Peering into the Darkness

Sometimes there is such tremendous darkness, it scares me.  Sometimes my instinct is to go deeper into the darkness.  Sometimes my instincts are not helpful.  Sometimes my instincts lead me the wrong way.  Sometimes…

When I was in my thirties I went down into the darkness, so deep I began to wonder if I would ever find my way out.  There was a moment, a moment when I stood at the edge and contemplated the void.  It felt blissful.  The darkness seemed to hold the answers I sought.  The darkness held the promise of calm and peace and quiet from all the noise and pain.  It beckoned to me and I believed, for a moment, I believed it was the answer.

I would like to report that in a single instant I made the decision to step back from the edge, but it wasn’t like that.  It was hard to move away.  It was difficult and painful and there was nothing elegant or easy about it.  Stepping away was more like an agonizing scramble of falling, tumbling backwards and clawing forward, grabbing on to whatever scrap of hope I could find.  Some days felt like a slow, steady, groveling crawl on my hands and knees just to get through the hours that make up a day.  And on those days I believed this would be my life forever and I wondered how I could continue.  It was on those days, when I believed I knew what the future held, those were the days that were the hardest.

There are tricks I learned, little things I learned to do, some are silly perhaps, but I do them anyway.  When things feel like they are too much, I tell myself I can get through the next hour, just one hour without hurting myself or anyone else.  Just for the next hour, I will not do or say anything that will cause harm.  Just for this next hour.  And when that hour passes, I take the next hour, one hour at a time.  I have done this for many years now and funnily enough, this method of taking one small manageable segment of time and being present for whatever it may bring continues to work.  During those early days when all of this was new to me, I even gave myself permission to do whatever it was that I wanted to do, but knew it would hurt me after the hour had passed.  Then the hour would pass and I would see I had gotten through it and I would say, okay, just one more hour.  I can get through one more hour.  And I did one hour at a time, I did.

I learned to make phone calls or text people I trust and know are safe.  I let them in, I asked for help.  Sometimes help meant listening to another person, sometimes it meant they listened to me.   I learned I had choices, even when it felt that I did not.  People had to remind me to do the thing that everything in my being screamed at me not to do – reach out in kindness to another.  Sometimes even when I could not muster up the strength to be kind to myself I could show kindness to another, so I do at least three anonymous acts of kindness. (Using the present tense now.)  The anonymous part is important.  It’s imperative that my actions are not about getting thanks or being appreciated, but are about actively taking actions where I can be the person, even if only for a few minutes, I would like to one day grow up to be.

I look back on those years, so long ago now and no longer recognize that person who contemplated the darkness.  I do not know her.  She is unfamiliar to me and I’m grateful.  Mine is but one experience, there are countless others.  I have no answers.  All I know is that to keep the life I now enjoy, a life I could not imagine myself ever having, a life that, so many years ago, would have seemed too good to be true, I must do certain things on a daily basis to make sure that tomorrow and the next day will not involve being anywhere near the edge where I am tempted to peer down into that pit of darkness and contemplate its depths.

If you or someone you know is struggling, reach out for help.  Tell someone else, let them help and remember you are not alone.

23 responses to “Peering into the Darkness

  1. Darkness is merely light whose frequencies we are blind to. Experienced darkness, experienced void, is then a boundary condition to the collective consensus we subscribe to to enjoy the conventional and normative light of a community. Darkness then shrouds that truth we choose not to know.
    Those who we collectively choose to view as less-abled, stray through the membrane between that darkness and light, because less trammelled by subscription to conventional and normative consensus. Enormous cost then accrues to those who so stray in occurring and developing; but they secure the beginnings of means allowing for the embrace of both experienced light and experienced darkness.

  2. ((Ariane)) You empower others with your honest and eloquent words. Thank you for sharing your story with us. ❀

  3. You are so wonderful. I love reading your posts. A true inspiration.

  4. ((((Ariane)))) *struggling not to cry*. Love you so much. You reached out in kindness to me at a time when I needed it the most, and continue to do so. I’ve told you things my family, friends, and husband don’t even know. And I do continue to still struggle with the darkness. But as long as I know there are others in the world who love and depend on me, I can see through it.

    For the longest time I struggled with anger at my brother for the choice that he made. Not so much for what he did, but for the fact that in doing so, he took that “choice” away from ME. How could I ever harm myself given what happened? How could I leave my children without a parent as he did? How could I let OUR parents lose both their children in such a horrific fashion? In a way, what he did saved me. So, I am no longer angry.

    Your words are so beautifully written and so straight from the heart. You have helped so many people, even those who don’t have the courage to comment. Don’t ever stop doing what you’re doing.

    If karma is for real, you are one blessed lady! 😉

  5. Thank you. I really needed to read this today.

  6. If I were able to express myself so eloquently, I might have written this description of the darkness. I hope I can see it from a vast distance of time someday.

  7. Yeah, I really love the “I can get through just this span of time” coping method.

    I hadn’t had much of a reason to have to use it in a long time, and then I had a really, really hard show last summer. And the night of our first preview, one cast member said to me, “I know one thing about tonight: We’re going to start this show, and we’re going to finish it, and I’m okay with that.”

