Sunday, February 9, 2014

How do I Get Through the Dark Times?

I saw a version of this question posted somewhere and I got to thinking about it. If someone asked me it, how would I respond? Could I give a response that would be valid and helpful and ring true in some way? There is nothing worse than getting an answer that really is a non-answer, or an answer that doesn't feel authentic when matched to the person speaking it.

In my world and life there are too many things that are said that just "sound good." I have gained a whole other level of discomfort with platitudes in the last several months. What good are words if there is nothing behind them to truly latch on to? You can see a shore from a boat, and that may seem like good news, but if you can't get to the shore, and dock, it probably isn't going to do much good.

When I look back on the darkest times in my life, I certainly felt levels of devastation. I say levels in that a moment of devastation in college was nothing like the level of devastation I felt at one point a year or two before my diagnosis which was nothing like the depths of despair I have felt since.

It seems to me that over the years, the holes to climb out of have gotten bigger and darker and deeper. I don't know if that is the way it is "supposed" to be, but it some ways, it makes sense. We often learn the greatest when we are challenged the most.

If we are to learn in this lifetime, we must survive. There have been a few times in my life that suicide wasn't far from my thoughts. It is interesting to consider if I had done it, I would never have had to deal with cancer. It is also interesting to consider that any thoughts of ending my life since diagnosis feel more proactive than reactive, like other times would have been.

There have been times I have not had a clue how I was going to get through the anguish I felt. It seemed to have been coming from a place of great pain within my soul that was so deep there felt like there would be no end. Even the idea that it would pass didn't exactly help. What good is it knowing that when you can't see your way out, and you are stuck in the darkest, deepest, uckiest muck you have ever felt?

In times like that there really weren't any words that could help me. The logic of any of them was quickly dispelled. All I could do was sob. Not cry. Sob. Gushes of tears. Swollen eyes. Profusely running nose. Headache. Cry so deep I am gasping for air. Feeling exhausted. Sob.

Sometimes I think we just have to allow ourselves to feel what we need to feel. How do we know we need to feel it? Because it shows up. It makes itself known in a huge way. It doesn't leave us alone, and it forces us to face it and interact with it, and acknowledge it. It comes on like a storm that darkens the daylight sky into night, and rains so hard, we can see and feel and hear nothing but the torrent.

Sometimes we can go to sleep and wake up and it is a new day and the sun is out. Sometimes the clouds may stick around for a few days. But sooner or later the storm does clear, and often we find we aren't sure why we were feeling as down and desperate as we did. There have been times afterward I genuinely wondered what the big deal was. At the time, though, it was a whole different experience.

When I look at it that way, it might be easy to judge or berate myself for how I responded. But the fact is that it all has validity, despite what I, or anyone else might say or think. I think one of the best ways to get through the darkness is to acknowledge it, and allow it instead of fighting or judging it. In the darkest moments, it is likely that the reaction you are having isn't rational in any way and it is unfair to assign rational parameters to the irrational, and yet...we do it all the freaking time, don't we?

Another piece comes from the logic side. Is how you react and what you do an action or a reaction? Are you reacting to the pain? Odds are if you do anything in the midst of great pain, you are likely reacting. You can't be in the midst of great pain and act. Even though I just wrote that, and find myself questioning the statement. Is it really "true" for me?

I think it makes sense that it would be true, and here is why - no matter what you do, you are likely reacting to what you are feeling. Reaction comes from feelings within a circumstance. It is tied to something that has affected you.

It makes me wonder, actually, if any part of life comes from a place that isn't reactionary. I would guess that a key is to make key decisions when not in the midst of the emotion that is having you feel compelled to take an action - especially if it is something that could potentially be detrimental to you or another.

Doing that, though, I know can be VERY uncomfortable. It makes you sit with what you are feeling, and often it is horrible. We want to distract from it. Bury it. Hide out from it. Any number of things, except for the one we are likely supposed to do - experience it.

My guess is this is a sucky answer. Who wants to hear this kind of thing? Better to hear the platitudes and find the distractions and perspectives that help, right? My guess is - not really. My guess is that you likely dislike the platitudes as much as I do as soon as you find yourself in a situation that others think warrant them.

But then that leaves us without an answer or one we don't like - which is like no answer because it is difficult to accept, especially since most of us have been trained from an early age to do and say anything that is acceptable because that is what those around us and society expect from us.

Imagine what it would be like if we lived in a world in which we could cherish the "bad" as well as the good. The light and the dark. It sounds scary doesn't it? But whether we cherish it or not, it still is. The spectrum exists, despite all kinds of efforts to tip life in only one direction.

We seem to think that if we pretend something doesn't exist, then it doesn't, despite the fact that we have ample examples that that is inaccurate. Maybe it is time we allowed ourselves the full spectrum of our humanity without judgment, and not just the good and positive stuff. Maybe it is time we stopped seeing anything "negative" or "bad" as something to be fixed.

A light switch can be off or it can be on. Those who know anything about it know that when it is off it doesn't need fixing. It is just in the state it is in. Human beings have a number of "switches." Maybe it is time we were willing to allow ourselves these states without feeling compelled to force them into a permanent or semi-permanent on or off position.

If you are feeling like you are in a dark place, I know it sucks, and I am so sorry to hear it. I don't have any answer that will make everything OK. I sure wish I did. I could certainly use it at times. My guess is that if I was to get into another one of those places and read what I just wrote, I am not sure that it would be of much help - if I even chose to read it at all.

There are times there are just no answers. It sucks. It really does.

Sometimes it really sucks to be human. But there is a good chance that is also what it means to be human. It's too bad we were sent here without the instruction booklet with the appropriate warnings and annotations. It might have made everything a bit easier.

But then again, who reads the instructions??

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