There’s a Light

Darkness has surrounded me recently. Depression has shrouded me in a cloak of insecurity and doubt so thick, so heavy I’ve forgotten what it’s like to breathe normally, without this heaviness in my chest. It’s like I’m walking through a maze, and the deeper I go, the darker it gets, the closer the walls seem to be. And to top it all off, it’s raining in this maze. It’s been raining long and hard for days, and the maze has standing water–not enough for normal people to be concerned with, but enough that I’m starting to feel anxious.

And I know that probably none of this makes sense, but hear me out.

My two biggest phobias in life are small spaces and drowning, but they didn’t use to be. Once upon a time, the bottom of the pool was my best friend, and I could play hide and seek in the closet for hours. Once upon a time, I was more scared of heights than anything, but I’m not afraid of jumping anymore (at least not most of the time). As we grow up, we change, and I hope one day I will grow out of these two fears, out of the memories they bring. Right now, they’re things I carry with me.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and I can tell you the exact moment this all became luggage on my life trip.

It was a school bathroom, late afternoon, one day in the middle of May, almost eight years ago. I was alone, until I wasn’t. There were suddenly too many people, too many hands, too many demands. As the room started to close in, I felt too big, too small, too everything at once. And I wish I didn’t remember what happened next. I wish I could tell you I don’t remember any of it, but I remember most of it.(As I’m sitting here writing this, it’s playing over and over and over in my head. I wish it would stop, but I know the only way to make that happen is to keep writing, get the words out.)  And if you haven’t experienced this, I hope you never do. My world became so much smaller that day. They were everywhere. If they weren’t, they could’ve been around the next corner, or the next one, or the next one.

So, no. I don’t like closed spaces–they remind me of that time when the room I was in suddenly became too small for the memories it carries.

But what does water have to do with anything? It has to do with everything. I can still hear the drip, drip, drip of the bathroom sink I didn’t have time to shut all the way off. (Good thing I didn’t because when it was all done, I cleaned myself up that much faster. Ironic, right?) And I know you’re thinking, “What about the drowning?” So am I. This is a more of a “fill-in-the-blank association” than a direct correlation.

You know how people get you to open your mouth when you don’t want to? They pinch your nose closed.

And I tried, I tried so hard to keep breathing with my mouth closed and my nose pinched. But things started swirling and spinning and fading, and my lungs were begging for air. So, I opened my mouth and started gasping for air, which is exactly what they wanted. (But this isn’t really the time to discuss that.)

So my brain did the math and concluded that “gasping for air” plus “struggling” plus “water dripping” must be what drowning feels like. I became a fish out of water: the Little Mermaid never wanting to go back in the sea, never wanting to feel that feeling again. Even though I know it’s irrational because a) I wasn’t drowning and b) I’m a good swimmer. But, hey, there’s nothing rational about any of this.

I’ve tried so hard to not let my past define me, become me, influence me, but it’s so hard when so much in your life since that day has been directly or indirectly affected by it. It’s so hard to cut ties with the thing that is pulling you down on your bad days when it’s also the thing that allows you to fly on your good days. Because on my bad days, the pain in my chest, my racing heart when I remember this day remind me I’m still alive.

I know none of this makes sense. But I also know that none of this is permanent: this pain, this life, these memories.

I went on a road trip this weekend. And twelve hours in the car gives you a lot of time to look out the window and think. It also gives you a lot of time to compare unfamiliar places in the dark and in the light.

Unfamiliar places are a lot less creepy during the day, they’re a lot more beautiful. But there’s also something about the night that is just as beautiful. 12983928_10209209651944281_5671617332364340475_o

I took this photo as we were driving over the Ohio River, the lights of some city in Pennsylvania can be seen clearly.

This is what is so beautiful about the dark: it’s the light that can be seen shining through at a distance.

I may be in a dark place now, but this is not unfamiliar territory. I’ve walked this road before; I’ve sailed these seas; I’ve made my way out of this maze too many times to count.

I can see the light up ahead, and with God’s help, I’ll make it through this.

 

Learning to Recover

It’s 11:00 at night, and I can’t sleep. And usually when this happens, I start counting down the hours until I have get up, which is pretty much the pessimistic version of ‘if I fall asleep now, I can get thismany hours of sleep.”

a)I have to be up in 5,4,3,2,1 hours.  b) If I fall asleep now, I can get 5,4,3,2,1 hours of sleep. 

Nights like this, where it’s 11:00 and then it’s Midnight and then it’s 1 am, and I’m still awake, are the nights when all my nerve endings are exposed. I’m lying in bed, and I feel nothing, and then I feel everything. My mind is racing a thousand miles a minutes, and I can’t keep up (mostly because I have asthma).

Nights like this used to make me feel like I was being hit square in the chest by a train going 4000 miles an hour, which then launched me into a brick wall. If I fall asleep now, I can get 5,4,3,2,1 hours of sleep. The more I counted down the hours, the more I tried to force myself to not think, which accomplished the exact opposite, that is, my mind created these ridiculous scenarios where I was left saying,

Sorry I fell asleep during your class, Professor. You see, nights have always been hard for me, because with out the busyness the day provides, I’m left to face all of my demons, which let me tell you, is exhausting. And unfortunately, my mind throws about a hundred thoughts my way a second, which means there’s no rest for this weary soul, because I’m left having an existential crisis at 3 am. So, unless you have a physics formula to solve that equation, I’m going to let gravity control my head and lay it down on this desk. Because force equals mass times acceleration, and I’m not Catholic, but I know the rate at which objects accelerate as they fall to earth, and I know the force at which I was propelled off this cliff. So unless you have a parachute or a giant trampoline, you’re not really of use to me at this current moment. But if history ever repeats itself, I’ll come find you since History was never my strong(est) subject.

At 3 am, I have the best comebacks.

I was told once that darkness is just the absence of light, which is true, but I’ve also learned that you can’t see the stars without darkness. So, I guess it’s a paradox. Life is a paradox, and it’s a mystery wrapped in an enigma, encased in a conundrum. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Because nights like this, nights where the weight of the world is compressing my chest, and I can’t breathe remind me I’m still alive. They remind me I’m healing. Because once upon a time, the urge to end my life was so strong. I could verge off the road here… I could slice my wrists with this tape gun… I could take just a few more pills…

I still have those thoughts. But, they’re less urgent. More quiet. More in the back ground. That’s how I know I’m recovering.

I used to feel nothing, but now I feel everything, and the only way to fix a third degree burn is to peel of the burned skin until the nerve endings are exposed. You have to feel worse before you can feel better. Struggling to breathe every once in a while makes your lungs stronger. Forgetting how to walk makes each step so much more beautiful.

Darkness makes the light so much more enjoyable.

I enjoy nights like this now. I always do my best writing between 10 pm and 2 am. If I fall asleep now, I can get 5,4,3,2,1 hours of sleep. My darkness has made me who I am.

Recovery is being born out of darkness. It is starting a flame inside your chest. Burning away all the darkness, and making yourself lighter.

I have found the light shining in the darkness.