There was a time in my life when I used to sleep with a sharp knife beside the bed. I still own the knife, it’s quite small, probably about a 6″ blade which is serrated, and a black plastic handle. I didn’t have a bedside table then so it sat on the floor. When I sleep I usually lay with my back to the centre of the bed and my face right at the edge, so the knife was placed where it would be one of the first things I saw when I woke up. I can remember waking up every morning for quite some time and I would alays ask myself the same question. Can I do it today? Can I reach out and take that knife and draw it across my wrists? I can remember imagining what it would feel like, how much it would hurt as the jagged edge bit into my skin. I can remember thinking that I had to be careful because I didn’t want to sever the tendons on my left hand and be unable to ‘do’ the other wrist.
Every morning I would lay there and cry. I would sob until my body was pulsing and my chest hurt. I was crying because I didn’t have the strength to pick up the knife.
For several years after this period (It was a bout 10 years ago) I felt like I was a fake, a phony. I was imagining that I was depressed and I was just looking for attention. There was nothing wrong with me because I couldn’t make myself pick up the knife. It was survivors guilt.
Now when I think about it I am usually (almost always) glad that I didn’t pick it up on any of those dark mornings. I look at my wonderful partner who I also knew back then although we weren’t together, and I know what she gets out of our relationship now. I look at her daughter, now 5 years old, pretty much the only positive outcome of the relationship she fled several years ago, before we got back together, and I know how much this clever loving girl loves me and our family. I look at my parents with fresh eyes, with love and genuine friendliness that I can’t remember feeling prior to about 5 years ago. I look at this blog, and the wonderful people that have taken time to read it and even comment. I look at the great job I have with really interesting people and enough pay to keep us in a nice house albeit rented.
Still some days I feel guilty for not having picked up the knife.
The black dog never let’s you fully escape. I am learning that it will always be there with me. Barbara Woodhouse couldn’t dream to train a real dog to heel so well. I now have many sources of support to help me survive my encounters with it. I have medication. I have family. I have a partner who lives with her own black dog and is much further along the path than I am, she has kicked the meds, I really look up to her strength and try to model myself on her.
It’s all about learning to live with it. It’s a part of who I am, but it doesn’t have to be all that I am.