Black dog v Yorkshire terrier: the underdog bites back

In the Bible, David defeated Goliath. In FA Cup folklore, Wimbledon beat Liverpool. My own version of the classic underdog tale has been fought out for my mental health.

This is the story of a cheeky little doggy locked in a vicious duel with a slobbering hellhound – a once-bouncy pup whose tenacity has been firmly tested by a powerful, brutal and merciless enemy known by many as the black dog.

Before I start to enjoy the canine metaphors too much, allow me to explain.

Black dog is a name that many people give to depression, that gruelling, crushing illness that hounds so many of us. The Yorkshire terrier is, of course, me.

I’ve been engaged in a dogfight with my adversary for nearly three years, but only now feel like the underdog is rising from the dark shadows to tear the juicy bone of freedom from the snarling jaws of depression.

Terriers are known for their tenacity. Once they get hold of something, they’re not likely to let go of it without a good fight. I’d been gritting my teeth and fighting on for too long before the black dog loomed, and kept doing so when it first appeared.

But once depression took hold, my fight took on a different focus. It might have looked like this terrier had rolled over, but when you have depression, the energy that you used to thrive off is spent on getting through each day and night. That, in itself, is an achievement, but when you are in the thick of it you’re more likely to beat yourself up for the things you haven’t managed to do than to reflect on small triumphs each day.

I used to have a Yorkshire terrier. I loved that little dog. He was a real character. He somehow trained us to reward him with biscuits for bringing leaves into the house – now that is what I call a clever dog.

His name was Smartie. He was named after the chocolates, but he was Smart by name and smart by nature. He had a good, loud bark for a little dog and he used to fiercely guard us against such threatening intruders as the postman and the paperboy.

Now that I am feeling better, I’ve got some of that Smartie spirit back. I think it was always there somewhere, even on my lowest days, through my most disrupted nights and in my blackest moods. It was subdued – buried, even – but now it has risen to the surface and I’m letting myself off the leash.

My return to running has really lifted my spirits and here I am, in mid-November, with my confidence rising and my outlook brightening.

Black dog, you picked on the wrong pup. I’ve been nipping at your ankles for a few months, but you ain’t seen nothing yet. You’d better slink back off to your kennel with your tail between your legs, because this underdog is biting back.


11 Comments on “Black dog v Yorkshire terrier: the underdog bites back”

  1. shell lawson says:

    Hi Paul. Good for you, I love your determination against the black dog and I hope the Terrier wins the war. …… wishes Shell:)x P.s still waiting for Horatio to appear,lol.

  2. Trevor says:

    well done. been the the “dark side” myself. As you say, exercise helps a lot but it’s not always easy to realise that on the darkest of days.

    • paulbrook76 says:

      Thank you Trevor. I find it hard to motivate myself to go running even now, but always feel better as soon as I’ve committed to doing it, and I feel even better afterwards.

  3. Tymn says:

    My metaphore was my Lurcher! Just want to share for those with recurring bouts, try (via NHS) Mindfulness Based CT. “Mindfulness is a lifetime’s journey along a path that ultimately leads nowhere – only to who you are”. MBCT has turned my (62 year) life around. It really works! Taste my blog at – I found my ‘direction’ through something so simple.

  4. Good determinations Paul.. well done

  5. […] I eventually returned to running at the end of last year, I vowed to get my own back on depression. Not only would I do the 10K […]

  6. […] day or night, I sat and watched 8 Mile, the Eminem movie, and took some kind of small hope from the underdog rapper’s never-say-die determination and ultimate triumph over adversity. My own determination […]

  7. […] I eventually returned to running at the end of last year, I vowed to get my own back on depression. Not only would I do the 10K […]

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