The Dark Days

I’m in a dark place and I don’t know how I got here.

Honestly, I feel like I’ve been hit by a train. Only a month ago I would said, “I could handle a depression, that’s fine, I know depression.” Oh, how the ignorant spout! It turns out I can’t ‘handle’ depression. It hasn’t handled me so much as drowned me.

Three weeks ago today I made an attempt on my life. I will write about it one day but right now it feels too soon. And yet I want to write, I think I need to, but not about that. Not yet. Right now I want to talk about the repercussions which I weren’t expecting and which have hit me over the head harder than I thought possible.

Work is impossible; the idea of going to work like normal is just insane. The job I used to do with such ease (and sometimes enjoy!) feels very far away. I’ve dreamt about work several times and, in each one, I find myself standing still, staring blankly at everyone around me working and getting on with it and thinking, why the hell am I here?  So at the moment work is a no. Luckily I live in a country where my sick pay is good and my employers are supportive, so I mustn’t dismiss that blessing.

But my hobbies…I never thought I’d ‘lose’ writing. The flame was always burning: even when I wasn’t actively writing, my brain was still turning over ideas and imagining scenarios for future scenes. Now I just…I can’t. I’ve stopped and started on this post more times than I’d like to admit. My writing doesn’t seem to have a point anymore. Before, I used to work towards the ultimate goal; publication. Now the motivation is gone and, with writing being such a solo sport, there isn’t anyone to fan the flame. It’s gone out until I feel in a place to relight it.

Other previously enjoyable activities have lost their appeal too. I can’t say I’m interested in anything at present. I’ve said this to many of those who are trying to support me, and for whom I am grateful: I feel like a part of me was lost that day. The vital part of me that believed in myself and knew who I was. People tell me it’ll come back, with time, which I admit I dismiss. It’s easy to make promises about the future but they hold little weight in the present.

I think I’ll stop here. This entire post feels like a jumble but then I don’t feel my writing is up to its usual standard. Some days I wonder if it ever will. Thank you for your time. Perhaps, hopefully, I’ll be able to do an update in six months’ time, proving current me wrong. We’ll see.

Talking Myself Out of the Dark

This time of the year is a struggle for me to continue to write, and while this post is not the norm for me it is real and honest. Unlike in my past, I refuse to quit writing even in these moments. Don’t ever be ashamed of who you are, never give up on your dreams and never be silenced.

tunnel of light

Photo by Pixabay

I stood outside tonight in the cold and looked up at the dark sky, closed my eyes and took a deep breath. I needed it, the crisp air was cleansing and a reminder that I was alive inside, even though there are some days it feels questionable. Like many of those who suffer from anxiety and depression, the winter months are toughest for me. Once the sun starts to rise late and set early the unrelenting grip of that dark place takes hold of me and at times feels like it will never let go.

When this happens the many things I love about life fade into the background as I don’t allow myself to experience them while I sit in my cloud not able to even get off the couch. The TV becomes my best friend and I pick fights with my loved ones because it just feels good to be angry. I hate this part of me, I loathe the idea that I can get to this place even as I practice positivity, gratitude, meditation, prayer, kindness, love, forgiveness and all the self-care tips in all the self-help books. It’s frustrating and sad and just makes me more depressed thinking about it. What I’ve come to understand over the years is that anxiety and depression are deceitful and tricky and oh so very real. Even at your highest and most balanced, even when you feel on top of the world, they are lying in wait for you to drop your guard and the moment you do, out of what feels like nowhere, the dark, cold current rushes over you.

My mind swirls attempting to make sense of it, and for a very long time I didn’t like to talk about it. If I did, I would be admitting that I can go down this road, and that the energetic, excitable, talk-too-much personality that I adore can be masked by the grim sadness I try to ignore. It felt hypocritical, scary and embarrassing. It was like my dirty little secret and the moment I admitted this happens to me would be the moment I am outed as a fraud or a liar, a fake happy person.

However, I have learned that when I acknowledge I’m in this state, while the energy to even care may not be there quite yet, the sooner I begin to see the light. In the past, I would lay stale in this mindset for weeks, I would wallow in the darkness hating it and loving it at the same time, but lately, I am learning through this beautiful writing/blogging community and through the self-care practices that I have established in my every day life, that the more I am truly honest with how I am feeling the easier it is to get back to being the best version of me.

The whole truth was a difficult road to journey down, as it meant I had to acknowledge that with light there comes dark, even inside of me. We are not perfect, we are not meant to be, and the sooner we stop shaming those who suffer, accept the imperfection in each other and start supporting and celebrating every part of us, the more peace we will have. In the meantime, I will continue both my internal and external conversations of the whole truth about what makes me me, and continue to talk myself out of the dark.