    And I was like “Oh, right…that’s how you do it.”

  8. Ariane Zurcher, this post is brimming with the sincerity of your experience and the genuine intent that you have to share a message from a place of compassion…and while I would be willing to bet that you did not type this so as to receive personal thanks from others but rather to share what you know from your experience…I can’t help but be grateful for coming across this article, and cannot help but feel that same thanks towards you for having acted on the idea of typing this up. Many, many times throughout my life, I have struggled with Darkness that presses, persists, and pursues me in my own existence, most notably in my fifth year of life and mid-teens. It is not ever a pleasant place to be, and never was for a moment then either. A part of me would like to say that I had never experienced it in any way, shape, form, moment, or sensation ever felt or experienced in all of my life…but that would be outright lying, and would not be acknowledging nor nurturing towards that in me which brought me through the darkness on both occasions. So, I have experienced a lot of pain, a lot of suffering and hardship before, the memories of which I recall when I looked at and read through your words above. And yet, I have found meaning in my harsh and trying journey through my own darkness and the outside darkness that accompanied it along the way like some great shroud around me…and I found that, in looking at the comments that others have given to you on here already, and the comments that you have put in response to the ones others have left for you to receive, another potentially valuable aspect of those who have experienced the darkness: companionship for those who are struggling along that same trying, terrifying, seemingly-hopeless task to get back to the light.

    I am also rather surprised that I didn’t come to this realization so clearly earlier on, but I suppose that doesn’t matter much, as long as I carry it with me with the best of intent and action now. And the power of the words of others who have already spoken here speaks towards just how valuable it is to have someone else gently encouraging them from that place of light to ‘keep putting one foot in front of the other until the darkness has been left all-together, and the warmth and radiant clarity of the light reached :’

    “You empower others with your honest and eloquent words. Thank you for sharing your story with us.” – Leah Kelly

    “You are so wonderful. I love reading your posts. A true inspiration.” – Jolana Sahin (my apologies for not figuring out how to add in the line below the letter ‘S’ at the beginning of your name…how do you get that to appear while typing?)

    “Your words are so beautifully written and so straight from the heart. You have helped so many people, even those who don’t have the courage to comment. Don’t ever stop doing what you’re doing.” – Angie T

    “Thank you. I really needed to read this today.” – Corbett

    “If I were able to express myself so eloquently, I might have written this description of the darkness. I hope I can see it from a vast distance of time someday.” -venessa

    I second every one of these comments without feeling any reason to hesitate, or to doubt my decision to do so. Keep seeking and empowering, magnifying, amplifying light in your life and the lives of others that you interact with, please. It is a sensation inside of myself that makes me ask that you continue to do so – the same one that makes me smile and makes my eyes tear a bit at the fact that there are people who are willing to put their experience into words, into voiced form, and share it with others who need to hear that darkness is possible – VERY possible – to get through and even come to terms with. That there is hope for getting out and from growing after one’s journey through those deep, dark shadows, and that there are humans who will speak to that hope for those who need to know that it is possible, is truly one of the most wonderful things about life that I have ever beheld. Again, you have my deepest gratitude for writing this.

    – Andy Willmore, an autistic adult inspired and moved by your writing

  9. We all have moments of peering into the darkness as long as we don’t stay in the darkness we will be fine.

  10. I struggled with this for years, especially during my 20’s (in my late 30’s now)…the end of things began to seem, not even pleasurable, but just rational…powerfully rational…it took on a magnetic quality…i’ve been able to work to a much better place (after receiving an asperger’s diagnosis and therapy)…what i find is that the worst of the thoughts/impulses are gone, but the “structure” of it all remains…depression is now like this big, hollow building in the center of my mind…i kicked out the tenants, the voices of despair, but the overall framework persists…it’s less urgent, less dark, just an empty husk, but i can still feel the contours of it all…the general impression of it remains…i just know that seeking help (and finding intelligent, constructive help) worked…that recovery is incredibly tough, but possible…i’m glad i’m on the other side of it. thx for this post, your writing is a gift.

    • What a beautiful and elegant way of describing the experience. I “felt” what you were saying, deeply felt your words.
      I agree – “recovery is incredibly tough, but possible” I’m glad you’re on the other side too!

  11. Such a rich, powerful description. Unfortunately all too familiar a place for me: I am too used to peering out from within it. My darkness welcomes me in every so often, enveloping me in its numbing embrace. It lurks; it waits for me to suffer some hurt or for my strength to wane, and it pulls me in again.

    It presents different faces from time to time. It might simply be an numb emptiness, void of any feeling, absorbing any hope I try to nurture. Or it might be a deep pit of despair, drinking all light, sharp-edged, cold and hard where I am imprisoned, bound by hooked chains making any attempt to free myself agonizing.

    My defense is to feel nothing; do nothing. I can escape into music or a book for some brief respite. I do call out for help these days. I can make contact with people which helps bring some light; talk to my (very few) friends. And slowly the darkness fades and I return to living.

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