Walking the black dog


Photo by Randy Jacob on Unsplash

I have started walking. Almost every day. I pull on my boots and head out the door. Almost in any weather.

It takes much more determination than a simple walk really ought to. As much as every sinew in my body pulls me to stay where I am, as much as my mind says ‘what is the point in doing anything’, some part of me digs deep and gets putting one foot in front of the other.

Why give so much effort?

Why do I walk?

I do it because I need to. Because otherwise I would sit here day after day never leaving these walls around me. Because I have more walls around me than the stone ones of my house. Because I need to escape.

Read about dealing with depression or anxiety and you will see exercise mentioned as a-good-thing-to-do. And it does work. It connects me to the world outside. Reminds me that there is more than the narrowed existence in my head. The world breathes with me and I with it. I live. I move. Ideas pop and songs repeat in my head.

And it does work.

Until it doesn’t

I seek escape yet my feet tread the same path over and over again. Taking me back to where I started. Nothing has changed. I walk and I want to keep walking almost as if I feel that I can out walk myself. But I can’t. What troubles me is not within the walls of my house, it is within my own walls.

I walk and the black dog walks with me.

A need for control

Control is a funny old thing.  The feeling of needing to control every aspect of my life (and if I am being honest aspects of other people’s lives too) has been something that I have lived with for many years.  My anxiety tells me that if I can do this, I will worry less.  Yet I know this is a lie, trying to control things has bought me nothing other than more anxiety when I couldn’t control things or when I felt I couldn’t cope with everything I ‘needed’ to do.  It has damaged relationships with others and bought me nothing other than unhappiness.  I try not to and am much better at letting life happen unplanned yet I still catch myself doing it, beat myself up over it….and repeat.

What though if I can change how I see this need for control?  What if I can see it as an ally, as something I can use rather than as a negative that I want to fight against.  If I can accept that I am responsible for how I feel, think, behave and act (and I do believe that I am), think what I can do with with a little control in those areas.  It becomes a tool to push me, to drive me to take charge and change the aspects of myself or my life that I am not happy with.  I can use that control to develop new habits, to achieve things I want to and have the sort of life that I want rather than view myself as a passive person desperately trying to control what happens to me.

Now I know that there are things outside of my control and there always will be.  I can do nothing about that other than coming to terms with it and working on good old acceptance.  I am though in control of me and starting to realise that with that, I can change my world.

Anxiety, Harry Potter and Me

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real – J.K.Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Being a big Harry Potter fan, both reading the books and watching the films happens at least once a year for me.  So I had seen or heard this quote many times since the Deathly Hallows was published.  However it wasn’t until I saw this Buzzfeed article that I really READ these words from Dumbledore and they became some of the most important words I had ever come across.

Anyone who suffers mental health issues will have encountered the attitude that it is all in your head and that you simply need to pull yourself together.  My anxiety may well be a product of what is happening in my head and not as real as a physical object or event, it does however have a very real impact on my life and my ability to interact with the world around me.

So to have someone say that thoughts and feelings are as real as anything physical made me feel understood and comforted in a way no self-help book or counsellor ever has.  Yes my anxiety does not have a physical form that I can show to people to say this is what is wrong with me like I could do when I had my bone marrow transplant for leukaemia.  That does not mean that it is not real or its effects are not real.  I feel those effects all the time, my day to day life is affected by things that some people would dismiss as not being real.

It is hard dealing with something that you are taught to think of as not real.  I often used to feel ashamed that I was struggling with something so easily dismissed by others, as if I was rubbish or weak to be so badly affected by something that was not even real.  Those words though by J.K Rowling vindicated how I was feeling, how tough I found dealing with what went on in my head.  I felt less alone and more importantly that by accepting that they were real, those thoughts and feelings become more tangible and something that can be dealt with.

Help and support comes from the most unlikely of sources sometimes.  Reading has often been one of my biggest escapes and comforts when I am finding things tough.  I did not however expect to find such an ally in the Harry Potter books as I have.  Since reading that initial article though, I have time and time again come across the impact this quote, others and the Harry Potter world in general has had on people during difficult times in their lives.  Maybe this next quote explains why…


J.K. Rowling, The Chamber of Secrets


Where to next?


Signpost at Cape Foulwind, New Zealand

photo by ColobusYeti and available at Shutterstock

Go me!  A second post in 1 week – time to give myself a jolly good pat on the back.  I find it easy to say to myself ‘yeah but lets see if you carry it on’ or ‘why celebrate it, other people post several times a week all the time’…I want to change this though, stop listening to that negative part of me that says I am not good enough.  So yay for the little things!

My head is in quite a jumble at the moment.  There is much I am trying to make sense of and much I want to sort…all with the assistance of my ‘friends’ anxiety and depression.  They complicate life though I am determined that they will not make it impossible.  Last year was such a complex and difficult year for so many reasons – getting over the change from our wandering lifestyle and home in Tokyo to life back in the UK where we did not and still do not want to be, as well as dealing with the death of my brother the previous year.  We have come out of that year poorer and slightly battered, knowing ourselves better and tentatively taking steps to find our path onward.

I spoke last about giving my blog new life and focus.  This feels very reflective of what I want to achieve for myself as a whole.  I need change, to sort myself out.  I know I want to improve my physical and mental wellbeing, explore the world surrounding me both near and far.  We know we want to return to Tokyo or travel to new places, ideally later this year.  Join me on my efforts to have adventures, working freelance as well as my button business, rediscovering the joys of writing and that all important self-care that will get me through.  I got this!