The Dark Days Are Behind You
Author’s Note: This blog includes implications of self-harm and suicide.
I saw a post on Instagram this week that read, “you’ve made it through the ten darkest weeks of winter.” What a notion. To know we’ve already made it through the darkness. The worst is behind us.
Very few people know this, but my time in graduate school was some of the worst days of my life. The program was rigorous, yes, but the darkness came from my mental health. The tears, the solitude, the panic attacks… it felt torturous. My Dad often reflects on the program as “the thing that nearly killed me”. He’s not wrong. There were nights I’d soak in my bathtub, sincerely wondering if life was worth living when it felt so hard.
Those days were dark. They were isolating and cold and challenging. Looking back, my mental illness made those days infinitely more difficult than they needed to be. Still, I survived. Still, I walked across a stage and received a diploma holder. The degree came 6-8 weeks later.
There are so many lessons I learned in those days of darkness. I discovered the life-saving effects of a balanced brain when I started taking medication. I sat through life-changing conversations when I began consistent therapy. I know how powerful moving my body can be for my entire physical state after daily workouts for almost a decade. I’ve learned how to wipe away the tears and clear my mind through journaling. I’ve listened to hundreds of guided meditations on releasing pressure, anxiety, and fear. That is how I’ve gotten out of my darkness. It still lingers in my mind every day, like a storm cloud looming in the distance, but the darkness does not dominate my heart anymore.
I was so struck by the words in that Instagram post this week. We’ve made it through the darkest days of winter. The ten weeks with the least hours of sunlight are behind us. Wouldn’t it be nice if those same messages were delivered to us in life?
You’ve made it through the worst of this pain. It gets easier from here.
You’ve cried the heaviest tears. More joy is ahead.
You’ve made it through the deepest darkness in your life. You will not have to feel this again.
It all sounds a bit like a fortune cookie to me. The words are just written there, we apply the meaning. In reality, there is no timeline. There are no push notifications to let us know the emotional shift is coming. There is no warning about darkness ahead or brighter days on the horizon. There is this day. Here and now. That’s all we get. One day at a time.
That was one of the most powerful pieces of advice I’ve ever received. “Just take it one day at a time.” As someone with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, the anxious voice is always assuming the worst-case scenario while trying to think of solutions for problems that haven’t happened yet. My imagination tries to create a black-and-white future in a world that’s full of color. More often than not, that black-and-white story-telling only causes more pain, more anxiety, and more fear.
No, we don’t get updates on Instagram about the future of our lives. We don’t get a projected timeline for any experience. We do, however, get to choose the people with whom we live this life and the actions we take to make it better.
Of the many lessons I learned in a walk with darkness, the most significant is the power of speaking. One of my favorite writers, Anne Lamott, wrote, “All too often it is audacity and not talent that moves an artist to center stage.” You may not consider yourself an artist and you may not be concerned with center stage. But, in the story of your own life, you must be bold, brave, and audacious in speaking your truth. Darkness will always, always win in silence. Love and light are found in transforming thoughts into words.
I can’t tell you exactly when any darkness will end, but I know there are possibilities and miracles you cannot imagine that take form when you’re brave enough to speak. The light is waiting for you.
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