The Black Dog

No “this” without “that.”


Winston Churchill called it “the black dog.”

Abraham Lincoln suffered such acute melancholy that his friends feared he might take his own life.

William Styron, the brilliant author of Sophie’s Choice, revealed his own existential crisis in Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness.

Depression is more than situational sadness related to grief and honestly, it often feels as if we rush those who are grieving a death, as if deep sorrow is unnatural. 

Depression can be a debilitating, dangerous mental health condition that requires treatment and it is affecting teenagers – especially girls – in America in ever-increasing numbers.

There seems to be a link between social media usage and depression and because American teens are enveloped in a crisis, it needs much more rigorous study.

But there’s another side to depression and melancholy: It appears to stimulate creativity.

Artists, musicians, writers – all tend to report more depression than those in other, perhaps less creative fields.

And there’s a growing movement to remove melancholia from our daily existence.

We are possibly not far away from eradicating a major cultural force, a serious inspiration to invention, the muse behind much art and poetry and music. We are wantonly hankering to rid the world of numerous ideas and visions, multitudinous innovations and meditations. We are right at this moment annihilating melancholia.*

Prescriptions for mood elevators and anti-anxiety drugs are at an all time high, as if sadness must be eradicated.

But we know that sadness can also result in the beauty of creation through music and art and writing.

I see the black dog inside many radio stations around the world, and it’s always a bit worrisome, but so is this new need to remove all sadness from our daily lives.

If you are a creative person, you probably know the truth of this post.

Sadness is as much a part of life as happiness and by trying to negate it totally we will make our lives more shallow, less impactful.

By all means, if you feel clinically depressed, if you contemplate suicide, see a mental health professional ASAP.

But if you notice that your occasional sadness at the state of our world – of your life – leads you to create something that touches other people’s lives, that provides a measure of healing and perspective, use your melancholy as the gift it can be…

A bridge that links our humanity to that of others.




*From Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy by Eric Wilson