You have all heard the reassuring cliché:
“It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
Aside from it sounding like a pop-hook written by Legolas, what a load of shit huh? This is just what people say when they don’t know what to say anymore, right? They don’t know how to comfort you, so they gag you with this hallmark nonsense.
(Source: Young Frankenstein)
Here is the thing though:
- You don’t have to hit rock bottom before you improve
- The “dawn” only comes when you are running towards it
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but if you aren’t seeking help, nothing will happen. SIR Isaac Newton gave us the three laws of motion, the first being:
“An object at rest will remain at rest unless acted on by an unbalanced force.”
If you already feel unbalanced, this unbalanced force has to be stronger and more consistent than your already inconsistent mind. Call it an unbalancing act…I was fired from my job at the circus.
So if your mental state is chaotic and dark, you are extending your suffering by doing nothing about it. This quote, “it’s always darkest before the dawn” implies that things will clear up on its own, like a passing storm cloud, and while sometimes that is true for situational depression, it is a dangerous falsehood for clinical depression and other diagnosed depressive and anxiety disorders.
I’m not saying to give up hope; I’m saying stop waiting for hope. Stop waiting for it to fall on your lap like an aging stripper in Reno. Go out and seek it, it will be hard, it will get dark, things will get better, then they’ll get worse. Depression isn’t linear, it’s not an uphill battle, it is a labyrinth that would give MC Escher a boner. The deeper you go, the more triggers you will uncover and the more you will understand the base of your illness. Then, when you find those triggers you push and pull them so hard that your mind gets tired of pushing back, and will allow you to feel some relief.
Be healthy and safe about it though. You will be able to tell how much you can take. When your mind is ready to be pushed and when it needs to rest.
This is all so much easier said than done.
For me, dating and romance were (and still is) fucking terrifying. The idea of meeting a man one on one for a date was close to out of the question, because of how intense the panic was. Here’s what I wrote in my journal before meeting a boy on a date about a month ago:
- First of all, everything will be okay
- The anxiety is mostly in my chest. My heart hurts.
- My arms and legs have fallen asleep, I’m afraid I’ll fall over if I stand. Also, my cognition is a bit slowed, I feel really sleepy. My heart hurts and I feel like I’m somehow getting too much oxygen and not enough at the same time
- I’m worried and that’s okay
- I’m worried about what he’ll expect. I’m worried about not being able to say no. I’m worried about the opposite. About having feelings for him and he not feel the same about me.
- And that’s okay
- I’m worried that I’ll vomit. I’m worried I’ll get sick. I’m worried that I’ll hallucinate again.
- And that’s okay
- Worst of all I’m worried that he’ll notice my anxiety. I’m terrified of “are you okay?” I’m terrified of “excuse me, I’m not feeling well.” And crying in the bathroom for twenty minutes like that one time…
- Fuck I love cold weather. Gloves are a godsend; he won’t be able to tell how sweaty my hands are.
- My stomach is in knots
- And I am okay. I am okay.
- Fuck I’m having trouble breathing.
- But, I am breathing.
- Jesus Christ, it’s cold. That’s probably a good thing. Something to focus on besides the potential of my heart bursting.
- Underneath it all, there is a twinge of excitement. That’s new…I can feel it underneath all this shit. Like it’s buried. But, I can feel it. I can feel it.
- You will be okay.
- Fuck he’s so cute; I want to kiss his face. Actually, I just want him to hold my hand. I want him to make the first move. But, not in an aggressive way. With a look in his eye that comforts me rather than makes it feel like there’s a knife in my gut.
- You will be okay. You are loved. I love you.
- Jesus Christ my ass is sweaty.
As you can probably infer, I am a lot of fun at dinner parties. I actually am…now. After working my ass off mentally the past eight months, I understand that the best way to heal yourself is to throw yourself directly at what terrifies you.
The famous poet, novelist, and frequent indulger Charles Bukowski (one of my absolute favorites) wrote:
- “My dear, find what you love and let it kill you.”
While this is a stunning assemblage of words that rings deeply true for me, I think the opposite works just as well especially for this topic.
- “Hey asshole, find what terrifies you and let it kill you…over and over again until it doesn’t kill you anymore.”
What are you most afraid of? For many, this is not a very clear answer. At one point, I thought I was triggered by everything because dealing with constant panic attacks make it seem like everything is dangerous and to be avoided at all cost.
With the help of therapy, counseling, and friends I was able to pinpoint where the majority of these panic symptoms were coming from. BUT, it was up to ME to push myself to conquer these triggers (and to close friends to drag me out when I was too afraid to do it on my own). Flip that fuckin’ switch so many times that it breaks, so even when it’s triggered the lights stay on.
Let’s go back to this quote:
“It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
So, after understanding one of my largest triggers of anxiety to be romance and dating, I challenged myself to go on two dates with two different boys while in Croatia. And I did it. And it was terrifying, but what happened was unexpected. The first boy was great, I enjoyed his company, and he was incredibly intelligent and talented, he was good at everything to the point where it was a little annoying. I was interested in hanging out a bit more, but he was not.
The second man really knew how to tug off my pants and on my heartstrings. He was unlike anyone I had ever dated previously and has taught me (and is still teaching me) so much. After a few days of hanging out, I realized how intense my romantic inclination towards him was. But, we inevitably had to say our goodbyes, which was bittersweet. The ONLY reason it was sweet was because dating is a huge trigger for me, so I was looking forward to having a bit of relief from my anxiety.
The next morning I packed up my things and headed towards Ljubljana, Slovenia. For five hours, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. It was the most intense panic I have had in a long time. It was like a kid with ADHD was yanking all my triggers on. Telling you I was confused is an understatement.
What the fuck was going on? All I had to do was sit on a bus. Just sit for a few hours. Yet, I was so afraid that I was going to have to stop the bus and call for an ambulance because of how fucking violent the anxiety was.
Slovenia was dark. I slipped into a severe depression, the whole package: nightmares, feeling physically ill, intrusive thoughts, thoughts of suicide (which weren’t dangerous and if you’ve dealt with depression you know the difference between a dangerous thought and one that is not so visceral). What the ACTUAL FUCK was going on.
As it turns out when you push your triggers to the extreme, it is sort of like an earthquake, there is an incident that makes the Richter scale shake more than if Michael J. Fox were writing it himself. Which, for me, was dating the second boy, being vulnerable with him, and then having to say goodbye. Then, after an earthquake there are aftershocks and sometimes there are tsunamis.
I was so exhausted from pushing my mind so hard that all the blockades I had put in place to keep depressive tendencies at bay cracked. I was so exhausted that my mind basically gave out. And then…something unexpected happened, it started to repair itself stronger than before.
Here is an infinitely better quote on how one can lose her or his way in the dark, but learn to find the light once again. I stole that line from a Scientology brochure.
“How far can you run into the woods? Halfway, because at that point you’re running out of the woods.”
Then…things got better. A lot better. So much fucking better. I arrived back in Prague and went on three dates in a week. If I did that even a month ago, I would have been catatonic. Why are things so easy now? I realized that I pushed my mind so hard that it was finally tired of pushing back.
Sometimes the darkness isn’t just dark. Darkness isn’t the absence of light, rather the obstruction of it. When you constantly fight back, you will be able to shake loose some of the muck and grime that is covering up the light. It will be difficult, sometimes you’ll even find yourself using mud to cover the light with your bear hands because the thought of being without is can actually be scary. But, keep going. Please keep going. You can do this.
Much love & many adventures,