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.