Book Review – Living with a Black Dog

Living with a Black Dog” by Matthew and Ainsley Johnstone was the first book I read on Depression.

My husband, Richard, has had depression for several years. In the early days I wanted to understand it more and learn what I could do to help him and my family. To be honest, I wanted to figure out how to ‘fix it’.

I didn’t understand then that this isn’t something you ‘fix’, it’s really something you adapt to accommodate into your life.

Living with a Black Dog” interested me as it has been written with the carer in mind. It was from my point of view rather than that of the person with Depression.

When it arrived, I remember being a bit disappointed as it really is in picture book format, I think I wanted a bit more.

On reflection and reading it again a few years later, the advice it contains is spot on.

It is brilliant in its simplicity and it’s a book you can return too easily. If you need a nudge back in the right direction this book can do that quickly.

“Living with a Black Dog” starts by telling you a bit about what Depression is and what you will see in your loved one. It talks through the signs. 
It then goes on to help you understand how to engage with them and what not to say.

I admit that for some time all I wanted to shout was “pull your socks up” and “its all in your head, can’t you just get over it”. This book very gently discusses that it isn’t “just in their head” and they can’t “just get over it”.

At the end of the day no one would choose to be depressed.

There are suggestions for positive actions you can take to help your loved one recover from or manage their depression and how to do it together.

“Living with a Black Dog” helped me identify that I had fallen into two traps. The first was that whilst I thought picking up the slack might be helpful; it was important to balance this and not do everything. I recognise now that I really did step up too much and pretty much moved Richard out of the picture. This wasn’t helpful for anyone and in hindsight I think it probably made things worse and damaged his self-confidence.

It also explained that “no frills” is important. Keeping things simple.

Life today is a balance of many things and these things can become overwhelming to anyone, it’s particularly challenging if you have a mental illness.

Keep things simple.

Whilst this wasn’t a favourite book when I first got it, I am pleased to have it on my bookshelf. It gives solid and meaningful guidance, simply and efficiently.

It is a book I would recommend to anyone who is supporting or caring for someone with Depression.

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