I talk a lot about the darkness of my mental illnesses. After all, this page is called the Dark Tales Project. However, the concept of shadowy darkness is not new to psychology and mental health discussions. Carl Jung first described what he called shadow psychology several decades ago.
Jung described the shadow as the unconscious parts of ourselves that our conscious egos do not identify with. In some cases, these can be what some consider to be “animalistic” tendencies that that they don’t feel match with society or their religious or cultural upbringing. However, Jung argued that if you didn’t acknowledge and find ways of integrating these shadowy characteristics, they would continue to wreak havoc upon your life.
And this is a theory I definitely identify with. My darkness, my depression makes me lethargic and causes me to want to isolate myself from the world and from those I love. It can cause me to push them away, sometimes in hurtful ways. Before I got help, it caused me to seek out alcohol as a way to self-medicate and numb the feelings. Those were the dark days that now seem so different, so irreconcilable with the lightness that has come from treatment and management of my mental illness. Yet this too is a lie.
Because the darkness still comes, paralyzing me and robbing me of my energy, of my happiness, robbing me of the light that I treasure so. Yet even when the darkness comes, it is never as dark as it was before.
It is never as dark because I am learning to merge my darkness with my light, giving myself time to recover if I have a depressive episode, instead of just pretending I am fine when nothing is further from the truth in that moment. I am learning to give myself space to be mindful, and acknowledge my feelings, accept that there is a darkness within me that sometimes causes me to act in ways that I am not proud of. Yet unlike before, this darkness no longer leaves me feeling completely powerless because I know that I am working on those aspects and that it is better than it once was.
In the darkness I can now remember that the light exists, which for me seems to be the first step in merging the two. And the darkness and light sometimes dance around each other, making up all the wonderful things that I can take pride in as well as all the not so wonderful things that I would like to fix. In short, merging the darkness and the light makes me more me than yesterday, and hopefully tomorrow I will be even more me than today.
And I hope that for you too. Because the darkness has its place, but we can only find that place once we learn to merge the darkness and the light.