Sometimes, despite all the power-walking, running; having the encouraging ear, shoulder-to-cry-on and hugs from Love Chunks; effective medication and my own homemade version of cognitive therapy; my own little Black Dog can make its presence felt.
It is when I'm at my most exhausted - an unwanted triumvirate of physical, mental and social fatigue that seems to eat away my spirit, overly inflate my disappointments and perceived failings and destroys the ability to see the good things that surround me - this is when the Black Dog arrives to sit by my side, making me lean on him for support; support that's anything but. Instead, his presence makes me stumble and again wonder why my back feels weak, why I don't want to go out the front door and talk to anyone or find the energy to do anything other than sleep.
But sleep is not something that comes easily, if at all. Sleeping during the day would be lovely, the perfect way to escape but I have responsibilities to fulfil - getting my child out bed, her lunch made, breakfast eaten, pets fed, daughter walked safely to school. Start work, take care of the house, respond to phone calls, emails, letters, bills and enquiries. Keep writing; writing the stuff I want to write instead of the stuff I should write, and put it all aside again to pick up Sapphire from school, be a good mother, good wife, good friend, good person.....
"How was your day today, Who did you play with, Did you eat all of your lunch, What did the teacher say about me volunteering for the spring festival, Can Maya stay for dinner, How on earth did you get green paint on your culottes, Where is your water bottle, You'd better go and collect the eggs before it gets dark, Why didn't you make your bed this morning, Do you girls want a cup of hot chocolate and to help me make some apple and cinnamon muffins?"
I prattle on, hating myself, but not knowing quite how to stop. It's as though I want to make up for any disappointments or anxiety I've inflicted on Sapphire and for the fact that the six hours previous I'd hidden away inside, wondering just what on earth was wrong with me and why the Black Dog had arrived again.
The irony is that my little orange dog - Milly - is such a constant presence by my side that she'd be far too jealous to share her space with another. If she was aware. Cars and kids toot and wave as we accompany Sapphire to school in the mornings - Milly's collar jingling as she strains to trot in front of us, proudly leading the way.
In the afternoons, she races for her clip and lead when my alarm beeps at 2:52pm.
"IT'S TIME, ISN'T IT?
It's time for another walk isn't it, time to see Sapphire and get pats from lots of other people and maybe go home the long way via the park and then let Skipper the rabbit out of his hunch so that we can play chasey before coming inside to play with Sapphire and her friend Maya in her bedroom because they like to sing to me, stroke my ears and tie ribbons around my neck while I try to lick them in appreciation for at least a while until I get bored and go and sit back next to you in my beanbag, turning around and around until it's mooshed up just right, giving you my big sad eyes and hoping that you'll soon give me a bigger bowl of dinner than you did last night; with perhaps some stray rashers of bacon draped on top or a crispy fried chicken wing from that Coles BBQ bag that LC didn't eat for lunch today....."
Today I decided not to hide away inside and not to worry about what other parents at the school thought of me, or why having expectations only leads to sadness and failure - no. Instead, today Milly got an extra treat - a walk during the middle of the day. The sun was out, the birds were nesting, the blossoms blooming and there was bound to be a Farmers Union Feel Good Iced Coffee waiting for me at the corner deli. Bonus, Milly's twinkling eyes and lolling tongue said so obviously as her lead was clipped on.
Bugger. As per her primitive instincts, she dropped her - ahem - golden nuggets in the park the second we literally stepped off the footpath, and I didn't have a poo bag tied to her lead or in my pocket.
The 'doggy doo' dispenser was only a few steps away, with two black plastic bag ends fluttering invitingly in the spring breeze.
'Might as well grab three or four or a dozen or so to keep on hand,' I thought to myself, seeing Milly sunning herself contentedly, idly watching my fumblings.
'Bloody f%%kin' thing,' I muttered under my breath. The stupid roll had fallen off the pin and was now sullenly slumped at the back of the iron cylinder, too far for my ET-fingers to squeeze in to reach and too securely locked. (Aside: why, oh Norwood Payneham and St Peters council, is it so vital to lock up the doggy doo dispenser, yet leave the toilets open and freely available for all sorts of drug users, derros and litter?).
I wandered over to the gum trees in search of a small stick to insert into the meagre slot, hoping that it would snag a bag and allow me to grab hold of one of the handles. Frig! Poo-Bum-Bugger-Shit-Fart, the stupid twig snapped and fell inside the dispenser, clogging the recalcitrant roll even further.
Milly lost interest - she had more pressing things to occupy her attention, such as escaping the unfriendly swoops from the magpies nesting in the trees near the brick kiln and to contemplate whether it was worth aggravating the arthritis in her back legs to try chasing the cheeky Mynah birds. Of course it was.
Maybe a discarded Paddle pop stick would be not only thinner, but sturdier and able to flick some doggy doo straps close enough for my clutches. Alas, not so - too bloody short. I threw the broken half at the box in an overly dramatic expression of annoyance.
'Oh, hello. Yes, having a bit of trouble with getting out a doggy bag, heh heh. Gotta do my bit in keeping the park clean you know.' Old Bag - she's the one who lets her three eyed Spaniel crap out a Cheops Pyramid in front of our driveway every sodding afternoon and here I am trying to apologise to her for breaking into a malevolent dispenser in order to pick up some fresh dog shit.....
Rummaging through the bottom of my bag found a pipe cleaner (thanks be to Sapphire's love of all things arty and crafty), a pair of nail scissors and an ancient biro. Fashioning a poking/pulling device triggered at one end by the scissors and with force at the other by a bic-pen lid, a black handle soon became free enough for me to tug through the slot.
'Yesssss!' I gave a triumphant, Lleyton-style fist pump of self congratulation. And then laughed. Laughed at the rage I'd thrown towards an inanimate object, only to pull out thirty six bags in retaliation a few minutes later. Bags that'll last Milly until November.
Speaking of which, she tried her best to be the hunter/gatherer of our small postal area, but only succeeded in getting a stray chook's bum feather in her teeth when we got home.
Thank god for that and all other small failures.