Choose Life, Choose Hope: The Black Dawg Project

I have been writing or discussing depression for a few years rather than brushing the experience under the carpet. Whilst moving on to a happier and more hopeful phase, I realised I have a duty of care to share.

Choose life, choose hope. They are just four simple words but for many people they are difficult to instigate. When life is hard or crushing down on you it may be difficult to envisage hope leading you out of the jungle of despair. That is the problem with depression, it hides hope away under it's cloak of darkness. I cannot speak for anyone else but I feel that I have come out of my own personal battle as a better person. That might be a contentious statement but let me explain. Before my experience, and by the way it still lurks within but is not debilitating, I was very driven, as materialistic as the next man and probably not as empathetic as I could have been. I realised I had to take charge of my emotional wellbeing, practice mindfulness and live in the Now. Finding work that feeds my passion not my pension is also healthier. Result, I feel calmer, more in control, grounded and balanced. The pendulum does not swing as wildly. I have realised that parts of my lifestyle may have contributed to the illness, taking on too much, being fixated on false goals and not looking after No 1 as regards health and excercise. I am fully aware of the importance of changing my attitude and lifestyle to be who I need to be with real aspirations and possibilities. A conscious strategy to feel more attuned to life.

I have been writing or discussing depression for a few years rather than brushing the experience under the carpet. Whilst moving on to a happier and more hopeful phase, I realised I have a duty of care to share. If I have the ability and passion to articulate for myself what I have been through, then surely it makes sense to share that message so that others can see beyond their personal fug/fog. Once you come out of the "closet" of Depression you cannot fail to be aware of the resounding clamour for more openness and discussion about Mental Health from sympathisers. There are those who cannot fathom the unfathomable or manage the hand that has been dealt to them. They might not wish to acknowledge, share or even heal the problem. They can be way off the radar of official Mental Health studies and not accounted for. Choosing life and choosing hope for many can seem beyond their present capabilities when in the grip of the tyrant. Holding onto hope is crucial, it's the most effective weapon.

I have been involved in a project over the last year that I hope will address or redress some of the problems listed above. In late 2014 I wrote a gritty, punchy and pithy stream-of-consciousness poem called The Black Dawg and have excerpted parts of it in previous Huffpost blogs It is honest and hard-hitting and I was initially dubious as to what to do with it. I showed it to my good friend, an illustrator and artist Kathryn Hockey who is a neighbour in the Spanish town I now live in. Her positive and enthusiastic response, amongst several I received, convinced us to team up. With Kath's dedication and artistic input over the past year we have now finished the process of turning the prose into a fully realised book. It has been a labour of love with my original words now enhanced with Kath's depictions of depression and hope which are poignant, colourful and also honest . The disturbingly accurate artwork embodying both the highs and lows of the verses convincingly create a fully rounded concept. So why did we create this book, why all the effort, what's the point? The point is we both have to deal with our own "Black Dawg" and we want sufferers and their family and friends to understand the symptoms, seek solutions and salvation. There is no known catch-all cure but we each find methods to alleviate the effects of this merciless beast. Hopefully our project will be another resource in the ongoing struggle, another tool in the locker, so-to-speak

There are many, many sympathisers towards the plight of people suffering from Mental Health issues and lack of emotional wellbeing and who are helping raise awareness. Amongst the powerful and influential voices, that will be heard, are prominent MP's such as Luciana Berger a newly appointed and pro-active Shadow Minister for Mental Health . More campaigns of awareness are being formed including the sicknotweak initiative a personal favourite Lilac, a sharing forum, that enables people to tell their stories anonymously, if they so wish, and get feedback and help .Lilac´s reasoning is that we often forget how fragile we are. Opening up even to a stranger on a forum can be easier for some people than talking to nearest and dearest. One site that is doing valuable and highly commendable work supported by talented writers and campaigners is A Lust for Life Only set up six months ago, it aims to join up the dots holistically between mental health, physical health, soul and society. Well, you can't argue with that. Ostensibly it is a movement of wellbeing. I can't help feel we could do with social enterprises like this within every community, rather like the sweet shop on every corner back in the day, they would be invaluable and easily accessible. These and many other websites exist to support the vulnerable amongst us.

We are helping in our own way and you can go to our page and see what we are trying to achieve To successfully nurture our work ,as well as maintaining sole ownership, we are self-publishing. Marketing and distributing needs professionals so we will be working alongside a very reputable company to maximise the books's potential. To reach our goals we are aiming to fund via Kickstarter . We already have our project approved and are ready to go live for potential backers and pledges from April 14 for one month. From here on in we are in promotional mode and are are inviting you along for the ride. Please watch the video, give us feedback, share it amongst friends. We surely all know at least one person in our circle who has suffered / is suffering from Depression. It's becoming commonplace but let's not be complacent about it. We dare to care, so please help in any way you can to help us reach our goal. Please click on the Kickstarter link above on the 14th to pledge what you can afford. Help us help others as we will be donating some Black Dawg books to worthwhile beneficiaries once funding is successful.

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