October 10, 2011
The descent began innocuously enough– a hint of anger, sadness or impatience tingeing the day. Moods that typically faded with a laugh or a good night’s sleep, sometimes boded much worse. She never knew what triggered it, although she could blame a myriad of things (stress, lack of sleep, hormones, a trip to the grocery store…).
These emotions intensified and spiraled down into a bog of anger, bitterness and sadness, swirling together and shattering her equilibrium. Soon she forgot what it was like to feel anything positive. She was sure this darkness was the truth and the times of happiness and contentment that seemed so dim and faraway, had been a lie and she had been acting through it all. While she was in this pit, her life became defined by absolutes: Everything was always bad and it always had been. And there’s no hope of it ever getting better.
Her husband tried to help, but he couldn’t understand the darkness because he’d never experienced it. She’d look at him and think, “He doesn’t have a clue who I am. He never really knew me at all.” Her children watched her with wary eyes. She knew she should try to hide her unhappiness but she didn’t have the strength to put on such a performance. She was too tired.
Maybe it was the warring with her world that made her so tired. Maybe it was the feeling of hopelessness, of being out of control and believing it could never be made right.
She desperately wanted to be rid of the darkness, yet she found herself clutching it tightly. She’d heard that she had a choice: accept the negative feelings or choose to feel better. She couldn’t see a choice. She was in a pit and she could not climb out on her own.
Then she would wake one morning, days or weeks later, to find the darkness had vanished like a bad dream. She felt light and once again her smile and her laughter were sincere. Her family would breathe a collective sigh of relief.
It took her years to realize she did have a choice. I think it was after she prayed about it.
The choice wasn’t the one she thought she had– she couldn’t choose or will herself to feel happy instead of depressed no matter how much she wanted to or how hard she tried. It was something to endure while it lasted. The choice lay between hope and hopelessness. She saw that even in the deepness of the pit, she had a choice to fall further down by encouraging and grasping onto the negative thoughts and then sinking into and believing in their reality. Or she could ride the dark awful feelings like a canoe in the rapids, putting hope in the knowledge that the ride would soon be over and the sun would be shining at the end.
Now when she finds herself in the pit, she chooses to remember that the hopelessness is the illusion. It’s not an easy choice because the hope seems so faint when she’s down there. Yet as time goes on, the darkness visits less frequently and the pit is shallower and she knows hope, however faint at the time, is the right choice.
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