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Saturday, May 05, 2007

Encroaching Darkness

Many years go I was grappling with mood swings that went from one extreme to the next. It caused chaos in every facet of my life. I did therapy. I did recommended self-help books. I did medication therapy and was for quite awhile a guinea pig for various meds all in the hope of stablizing the mood swings and lightening the crippling depression that followed extreme episodes of mania.

Last year, without insurance, the balance was nearly lost because I could not afford the medication on my own. Fortunately, I found a way to obtain those medications (legally) through a clinic. Throughout all this and the diagnosis of bi-polar, I learned many things. I learned to embrace the darkness not as a stranger but for what it is: darkness. Curt's suicide threw me for a complete loop and upset me terribly. He was a man who braved many obstacles all in the name of finding new voices in the theater and to get those voices heard and the work seen onstage. It pains me to think that he spent his last moments on earth by himself in his small apartment making the decision that nothing was worth living for.

But darkness isn't always so destructive. I find the night calming. I learned how to accept the encroaching darkness of depression for what it was: a passing dark cloud. I managed to sustain the belief that it would eventually pass. That's the key to survival: knowing that the darkness will not always be there. I have been in that place where I believed the darkness would always be present. I likened my depression to like wearing a soaked, wool blanket over my head during the hottest day of the summer.

In the early 1990s I was given a copy of Darkness Visible written by William Styron who, later in life, went into a deep depression. I found his memoir intriguing and enlightening much as I did another book whose name and author now escapes me. That latter book talked about not fighting off the blackness when that mood comes. Let it arrive, feel it and then tell it to piss off. The danger of this, of course, is perhaps not having the strength to host the darkness, feel it and chase it off. Will your resolve be weaker that day? How do we know when our resolve is steadfast? There is a risk to everything.

The advice of embracing darkness for what it is has worked for me many times. A few times my resolve was not as strong to ward off the unwelcomed, prolonged stay. But I managed to tell myself eventually this would move on. In order to find hope at times I would just open a newspaper and read about the awful things that happen to other people. If I am able to realize that even while in my dark place I'm still better off than others, my resolve can get stronger.

There have been many difficulties the past two years for me. However, through the worst of it I was able to see that down the road there were opportunities coming. This was not a gambler's delusion: it was real and I was lucky enough to have good things come to fruition, little by little.

I don't whale away at it anymore. "Hello darkness my old friend," as the Simon and Garfunkel song goes.

I won't fight you but your visit will be a brief one.

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