Black dogs and fairy gold

  1. Witchcraft; magic charm; a spell affecting the eye, making objects appear different from what they really are.

I always used to know where I stood, I think. Or at least I think I always thought I knew where I stood.

After 2006 anyway. After I accepted I had depression and worked to work my way around it. You can’t always stop it, a lot of the time with things like this it’s damage limitation. The first step is admitting you have a problem, and everything after that is working to work with that problem. You might not be over the moon that you’ve got a black dog but you’ve got one. Deal.

Dealing comes in many forms and many ways and everyone has their own way, things which work more or less for them, in their life, with their dog. Personally, I let people know; people at work, people at university. People who might be faced with me in pieces. It’s best if they’re forewarned, in part so they’re not completely taken by surprise but also (sadly) so they’re less likely to think you’re making excuses.

Also, knowing. Knowing what depression feels like, what its contours are, feeling your way blind around the edges of your inner life. When depression begins to descend, I know. Years of experience have taught me. It needs to be caught in those moments, gentle, because once I get any more ill I stop seeing how ill I really am.

I know how my depression feels, so I’ve always thought I’ve known where I stand. Well or ill. Just a bad patch or something to worry about. It’s a delicate skill but I’ve been honing it for a number of years and I was confident. Bordering on professional.

Then I was told I was probably bipolar, and I thought about it and saw I probably am, find myself caught between the Devil and the starry night sky. And the ground falls away and you realise you’ve never, ever known where you stood.

You know fairy stories, yeah? Like, proper fairy stories. Not sanitised Victorian things, not prim Brothers Grimm morality tales. Proper fairy stories. Fairies who want to kiss you and hold you and have you and kill you.

You know fairy gold, yeah? Riches galore until you wake in the cold light of day and just see leaves and moss and mud. Everyone knows about fairy gold, and you know the original meaning of glamour? Sometimes you see, the world is enchanting.

Sometimes I’ve found myself on a podium, pounding away, sweating and laughing and living, really fucking living; the best way to dance is in dreams but really any dancing comes close to ecstasy, for me. Sometimes I’ve found myself dancing in the gym or in the street or just dancing on a train and being Not Looked At by all the Londoners. Sometimes I’ll dance to a car alarm if there’s the hint of a beat. Sometimes I just can’t help dancing because I’m grabbed by the beat and it’s so, so fucking enchanting.

And you know, you’ve got to know, about how fairies like dancing. That’s why we’re such keen clubbers.

And you know the stories where you dance ’til exhaustion, dance ’til death, dance ’til a thousand years have passed and your old life has turned to dust? Like I say, old fairy stories, old kinds of magic. Dance till the world drops away, as the magic carries you higher and higher; old fairy stories where they’ll love you and kidnap you and kiss you and kill you. And all the time you think yes, yes, yes, because what could ever be better than bliss, than enchantment, than gold?


I used to think I knew where I stood, I used to think I knew Shuck, my old black dog. Didn’t like him, but still. You deal. And maybe I do know him, I guess I do. He’s walked beside me long enough.

But now it turns out I’m caught somewhere between a black dog and fairy gold. And black dogs are rabid and red eyed and shaggy and wet and who’d ever want to be with one of them? But fairy gold glitters, glitters warm, inviting, enchanting. Now there’s a shadow over all my feeling and thought; how much is glamour and how much is me? How much will be left of me, of this, in the cold light of day? After years I know when the night hides a black dog. But how do you know when life is just glittering, and when it’s real gold?


One thought on “Black dogs and fairy gold

  1. Pingback: Cornflour | Explosions in Slow Motion

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