A friend of mine years ago gave me some excellent advice. He said never be afraid of finding someone who might shed light on your darkness — because darkness will come.
But who of us are ever taught HOW to seek out such people?
Certainly, when I was young and depressed it was impossible for me to share my pain without first numbing myself with alcohol. In high school my buddies and I would cart a case of beer into Kinnear Park for rounds of boozy Friday night talk therapy. It turned out we escaped not from our darkness but into our darkness.
This became my approach to mental health for the next twenty years.
Edgar Allan Poe observed:
“I have absolutely no pleasure in the stimulants in which I sometimes so madly indulge. It has not been in the pursuit of pleasure that I have periled life and reputation and reason. It has been the desperate attempt to escape from torturing memories, from a sense of insupportable loneliness and a dread of some strange impending doom.”
All I ever found after a night of drinking was the black dog of depression.
When I sobered up I realized alcohol only inhibited the conversation I so deeply craved, and that it was indeed possible to have rich, deep, vulnerable sharing with people who battled darkness just like I did.
It was like a light was turned on, and with it my black dog was tamed.
I found a poem, The Suicide’s Soliloquy, published in the Sangamon Journal in 1838. It was written by someone who seemed to be losing his battle to find light.
The presumed author was Abraham Lincoln.
Here where the lonely hooting owl Sends forth his midnight moans, Fierce wolves shall o’er my carcase growl Or buzzards pick my bones. No fellow-man shall learn my fate, Or where my ashes lie; Unless by beasts drawn round their bait, Or by the ravens’ cry. Yes! I’ve resolved the deed to do, And this the place to do it: This heart I’ll rush a dagger through, Though I in hell should rue it! Hell! What is hell to one like me Who pleasures never knew; By friends consigned to misery By hope deserted too? To ease me of this power to think, That through my bosom raves, I’ll headlong leap from hell’s high brink, And wallow in its waves. Though devils yell, and burning chains May waken long regret; Their frightful screams, and piercing pains, Will help me to forget. Yes! I’m prepared, through endless night, To take that fiery berth! Think not with tales of hell to fright Me, who am damn’d on earth! Sweet steel! come forth from out your sheath, And glist’ning, speak your powers; Rip up the organs of my breath, And draw my blood in showers! I strike! It quivers in that heart Which drives me to this end; I draw and kiss the bloody dart, My last—my only friend!
Lincoln had a well-documented history of depression and this verse was penned shortly after the untimely death of his fiancée, Mary Rutherford.
We can only thank God for the someone(s) who dragged him back from the edge, and saved him from himself.
It’s not too much to say that in saving Lincoln, America was saved.
My friend was right. We should welcome light-bearers, and also be willing light-bearers for others. For light does cast out darkness, and what goes around does come around.
I now surround myself with my friends who know how to speak honestly and bring light to my darkness.
It’s made all the difference in the world.
Just a thought…
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