The first time I felt the Black Dog pacing was at an impossibly young age. Age 6. I would not have known it was the Black Dog, of course. I would have called it being afraid and very sad.
At that age, I had had measles which affected my eyes with ulceration. It necessitated hospitalization as the infection had also spread to my adenoids. In those days there were no children's hospitals so I was put into an adult hospital. I remember all of my stay there, it stands out in a kind of gothic starkness. There were no children in the ward I was on. Just all these adults. And casual cruelties were thrown my way (my eyes were bandaged for about 4 days)- being deliberately misled as to where the washroom was, my few toys being hidden, my hair being pulled,another patient assigned to feeding me and deliberately missing my mouth, all this accompanied by raucous laughter,etc. In those days it was called "teasing" today it would be called abuse. I was wretched.
It was to get worse.
My throat was healing from surgery, my eye bandages were removed when my mother visited with some handmade clothes for my doll. Including a little nightie. When she was leaving, I followed her out of the ward and as she went down the main stairs I screamed and screamed until my throat bled. I fell on the floor until I was carted off (roughly I remember) and told to behave myself.
The following night my father visited. In a rage. He told me I had upset my mother terribly and if I didn't promise to behave myself she would never visit me again.
It was to get worse.
I woke up the following morning to be told there was a great surprise in a cot (crib) down the ward from me. Come and look.
I did and there was my baby brother, under a year, pulling himself up by the bars, recognising me, delight all over his little face. I remember touching his soft head, rubbing my hands over the bandages on his ears. It seems that the measles had given him massive ear infections and primitive tubes had to be inserted to drain them so he wouldn't go deaf.
I remember feeling overwhelmed. I remember thinking my parents had gotten rid of their defective models and were just keeping their perfect middle child (another brother).
I resigned myself to a life on a Dickensian ward, knowing that keeping my mouth and tear ducts shut would mean a possible sighting of my mother again.
My therapist said it was one of the defining moments of my life.
It certainly removed the foundations from it. The idea of abandonment has always haunted me. More than anything the abandonment of myself by myself.
On another note, in adult hindsight, I can't imagine what my parents were going through with two of their children in hospital.
Knowing the reason for one's anxieties and irrational fears will not fix them. I'm just very grateful the episodes get further apart as I move along on my journey.
I'm not at the point where I can chase the Black Dog off my psychic landscape yet. But his visits are shorter and I recognise his pacing and know that he will get bored very quickly if I don't feed him.
And I think I know what to do to protect myself. Very little contact with other, more 'normal' humans, and some contact with those who know exactly where I am.
Pace on, BD, pace on.