Fifteen years ago, there was a moment when I sat on the floor of my garage weeping uncontrollably. I had just gotten another phone call attack, and the weight was more than I could bear. I had been holding back emotions for months, and at that moment the dam burst and all I could do was moan and cry. It was one of the four darkest seasons of my life. Through the years I have dissected those times to see patterns that emerge and use those to help myself and others.
1. I Begin to Personalize Issues. If you make any decisions in life, someone will hate you for it. This can be with your spouse, your children, your job or even a volunteer group. Someone is not going to like what you did, and most will be sure and tell you about it. There is this smooth transition from “they don’t like my decision,” to “they hate me.”
2. Listening to the Wrong Voices. Whenever I have been questioned, I look to people for validation. It is amazing how their words seem biased and too loving for me to hear. They have to say these things because they are my family. “Surely the mean people are just honest,” we think.
3. The Voice in My Head Turns Evil. Slowing everything going in my head starts to turn ugly. Shame, remorse, regret, and feelings of inadequacy fill my every thought, even when I have done nothing wrong.
4. Self-Fulling Prophecies of Ugliness. Before I leave the house, I have already convinced myself that something bad is going to happen. I know that when I see them, they are going to say something mean. Worse yet, they are going to see me and try to go the other way. I know the worst is coming in every interaction. I hear everything with a negative twist in each conversation.
5. Why Try? I start asking fatalistic questions of my actions. If nothing is going to work out for good, why keep doing anything?
6. Isolation. Deep down I think that if I want the pain to stop it comes from eliminating other people from my life. Avoid people, and all will be fine. Instead, the voices in my head get louder until the darkness overtakes me.
These have been the steps that seem to emerge every time my life slips into a funk. Maybe you have experienced similar things in your life? Perhaps you are experiencing them now?
For me, there have been two remedies that have helped me to overcome the darkness that always seems to be lurking. First, I need to be aware of these patterns. I need to process my thinking and be knowledgeable of the path I am walking.
Second, I need to work hard to do the opposite at each point. I need to not personalize everything. I need to more people around me who love and support me. I need to fill my head with positive thoughts and voices. I need to see the good in every situation and expect things to work out for the best. I need to keep doing the right thing every day. I need to bring people into my life when I feel like pushing them away.
I once went on a week-long fishing trip with a group of guys as part of a Christian camp. I talked to one older gentleman an extended period as we drove the twenty-four plus hours to our camp. He told me about a time in his life that he was so down that he considered suicide. He was a farmer, and everything had gone wrong that year with his crops, his family and for him personally. At the end of the conversation, he said, “You never know how dark it can be until you get there.”
Well, I have been there. I sat on the floor of my garage crying while calling out to God. He began to show me the light, and I finally moved out of that painful place. It took months to completely recover, but I made it. I am praying that if you are reading this, that God will help you find the light again. It is possible. I know it was true for me and it can happen for you too.