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  • keeleysmth

I have a black dog - His name is Bertie

He is still young and when he’s asleep he seems so peaceful and comfortable. When he’s awake he’s funny, loving, naughty, restless and commands a fair bit of attention.

We bought Bertie after we moved into our new home in April 21. I had held out for years before buying a dog. Living in an apartment, commuting and working full time in the city meant that it would have been selfish to expect a dog to live in such an environment. Finally, we were in a position to offer him a beautiful home with kilometres of open countryside walking.

It was around the time that Bertie joined our family that things started to spiral out of control. I kept thinking it was the move, maybe the Covid lockdown and the difficulty in training a new puppy. It was however much more than that.

Bertie was 16 weeks old and settled in his bed and I was sat at the kitchen table on an important conference call with work. Suddenly, there was a blood curdling scream coming from his crate. As the astonished faces on the video call looked on, they could hear the commotion as I flew across the kitchen to the puppy who had inadvertently jumped up on his crate door, caught his paw in the door and was now swinging back and forth (screaming like a wild pig). Having lifted him up off the door I sank, hysterical, onto the kitchen floor with the puppy in my arms (fortunately I had managed to disconnect the video call). I sat there for about 10 minutes crying hysterically with the puppy licking my face, either due to relief or maybe out of concern.

This was just one of many incidents that had started to occur around this time. I would sit in meetings with my hands in my head unable to focus or compute any of the detail that was being discussed. I was losing control of my mind and emotions finding myself in tears nearly every day. Panic attacks became a regular occurrence. I was terrified to be left alone and at the same time became hard to be around. I was angry and bitter all the time and thought that the world was out to get me. It brings back memories (pre Bertie) of Christmas 2020 that I spent alone due to Covid restrictions and my partners job commitments. I was so bitter and angry with my friends and family who were able to have a semi-normal time. I was just bloody angry all the time!.

Winston Churchill (our former British Prime Minister) talked about his ‘black dog’ following him around. He wasn’t referring to a beautiful black Labrador called Bertie, who 5 minutes ago took great pleasure in pulling my sock off my right foot. He was referencing his depression - A feeling and state of mind that would appear, wreak havoc with his life and then disappear then reappear.

I was recently introduced to the following video which explains more about the relationship with depression. Although I consider that my experience sits better as a state of anxiety, It is well documented that anxiety is a form of depression. To me and personally, they seem so different and people who know me would not classify me at all as a depressive. You would have to get a professional diagnosis to really know where on this spectrum you sit if you suffer with this condition.

Anxiety among many others is recognised as one of the most prevalent symptoms of peri-menopause. The problem lies with the fact that it’s a slow burner. It creeps up on you slowly and suddenly you start to question yourself. Why can’t I handle this anymore? Why am I not coping the way I used to? Why am I reacting so strongly to this? Why am I so angry? And the self doubt continues coming…. Penny Lancaster recently headed the campaign ‘That menopause shatters lives’. It really can and its so important to take stock when that first question comes – Why am I not coping with the things I used to be able to do?. I wish I had known what I know now.

Anxiety eats away at you and you can’t rationalise. I was so lucky to have a partner that understood what I was going through. He was supportive and helped me to cope. He looked after me.

Having Bertie also helped to alleviate some of the symptoms. He brought a lot of joy and comfort. Having a dog during this time encouraged me to care about something else and got me out of the house. I had to take time off work for a few months and spent time focussing on my myself - especially my health. Work were very understanding but it wasn’t until 4 months after my ‘almost breakdown’ that I could attribute the issues I had to entering the menopause. (I will follow up on this in another blog later)

In retrospect I can take a look at my ‘fitbit smart watch app over the past 2 years (starting at the age of 46) where my resting heart rate was on an upward curve. Just like the Covid rates the curve crept up until my emotional tolerance blew. Upon seeking help from medical a mental health services the curve gradually went downhill.

As I write Bertie is sat looking at me intently and I know exactly what he wants. Its 4pm and his body clock is telling him its ‘dins dins’ time. I look at my watch ‘gosh Is it that time?’ He stands and wags his tail, jumps up and licks my face. Just for a moment you’re taken away and the smile creeps across your face.

Think I should go and get him his dinner now and find my sock!.

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