Katy Forrester | I had a black dog
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I had a black dog



A little over two years ago a relationship broke down, a relationship that, at the time, meant everything to me.


I wasn’t in a good place, my thoughts were dark and violent.  My thoughts and I had been stuck in a pattern of self-damage and self-destruction for several years taking a sudden climax that had taken myself and my ex by surprise.


I had a black dog that was keeping me company every day, making each of my movements heavier, my breathing laboured.  The dog had gotten so large it blocked out the sunshine.  No matter my successes, smiles from friends, love from people close to me nothing was sacred, everything was tainted and spoilt by ‘the dog’.  Everything was dark.  I was lost, you can’t battle for so many years without taking some serious wounds.  I was hurt.


The situation of low mood had gotten so bad I had started to hear voices, voices that were unfamiliar to me.  Rather than having an episode of schizophrenia my broken and battle wearied mind was trying to find a last line of weaponry.  Sending ‘good’ voices to stop the full destruction of myself.  It’s often found in people who have suffered abuse, your mind is trying to show you what is really ‘true’.  Instead of what some part of the world would have your believe.


A little over two years ago I drove home from Wales to the Lakes, in floods of tears not knowing how I was going to get through the next few hours let alone days or months or years.  Acts like brushing my teeth were so exhausting I actually had no idea how I was going to survive, make food, teach, finish my PGCE.  The black dog sat in the car with me telling me I was useless, I should crash the car, that I didn’t deserve any happiness or love or kindness.  The guttural grunts and barks of hatred were overwhelming.


My shattered psyche sent in one final warrior.  Another voice that said ‘buy a dog’ a voice that I didn’t bat away.  And the black dog in the car couldn’t really fight against this new voice.  No self-hatred could destroy the idea of buying a dog, as it wasn’t about myself, and that voice stuck with me, repeating its message, all the way home.


I was, in most people’s opinion completely mad.  I wasn’t mad, just sad.  But mad people are expected to make mad decisions.  By the time the journey ended I was going to buy a dog.


I had a black dog.

So I bought one.


A 5 month old black Labrador.  Who was scared of everything, incredibly gentle natured and was mine from the moment she came home from me.


Baby Jadey playing at 5 months

No matter how unhappy I was, no matter how much I hated myself, how much I knew I was undeserving of anything good, my black shadow thought the opposite.  I was her world, I could do no wrong and she loved me completely.  The black dog didn’t know how to learn new puppy tricks.  Didn’t know how to play and so to catch my attention.  The more he barked and growled the more the puppy loved me.  The black dog shrunk as the puppy grew.  His confidence shrinking as hers swelled.  Every adventure, 5am walk as the sun came up, climbing mission, each and every moment that Pup and I spent together the black dog lost power over me.


Jadey; my pup, and I made lots of new friends.  Smiles began to mean more again.  Jokes were actually funny again.


Jadey made friends with a small black dog called Ash.  Her owner and I are now engaged, with a baby on the way.  Without Jadey, my former black dog would never have allowed me to get this far with my life.  He’d have said I didn’t deserve it, that no one could have cared about me enough to love me, that I would be a terrible mother.


Jadey chasing ‘Dad’ down Skiddaw this winter


Jadey toughing it out on the Dodds this winter


Ash not toughing it out this winter, she did 4 out of 6 hours inside the rucksack staying warm

Here is to two years of friendship and love Jadey pup.  A dog who survives on a diet of dog biscuits, post and expensive mountaineering gloves.  She has taught me more about the good things in life than any therapist could.  She has taught me to love and be loved.


Jadey trying to figure out how to follow me now…