It’s lurking. I can feel it hovering at the corners of my mind, of my spirit. It’s moving towards me, but this time I am not being caught unaware. This time, I see it coming. And I can do something about it.
It’s like being in the Berkeley Hills, looking out towards San Francisco as the fog rolls in. You can see it and feel it coming. It takes over. As the sun goes down the darkness and fog become one. I’m not afraid of it, per se. I’m afraid of not being strong enough to not get lost in it.
A year ago I stopped taking my medication. I had been on meds for a few years prior and I wasn’t stopping just because I felt better. I wanted to stop to see if I could do life without a dependency on drugs. It might sound silly or presumptuous, but I wanted to see if I had what it took – though I’m not even sure what that means – to live life without a regular dosage of a Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI). I am a supporter of medication and recognize that depression is not just a feeling but is a biological reality that has chemical implications. I am clear now that I am not one who can just pray, exercise, eat and sleep my way through dealing with my depression.
I’ve been paying attention to my health and have been proactive about ongoing care and support in the midst of the medication hiatus. My thoughts about darkness lurking are directly reflective of how I’m feeling when I’m not on medication. When I first started taking a SSRI I finally realized what it was like to not have this oppressive, suffocating darkness threatening to overcome me on a regular basis. I realized what it was like to be focused and non-anxious all the time. I realized what it felt like to have the energy to do regular things each day – get up, shower, engage with my friends. My creative spirit reemerged and my ability to dream and vision came back.
In the past year, specifically the past 9 months, I’ve lost those things again. Things have become increasingly harder for me to start. My anxiety has spiked. My emotions are always so close to the surface and spill over without rhyme or reason. My mind races and the shame cycle has returned. It’s not as bad as it has been, but if history has taught me anything it’s to be proactive and not be a victim of circumstance and pride.
Today my devotional text came from Psalm 139. I am Christian and I’ve written about how my faith is one of my survival tools. The Psalms are considered to be the prayerbook of the faithful. I often tell folks that for every things you’re going through, there is a Psalm designed to speak love and hope into your heart, to remind you that you’re not alone, to encourage you when you feel that death and darkness are too much. As I read the text today, verses 7-12 reminded me of the ever-present God I serve:
“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”
This reminds me that I’m not alone and that God omnipresent – everywhere. My darkness tries to render me separate and alone but God is there. My shadows try to overwhelm me, but God is there. My despair tries to drown me, but God is there. So dear ones, I am proactively moving forward. Therapy, the chiropractor, sleep, devotions, working out, spiritual direction and medication. I am getting back on the wagon. And it’s ok because I know that I cannot handle the alternative. I don’t want to disappear. I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to be overcome with despair. I want to embrace my shadow, embrace the darkness and embrace my truth.