" Where were you, Daddy ?" asked my five year old daughter when I was coming out of a bout of being down, down, down. Good question. I also wondered where I had been? Hell? Losing your perceived idea of self is part of the depressive cycle. It's a constant battle isn't it? For the individual suffering poor Mental Health through to the family, close friends and acquaintances also struggling to comprehend, it is a tough slog to get to grips with this malicious malady. One sufferer said he had come to terms with his own Black Dog by acknowledging "...well he is sad too, and reliable, I always know what he brings". How could I put into words so that a five year old could understand where her caring, funny ole Dad had gone? Difficult. How could I put into words so that anybody could understand what I had been through and how I had managed to come out the other side? Not as difficult. There was a way and I didn't want to shy away from doing what needed to be done, not only for myself but for fellow sufferers. I wrote a poem called "The Black Dawg". It was long, multi-versed and layered. It felt right, vital and neccessary to do this.
I needed to explain the almost inexplicable. With depression there is no Because, there just Is. Reasons could be something, anything or nothing in particular. I needed to re-live the experience of that bout of depression. Retrace steps while it was still fresh in my mind. I needed to find the right words, the right phrases to express the inner turmoil. There was no time to waste. I had to share my vulnerable soul so that my family, as well as myself, would have a true insight into my situation. Here's the opening stanza
SOS, In distress, I've lost me again
Drowning in that deep, dark sea again
Serve my penance till I'm free again
Someday... someday soon
Disengage from Life's mad pace
Put on fake, brave smiley face
Dislocate from love's embrace
When I need it most
Once I started, the rhythm of the poem established itself and I found it relatively easy to finish what became a honest, thought-provoking challenge. In spite of my initial trepidation the whole experience was more enlightening than harrowing, as I felt I had accurately portrayed in words the emotions and feelings I had felt. The second half was like an awakening from the grip of depression, here's a brief excerpt
Spiralling branches, silent sky
Feel composed and rested, whole
Dark Clouds dissipate, goodbye
Now heal my hung, drawn quartered Soul
Enjoy your brief spell on this earth
Love, live, breathe and know your worth
To keep in check Dawg's stubborn Curse
As you mend a Mind that's braved the worst
When I feel the onset of depression (which can be very indiscriminate and usually untimely), I can identify symptoms and solutions by referring to my own words . This is why I feel it will resonate with others. For parents, friends, colleagues the poem will guide them through a depressive episode. They can ask if certain passages strike a chord with a loved one and may help in comprehending the battle. Previous Huffington Posts of mine have charted the journey the poem has taken me on https://www.huffingtonpost.com/louis-mcintosh/.
My collaboration with the fantastic artist Kathryn Hockey, http://kathrynhockey.com/the-black-dawg/ without whose help the whole project would not have been fully realised, has been astonishing. She has shared her vision of my words so realistically with potent and vibrantly coloured artwork and we are now the proud producers of a finished proof of "The Black Dawg - An illustrated poem about Depression and Hope". Our aim is to produce as many books as we can from funds raised through the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/theblackdawg/the-black-dawg-illustrated-poem. You can click on the link to see our progress and make a donation if you want to support us financially. Basically we have a target of 12,000 euros or £9,300 to reach by May 12th which will enable us to get "The BlackDawg" into deserving hands as soon as possible. We want to donate a large share of books to supporters of Mental Health Charities. With Kickstarter campaigns credit cards are only charged upon reaching your target figure on the last day (May 12th). As I write this we are almost halfway into the funding period with Kickstarter and although the response so far has been undeniably enthusiastic and positive we need to reach out for wider public support.
With the many cuts in Mental Health services impacting those who need help the most we know there is always more that can be done. Much more. Our book is unique in its content and appeal and we believe it fills a void by offering guidance and empathy with people facing their solitary, dark journeys. It's easy to read, it deals with the emotional upheaval of depression and the artwork is vibrant and honest. We are proud of it.