We all have dark moments in life. Where we seek even a speck of light, but find none. When the shadows threaten to overtake us, when the pain feels as if it will overwhelm us completely, when the harshness of reality is so raw and tangible and horrible, we simply can’t tolerate it for another second. For most people, these experiences are truly moments. Intense, but finite. Even at the onset of the darkness, it can be seen that the end to the horror is coming fairly swiftly. The light will return and the world will be righted.
But sometimes, for some of us, those moments stretch and lengthen. They join with the next moment and the next until a chain is formed that reaches from one end of our lifetime to the other. There is no end in sight to the limitless darkness, if, indeed, there is an end to be had. Because the blackness is too vast. It has been injected into our heart. Into our soul. It permeates our very being. Dims our sight. Darkens our view. Shrouds us with an impenetrable fog. It shakes the foundation of everything we are. Rattles our thoughts, perceptions, beliefs, desires, needs, logic, intellect, hope. Overwhelms our ability to see there will be a tomorrow. Because, though we waited patiently, too many tomorrows have not come. Too many today’s are the same as yesterday.
When one is lost in the dark and all alone, survival is questionable. It’s hard enough to survive such torture when you have support, assistance, encouragement, a reason to keep moving from one minute to the next. In this thick darkness is where lives end. Where people give up all hope and let go, ending it all because they simply can’t see their way to take one more step forward. Alone, we flounder. Broken, we perish. Isolated, we are destined to fail. And die.
A man died recently. He was a very successful mental health professional with many friends and peers and family, all who loved, respected, and admired him. Yet, he took his own life while in that inky gloom. When the darkness came, he, even he, could not find a single reason to continue. To keep trying. To let the next minute come. He was in his mid-fifties. His health was good. He had a vital practice and was lucky enough to have a significant impact on his community. He provided scholarships to underfunded students entering the mental health profession. He taught at a college, coaching the next generations in the treatment of mental illnesses. And he donated money to that college because he believed in what he was doing, that it was important, and that others needed to keep doing the good work after he was no longer capable.
What went wrong?
He became lost in the dark. It may have only been one of those finite dark moments, but it seemed too much to live through. And so, he is gone.
If he, with all the resources and support structures that he had in place, could not hang on, how can someone like me, with no resources and very little support, who has been going through an entire lifetime of darkness and shadows and fog, possibly be expected to take yet one more step forward and believe in a better tomorrow? How can I be expected to live through the night when he couldn’t even find the strength to live through the moment? He was not broken from childhood, shaped by cruel hands, cast into the night early on. He was not empty. He was not alone. Not alone…except for that second in time when he made his decision to end it all. Instead of persevering, he faltered. Took his life. Threw away his breath. He gave in to the night and is no more.
In doing so, he left my broken soul behind, still alone in the dark, wondering why I should keep trying when he didn’t. Wondering why I am still alive when he is not. If he who had so much to hope for could not find hope enough to make it through, how can I, who has no hope to begin with, ever find the strength and desire to keep trying? Why should I not follow his lead?
The darkness is cruel. When you have been touched by it, molded by it, sealed with a kiss from those cold, fetid lips, returning to the light is an unlikely probability. The dark takes even the strongest and healthiest among us and reduces them to nothing more than shadow and vapor. Those who are like me, the weak, wounded, gutted ones, are nothing more than a toy kept for amusement. We are taken to the brink of death again and again, only to have the pressure released just enough for us to take one quick breath. Then under we go once again. Struggling for air. Lost in the dark. Buried in it. Our eyes straining for light when there is none to be seen. And no one is left to lead us to daylight…for daylight doesn’t exist.