I have three companions
The Raven, the black dog and the hare
Always they follow me
Plaguing my every step
The raven’s cry
Reminding me of what I’ve lost
The black dog
Waiting to pull me down
And the hare
With its twitching ears
And shifting eyes
Ready to run
The Raven, as so aptly described by Poe, is to me the symbol of my grief. Sometimes it sits quietly on my shoulder, sometimes it digs in its claws and screeches in my ear. Other times it flies high above and behind my with only its shadow or its plaintive cry reminding me of it’s presence known in my life. But the Raven is always there and I have no doubt that it always will be.
The Black Dog
The Black Dog has become a well-known symbol of depression. I am no stranger to this companion, he has followed me throughout most of my life. But again, he is not always growling and chomping at me, some days he walks quietly beside me, some days he lags behind. He is always there, sometimes only at the edge of my vision, but always there.
While the Raven and the Black Dog are recognised symbols, the Hare may not be. For me the Hare symbolises anxiety. The constant fidgeting, the flicking eyes and twitching ears, the preparedness to flee at the slightest provocation. This is a constant state for me. The nervous state is always just under the surface, like an itch beneath my skin. The smallest, seemingly insignificant, things can bring it to the surface and like the Hare, I flee.
It seems like these days, although the Raven and the Black Dog are always there but sometimes less prominent, the Hare is constantly at my side. It doesn’t fade into the background, its effects don’t ebb. The simple act of getting out of bed in the morning requires Herculean effort, the desire to bury my head under the covers and hide away from the day, almost overpowering.
Living with anxiety is often dismissed. Just get over it, get some confidence, grow up, face your fears, grow a pair. These flippant comments often do more hurt than good. Anxiety is not something you can just ‘get over’, it is a serious mental health issue that can lead to further complications and conditions.
A lot of people don’t get how I feel, don’t understand why it is so hard to be face to face with another person. The fear of walking out their front door is foreign to them. It’s such an easy thing to do, you just open it and walk out. But anxiety isn’t rational, it isn’t logical.
Anxiety bypasses the reasonable part of the brain and goes directly to the flight or fight mechanism. Everything is perceived as a threat. At the height of an anxiety attack, the brain and body is at DEFCON 5 and there is almost no way to talk it down.
Living with anxiety is like living with someone who has a twitchy trigger finger, and you are one sudden move away from setting off world war three.
I say all this to perhaps help others understand anxiety and the effects of it on a person and to maybe help someone who is suffering from anxiety to understand that they are not alone and they are not beyond help. You can live a happy and healthy life with the Raven, the Black Dog and the Hare, but it takes understanding and management. And being kind to yourself.
My plan this year is to write regularly about how I manage my life and my constant companions in the hopes that I can help someone else. We need to know we are not alone in this.