“I Had A Black Dog” is written by a man with depression, and is presented as an illustrated work with not much text.
It’s Johnstone’s way of visually expressing what depression felt like for him, and I think it gets this across very well. It covers thoughts, feelings and behaviours in a sensitive and clear way – and there is even some humour.
The “black dog” of the title comes from the way that Winston Churchill described the depressive phases of his bipolar disorder. The image of a large, uncontrollable, dark animal that slobbers over everything and destroys peace through size, ineptness and stubbornness is a useful image to many people. This dog isn’t deliberately vicious, or evil… just there. More Clifford The Big Red Dog than Cujo.
Like Clifford the Big Red Dog, the black dog can be lived with and managed – this book ends on a note of hope for the future while not glossing over the reality.
I highly recommend both this book, and the follow-up (“Living With A Black Dog” by Matthew and Ainsley Johnstone), to anyone who has depression or is trying to help someone who has it.
The author’s website is here.