Wishing you all love and light.

Much Love,

Lisa J.

You Have to Pull Yourself Out of Your Darkness and Here’s How

Mental illness – whether it is depression, anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal thoughts, or any disorders thereof, officially diagnosed or not – create darkness. I used to picture and liken this darkness to the bottom of a barrel, where you can’t go deeper, and you know it, but you can’t climb back out, and you don’t want to. That last part – climbing back out – is where I believe mental illness really defines itself. All of us, at some point or another, have metaphorically landed at the bottom of our barrel. But what draws the line in the sand between darkness and just a bad night is the climb up; and through my own experience and recounted stories of others, I’ve discovered that climbing back out – even if you can see a speck of light above – takes more energy, effort, and willpower than the person has or is willing and able to give. And this reiterates the point – we have to want to climb out; and when we don’t, that darkness becomes a frightening moment for a very long time.

We’ve heard the cliche – you have to want to help yourself. Truer words have not been spoken, and I stand by this mantra with full support. But I don’t think that using this as motivation or advice is enough. Yes, you have to want to help yourself, because relying on others to help lift you up, if all you want to do is fall, is hopeless. No one wins in that situation. But that cliche is simply the intention. It’s what open the floodgates and lights that proverbial fire under your ass that says yes go! It’s time to climb the hell out of this thing! But that cliche is not how we treat our mental illness, and I think one of the biggest challenges in what we face is figuring out how to start the climb at all. And once we start, it’s pushing ourselves to keep going.

The climb up is not a race; it is not even a marathon

It’s work. It’s incredible, difficult, manual, mental labor in the Arizona summer heat. It’s your Mount Everest on steroids, and all you have is a walking stick, some days. And while that may carry zero inspiration as you read this, what I’m saying is meant to give you perspective. Most importantly, it’s meant to give you reality. Diving into our psyches and unleashing anything and everything that we’ve stuffed down there is a journey from which we don’t just stroll back into easy-going living. Dealing with mental illness on any given day is a struggle that no writer ought to put into words, nor try, because those words won’t be enough.

What I’ve learned from my own experience is that climbing back out of my darkness is a one-step process. Every single day, I take a step. Some days, it’s a step up, and I can joyfully laugh and toss any caution to the wind and truly live in the moment with family, friends, and my cat. There aren’t weights pulling me down into the same mental alley where I get mugged and punched by depression and loneliness. Other days, it’s a step down from where I was the day before, and I can feel my heart sink because I was so much closer to the top. But that’s the rhythm of this – the ebb and flow of life are the same for everyone, but with mental illness, that ebb and flow can either take you one wave closer to the shore or to the rocks.

The climb up is a challenge we take on every single day. There are no breaks, and there are no days off. And if you thought that this article up until now has been a wretched downer, please stay with me. You are worth the work. There’s not going to be a single person at the bottom of your barrel with you, and that’s by design. You have to do this. You have to put one foot in front of the other every single moment and believe that you are handling your life. With your action, whether it kicks you down or lifts you up, you are facing your darkness and handling it. Some days, you win. Other days, you learn. There is no loss. Your mental illness does not define the core of who you are, and it most certainly does not change what you’re meant to do – and we’re all here for something.

You have to pull yourself out of your darkness, and it will be the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but it will be the greatest and the single most profound thing you’ve ever done. How you do it is by taking the first step, and then always one more. Smile when you’ve done it, and celebrate these feats. If you get knocked down, pause and learn from it. Don’t ask why can’t I do this? Instead, ask what did this teach me? And then keep going. Always keep going.

We are strong enough, but first, we have to decide to be

At the bottom of my own barrel, I remember sitting and waiting for a sign. I wanted to receive something divine that would guarantee that everything would eventually work out and that I would be lifted up to my own light on the wings of simple and thoughtful prayer. And I sat at the bottom of that musty barrel for what seemed an eternity; because signs don’t work that way.

What my depression taught me, in the crudest of ways, was that I had the choice of trudging through mud and mire to climb out of my darkness, or continue sitting, praying, and wishing to be air-lifted out. And even when I fell down, worn out and pissed, the alternative to staying in that solace was reminder enough to make me try again. At the end of the day, that’s the proverbial fire – try again. There are no expectations that our climb needs to be done in one day; we falsely create that goal in our head, pinning our very selves up against the wall. Don’t. Lay down these presumptive ideals that our healing is on an expressway path to eradication. The path is anything but short, but it’s there. It exists. And it’s for our taking.

Try again. And always keep going.

Pulling ourselves out of our darkness does not make the darkness go away. It makes us strong enough to decide that we don’t need to live in it.