Hours pass, I muse
Wishing you were in my arms
My pen kisses you
Sometimes my mind takes me to dark places. I don’t know why exactly, but I sink into it like warm bath water, slowly and deeply. It is not always scary or lonely, but most times, it is. When I am there, I look around and find that I feel terribly lost. Lost to my life, my dreams and my loved ones.
Most times, people don’t realize I am even there though for I cover it with smiles and activities. I stay busy a lot as I know this helps me avoid this dark path that I don’t like to travel. Yet, I can’t avoid it at times no matter how hard I try.
It is like slowly falling into cold darkness and being surrounded by nothing. Nothing but your thoughts. Thoughts that you cannot stop. They bombard your head like bullets. Each piercing some belief or hope. Each reminding you why you should not do something, be happy, or expect more from life. It tells you why you are worthless. It tells you that you are unlovable. It tells you that you are a failure. It tells you that the bad things were all your fault. It tells you that you deserve to be sad. You try to rationalize these bullets, but there are too many to fight. They are flying around you, through you.
This is a great time for dark writing, forlorn poetry and heart-wrenching tears of release. It can be useful to stand on the edge of madness and see what lurks deep inside your soul. The key is to not step over that edge…because if you do, it gets worse.
After that, the barrage of mental bullets stop, which you would think is a good thing. But it only leaves you in emptiness. Utter emptiness devoid of thought. You just sit there. You can’t cry. You can’t talk. You can’t think. You are just there and alone and numb. This is what I see/feel when I hear Great Big World’s (with Christina Aguilera) video Say Something, which nearly brings me to tears every time.
It is such a beautiful song and yet rips my soul out. It reminds me of lost love and being lost in my own darkness. It makes me think of times when I tried so hard to reach out to someone I loved to only be ignored or pushed away. It makes me relive times when I myself am unreachable. It makes me think of my veteran friends who can’t escape some terror in their mind (or my civilian friends who are just fighting depression). It makes me feel like no matter how much you love someone, sometimes you can’t help them, pull them out of themselves.
I like to think there is a path out of the darkness though. I find my way out all the time. Unfortunately though, I find my way back just as easily. But I am probably lucky; many don’t leave the darkness and can’t find the path. That’s when it gets dangerous. That’s when people give up on you, like the song says. Sadly, when we are lost in that darkness is when we need people the most. If only we could say something to them, they might be able to understand and pull us out into the light.
With the death of Robin Williams recently, I started thinking about loneliness and depression. People seem to be surprised that someone so fun and happy could take his own life. I loved his work, but I cannot say I followed his personal life, so I can only guess on his struggles.
What I do know from my own life experiences though, is that those fun and happy people are often the ones most in need. They are the life of the party, always positive and ever so happy. They are trying new things and always on the go. How could they be sad?
Reasons for someone’s sadness are too many to guess, but I know that when I am sad, I get busier. It is as if I will not feel any pain if I am doing things. I will not feel lonely if strangers surround me at some event. I will not feel lost if I am out in nature. If I photograph beautiful things, I will absorb that glow into my soul. Sometimes it works. Other times it is just a mask for some ache in my heart.
People say I am brave for going solo to things (like concerts, sporting events, or dinners). I do not think it is bravery but a necessity. First of all, I spent so many years NOT doing things and being miserable that I feel like I MUST make up for lost time. I lost years in unhappy relationships and multiple deployments. And through some of that time, I lost myself. I forgot who I was in those relationships. I could not recall what I needed or wanted. I merely existed to make other people happy.
Ironically, deployments helped center me in many ways. I recalled who I was, what I was capable of and what made me tick. I felt as though I had accomplished things that mattered. I saw the world and gained an appreciation for life. However, those years took time from loved ones that I could never get back – time where I could have worked on those relationships and myself.
Therefore, in effort to gain some ground on life, I try to seize the moments I can. I will take myself to the symphony in a fancy dress. I will get a horse and then figure out how to ride. I will sign myself up for a painting or trapeze class. I want to live. I want to see and feel all I can. I want to appreciate and use up every moment I have for those who never made it home from war, and the girl who lost all that time.
What I have realized recently though, is that my other reason for staying busy is to curb sadness. It is hard to frown when you are white water rafting or listening to some amazing violinist who makes you want to dance. It is nearly impossible to feel disconnected to the world while doing paddleboard yoga. Some of my greatest moments of peace come when I am wandering through the woods on my horse. I have also been pleasantly surprised that I can actually paint a fill-in-the-line design that does not look like a 4th grader did it (perhaps a 6th grader, but definitely not 4th).
I did not realize that by doing these things I was hiding my feelings of sadness…until I stopped. When left sitting alone, I felt, well… alone. Not that I do not need and enjoy moments of solitude, but there are times I fill the void of company with activity. It is as if I am trying to prove to myself that I am not wasting space on the earth. If I embrace all that life has to offer, I must be living it. If I am filling my time with accomplishments of events, I will feel complete.
The Army has started giving courses on resiliency. They cover character strengths, putting things into perspective and hunting good things for your spirit. The courses I have received instruction on so far are quite interesting and thought provoking. With those courses in mind, I think, maybe I am not necessarily depressed as much as I am resilient at holding that hopelessness back from controlling me. If I stay active and self aware, I can conquer those moments of darkness when they try to cloak my spirit for joy.
With a four-day weekend coming up, I have a full calendar of events in my I-don’t-have-time-for-stupid-sadness arsenal. They range from learning to make sushi to kayaking to witnessing a field of hot air balloons. I know it all sounds random, but such is my life. (And arsenals by definition need to be all encompassing, don’t they?) So after I jampack my free time with a laundry list of adventures, I can decide on whether I am embracing life, hiding misery or mastering resiliency…that is, if I find time.
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