautiful daughter and son... such a blessing. We of Celtic background have humour and depression in our veins. I wonder why it is. Not feeling sorry for myself at all, truly I never have. Cheers to you on this beautiful day1 Day off for me from my Volunteer work in Primary school Library so it's my movie time. Anni

Liz Twining responded: 3 years, 5 months ago

Hi Mark, I deserately want to read your amazing story of your journey of depression and anxiety. We have a son who has both, he is only 18. As you can imagine i am totallybeside myself and dont know how to help him. We have been to gps, councillors, etc. He is now on an antidepressant to help him. The main reason i am writing to you, is because i want to know if i can get your story without having to read it by mobile or by computet... Is this possible.?

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Anni responded: 3 years, 1 month ago

Best thing that ever happenned was meeting you, learning from you and understanding I am not alone. Thanks Mark for this latest read, God Bless - Anni

Mark McColl responded: 3 years, 1 month ago

Keep up the great work Mark. :)

Isabel McCue responded: 3 years, 1 month ago

Hi I have shared this with my network, thanks for writing it is the animation of the black dog also yours? At Theatre Nemo we use the arts to engage and support people , to use your description who are "dancing with the Black Dog" Would be interested to read the whole story Rain and wind hasn't stopped for weeks here in Glasgow so enjoy the sunshine all the best Happy New Year

leanne williams responded: 3 years, 1 month ago

I would like to know where I can get your book from..

Liz Twining responded: 2 years, 11 months ago

Hi Mark, would like to know how to get this story of yours. Can you only download it.? Or can you purchase it in book form.?

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Brandy responded: 1 year, 11 months ago

Ǫuee tal, No est

Mark Elder responded: 1 year, 2 months ago

Hi Mark, I'm another Mark, so that's easy. Love your site and your work. I was a Lifeline Counsellor for quite a few years until it became too hard to balance both the work and the demands of a 10 till 2am shift. Likewise, I have also been followed round by the damn dog. I have had so many friends in crisis and (being the known crisis counsellor) I became the one they would come to at, say, 3am at a party. Now, I can recommend your site! Cheers, Mark

Richard Tavender responded: 10 months, 1 week ago

Hi Mark. Thanks for encouraging others to learn to dance with the Black Dog instead of being bailed up against the back fence by that growling K9. I pray that you are having a great week. Regards Richard T

dave Croden responded: 9 months, 3 weeks ago

THE BLACK DOG When the black dog bits you never can tell will this be the last time will it be hell, Your stomache is churning way down inside you just want to lay there lay there and hide, You wish you was someone someone other than you your mind tells you lie's that you think are so true, It take's you further down the black hole its like a whirlpool taking its toll, You're disorientated heads in a spin you try to combat the chances are slim, The line between sanity and insanity's thin you almost give in to the ultimate sin. THE BLACK DOG When the black dog bits you never can tell will this be the last time will it be hell, Your stomache is churning way down inside you just want to lay there lay there and hide, You wish you was someone someone other than you your mind tells you lie's that you think are so true, It take's you further down the black hole its like a whirlpool taking its toll, You're disorientated heads in a spin you try to combat the chances are slim, The line between sanity and insanity's thin you almost give in to the ultimate sin. when the black dog bits it takes you further you never can tell down the black hole will this be the last time its like a whirlpool will it be hell taking its toll your stomach is churning your disorientated way down in side heads in a spin you just want to lay there you try to combat lay there and hide your chances are slim you wish you was someone the line between sanity someone other than you and insanity slim your mind tells you lies you almost give in that you think are so true to the ultimate sin. Dave croden.

dave Croden responded: 9 months, 3 weeks ago

when the black dog bits you never can tell will it be the last time will it be hell, your stomach is churning way down inside you just want to lay there lay there and hide, you wish you was someone some other than you your mind tells you lies that you think are so true, it takes you further down the black hole its like a whirlpool taking its toll, your disorientated heads in a spin you try to combat the chances are slim, the line between sanity and insanity thin you almost give in to the ultimate sin. DAVE CRODEN.

dave Croden responded: 9 months, 3 weeks ago

h

Julie responded: 9 months, 3 weeks ago

Thank you! I've been there too, done counselling and work etc. So so worth it. Thank you!!!!!

Deborah Harris responded: 9 months, 3 weeks ago

This is very gòod...

Alan Deery responded: 9 months, 1 week ago

Dear Mark my name is Alan Deery I am a peer leader for people with anxiety and depression would like to know if you have flyers that I could put up about you would love to support your group if can in anyway thank you look forward to your reply

Philippa Marrow responded: 7 months, 1 week ago

Mark thank you for speaking out, for starting this campaign. I am not yet brave enough to speak up about my struggle with depression and anxiety. I find I retreat to my black cave and avoid people is possible. I have ordered my black dog pins which I will wear. Bless you x

Marcia responded: 7 months ago

Hello Mark, I have just read your story with interest. I went through terrible depression 30 plus years ago after losing my baby girl at 3 months. She had a form of Spina Bifida, which was too near the brain for the doctors to operate on. In those days there was no help and yes, if I am honest, I so much wanted to end my life at the time. The only thing that stopped me from doing it was my other two children who I knew needed me. Then 3 months ago, I lost my Nephew who suffered with mental illnesss. He had tried twice to commit suicide, but failed. He had been in and out of hospitals, but nothing seemed to help. Then he was prescribed Pregablin and antidepressants, but died a couple of weeks later, just when we thought he was getting better. Since then, we have found out that Pregablin has been banned in other countries and mixed with antidepressants can kill a human. To this day, we still don't know if my Nephew ended his own life or the tablets did. I only wish that he could have read your story. It may have given him hope?

Robyn responded: 5 months, 1 week ago

Hi Mark Thank you for introducing your dance with the black dog. I have had many dances with them and at times felt like there were packs of them. In hindsight I wasn't even aware of the path I was taking which was to self medicate with drugs and alcohol and now 10 years later and not self medicating I have a lot more insight in to my waltz with my Black Dog which I have become friends with. Today I support young people at risk of developing a Mental Illness and the more we encourage these kids to speak out about their dances hopefully the less stigma there will be. Have a great day everyone and take care of yourself.

Suznne responded: 5 months ago

I want to learn more about how to help myself with anxiety, fear and depression. Thanks to Mark for making me feel so alone. Suzanne

Michael Bracey responded: 4 months ago

Hi Mark, I have had low self esteem, been shy and suffered a lot of self doubt and depression. Reading these kinds of stories always lifts my spirits up. I am an unemployed songwriter, who could have had a lot of success in this field if it wasnt for that "Old Black Dog" as I call it. Recently I just finished a song of the same name, hoping someone can get some value and a good message from it. If you are interested in listening to it, I will be recording it on my Logicam soon and I can Email you a copy of it. Cheers from Tasmania, Michael )