Do You Have to Know the Darkness Before You Can Appreciate the Light?

By Polly-Ann Howard

photo source

“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” — Madeleine L’Engle

When I started writing my blog about my mental health, I realized that at some point, I was going to be writing while in the middle of an episode of depression.  As I have been mentally well for such a long time, I thought that could take ages to be the case, and I may almost seem a fraud.  Call it the law of attraction, but here I am a short time later in the midst of what seems to be one of the worst episodes I have had for some time.

There is no specific reason.  Nothing has happened in the past few days.  I could rationalize that there are lots of things going on generally in my life, but there is no single trigger.

I cant make it stop.  Im aware thats a self-fulfilling sentence because I can make it stop, but I cant.  Nothing is working.  In fact, it is getting worse, and I am plummeting lower and lower. I thought yesterday, was it.  That was the worst over, and today I would wake up, and it would be a new day.  That lasted for an hour.  You see, when you are a mom, the one thing you cant control is your children and how they respond during this time.  My husband knows and is supportive and accepting.  My daughter has no idea.  She doesnt realize that she can trigger it because she wont do as shes asked, or she is rude to me, answers me back, rolls on the floor if she doesnt like the instruction, or shouts at me.  I am in the midst of using every ounce of energy to keep going today, and its almost like she is using every ounce of energy to knock me back down.  She has no idea of course of the impact.  She is a usual nine years old like so many children are.  And I can recognize that she is a healthy child.  She is now singing.  Singing while I am trying to manage to keep from scratching my skin until it bleeds, or pulling my hair out.  What damage must this do to her?  She sees some of this.  Maybe she thinks its her fault. Maybe she doesnt care.  Shes the uncontrollable element in a situation where I need to control all the external influences to enable me to get back on track.  

Do You Have to Know the Darkness Before You Can Appreciate the Light?

Every situation in life is temporary. So, when life is good, make sure you enjoy and receive it fully. And when life is not so good, remember that it will not last forever and better days are on the way.

Im wasting a day.  I dont want to waste the day, but I also dont want to be on this day, so I want it to be over.  But what if tomorrow is no better?  I could sleep the day away, but tomorrow will still be there, and I could still be here.

What am I doing to this family with my illness?  I can hear the words in my head that can rationalize these feelings, but they are confused and not loud enough to overpower the other side.  Im exhausted from the speed at which my mind is working.    

And then everything becomes wrong and out of place.  Everything I look at becomes a task or a job and needs an action.  I can sit as quiet and still as possible, but my mind is whirling round and round because my eyes can see everything around me as things to do.  I can shut my eyes, but then my mind keeps working.   How do I solve this?  How do I fix my daughter if I damage her?  How do I get through the day?  I want to run away.  I feel trapped within my mind.  Its a form of torture, and the worst part is, I hold the key to the door to let myself out, but I cant find it.  I cant find it, and Im fumbling around in every pocket to see where it is, and I cant find it.

My hands hurt.  They are so tense, and I have held them together to stop them fidgeting and scratching.  My toes hurt as well as they are scrunched up.  Maybe that is stopping all the negative energy getting out of me.  

Theres a ticking clock as well as I have to go and collect an old friend who is coming over this afternoon for tea and cake.  I dont want to.  I dont want to see her and talk about my life and lie about how I am.  I have to leave in 48 minutes.  So, I now have 48 minutes to get myself ok enough to do this.  To drive.  To be social.  To talk.  To breathe, and be strong, and manage life and the small things that I usually cope with easily.  Thats pressure.  I could just get up and do it.  Get up off the chair and do it; couldnt I?  Im not though.  Im just digging my nails into my hands more and scratching my face.    

16 minutes.

Move Polly move

How I got out of the awful place

The best can’t find you until you put the worst behind you

I got up, and I got my car keys, and I went to collect our visitor.  I got there early, pulled over and breathed.  I messaged my husband to talk to my daughter to explain why mummy was behaving oddly.  Im on autopilot going through the motions. One foot in front of the other second by second, minute by minute.

I picked up our visitor, and I spoke about rubbish.  Life and stuff.  Anything.  I asked lots of questions, and I tricked myself into being ok.  I made my mind think this was normal, and it was ok.  I made tea.  Twice.  Lots of tea.  I cuddled my daughter and made sure she knew I loved her.  Though I appreciate any damage is already done.  My husband gave me a look to askyou ok?, and I nodded, and we carried on.  

I took the visitor home and took my daughter to the dentist.  I worked hard on being calm throughout and not overwhelmed by the process.  The dentist was overrunning, but I managed to rationalize this.  I kept talking and confirming to myself I was ok, and this was ok.

We came home, and my daughter wanted to help make dinner, so we cooked together.   Keep talking Polly.  Show normal behavior.

My husband said to me, before I went upstairs to bed, welcome back.’  

Such a small movement or action started the closure process on the episode of depression.
For me, it was that I got up and then articulated a regular conversation with someone who had no idea what was going on.  By pretending I was ok, it regulated me being ok.  The strength that small movement took was immense.  I didn
t become great or fabulous, but I became ok enough to complete the day.  The inner strength comes from trusting in the fact that this has happened before, and it will end.  It always does.  I remind myself the episode always ends; it is just a question of how long before I make that small movement.