I’m not afraid of the dark, but I am afraid of the darkness. And there is a difference.
The dark is night. I actually love nighttime. Yet the darkness is a different beast altogether. The darkness is the emptiness of mental illness, the isolation, the lies it can tell, the terrible things that are happening that only you know about. I am afraid of the darkness of my mental illness.
I have tried to be more open about my own darkness on this site recently. Part of that is that it is necessary to be truly authentic. Part of it is that I want others to know they are not alone in their darkness. Yet the biggest part is that I need to face my own darkness, and I mean fully face it.
Because I know how dark my mind can get in the depths of depression, yet I push it away and pretend it doesn’t exist. Yet doing that only benefits the darkness. You can’t hide from the darkness, sooner or later you must face it.
For me, the darkness is thinking I am a burden to those I love. It is thinking they would be better off without me. It is thinking that no one would miss me if I were gone. And even though I know these are lies, they are lies that are sold so damn convincingly by your own mind.
Are you starting to understand why I am afraid of it, why it is so terrible? To have your own mind try to gaslight you, to undo you from within, that is truly terrifying.
And the depression robs me of energy to the point where sometimes I am just too exhausted to challenge the darkness and I find myself believing it. I find myself thinking about ways that I can end it. Or at least I used to think about that. Thankfully, I have a great support network and medication and therapists and a whole laundry list of self-care items that I can turn to that make it better. They make me better. They don’t get rid of the darkness, but they let a little light in. Enough so that I am not as afraid.
I recently had the opportunity to shadow in a psychiatric hospital. And the entire time I couldn’t help but look at these people who were there because they were a danger to themselves and I was terrified of the recognition that I saw there. Would that have been me if I hadn’t been able to get help?
And so often when these musings pop up, I find myself pushing them away and pretending they never existed. Yet deep down, down within the darkness, I know they do. And this is what I am afraid of, allowing myself to admit just how dark my darkness can be, so dark that it can swallow me whole.
And this is hard to write. It is hard to write because I know it goes against what I’ve tried to do for so long. It is hard to write because it scares me. It is hard to write because I am guessing it might scare those I love, those who would miss me, because they likely never knew how dark it could get. Yet the fact that I am at a place where I can write this is a sign of just how long it has been since the darkness has gotten that dark. And if it comes back, I know now how to handle it. I know how to keep myself safe. And I know how to talk about it.
Because talking about it is important. Talking about it shines a light on it. It lessens the fear. And more importantly it reminds me that I have gotten better. And it reminds other people that it can get better too. If they are in that darkness that so many of us fear so much, it does get better. You can get better. And that, is so incredibly important to know.
Maybe someday I won’t be afraid of how dark my darkness can get. Maybe someday, if this is is something you battle, you will be able to escape the fear of the darkness as well. And maybe, just maybe, as more and more of us open up about the battle, maybe the darkness will someday disappear and we will all be able to live in the light.