Black Dog in Pursuit

Black Dog in Pursuit

I frequently think about jobs that I would love to do as people often tell me that being a rugby coach and a business owner is a pretty cool job. It is cool. I do enjoy it. But how about being a police dog handler? On the command of ‘ROUSE’ the black German shepherd pursues the perpetrator and takes him down. Can you imagine the rush for the dog handler? Can you imagine being the perpetrator with the dog bearing down on you, first hearing the black dogs feet pounding into the ground, then his breath and then the inevitable pain and consequence that comes with the take down?

As a person that has struggled with mental health and depression this is how I feel when I can feel the black dog pursuing me, the ‘ROUSE’ call seems inevitable.
It hasn’t always been this way. In the past I have had really effective and deliberate strategies to mitigate the triggers. But over the past two years the goal-posts have been shifted on me. What used to work, no longer works. The inevitable ‘ROUSE’ call is ever-present. It is not a nice feeling.

Past triggers of feeling shitty:
• Over-worked. In particular feeling like I am not in control.
• Lack of sleep.
• Feeling like I am letting others down.
• Failure.

Strategies to mitigate these things:
• Daily gratitude exercise. Driving along Marine Parade, Mt Maunganui every morning reminding myself that I am fortunate to be alive, live in a beautiful place and by virtue of being a New Zealander I am better off from a base level of a hierarchy of needs perspective than 70% of the worlds population.
• Trying to demonstrate care for others daily. Making sure I create and take opportunities to show that I care.
• Regular walks up our local maunga, Mauao to clear my mind.
• Reminding myself of things that create self-worth. Successes, times when I have had to work really hard for something, relationships with people that care for me etc.
I have spent a lot of time thinking about why my strategies no longer seem to work and I am sure there are some really deep psychological things in there. But the obvious things for me are:
• Covid has created a lot of uncertainty. My coaching and business path has been turned upside down. I feel resentment towards this as I have spent 10+ years building a coaching career and a business which has effectively been taken off me.
• The uncertainty around the world that we live in has dented my self-confidence. I have always been a risk-taker and an ideas man. I no longer feel this way which has left me in a state of not really knowing who I am.
• I have let negative thoughts enter my mind and I cultivate them. This has always been an issue but normally I can shake it off pretty quickly.

I have spoken about this before on a podcast and I think I am lacking a lot in the identity space. I have always thought of my identity as being a great dad, a risk-taker/business owner and a rugby coach who cares. Upon reflection I have realized that this identity is relatively shallow, it is not firmly anchored to who I really am. But the question is am I courageous enough to start looking a bit deeper, am I ready for what I might find, am I pretending to be someone whom I am not?
Well I have decided that I am going to take this leap and I am going to look a bit deeper. I need to develop strategies to deal with the new version of the Black Dog that I am facing. I don’t want to keep experiencing that awful feeling of waiting for the inevitable ‘ROUSE’ call. Wish me luck…..

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