The Dark Time - How I learned to Ask For help
About a year ago, I came up against a wall that didn't seem to want to budge no matter how I came at it. I was depressed and unsatisfied with my life, and I found that no matter how much work, or distractions, or weekend getaways, or glasses of wine I had, I never seemed to feel any more fulfilled. I never seemed to be moving forward. The thing about depression is, that it can sneak up on you, and surround you like a thick fog. So much so, that you forget that it's possible for things to be better. You forget how to hope, and you don't always realize how your own behaviour is affecting those around you. Looking back now, I can see that I was completely lost in that fog. At the time, all I knew was if I didn't start making some changes now, things would only get worse.
So what does one do with this information? First off, I had to admit that I needed some help. I couldn't seem to calm my mind enough to think logically anymore. I felt like I was constantly running away from one thing or another. I needed to learn to cope with my reality. Secondly, I decided to take at least a 6 month break from alcohol. If I was going to learn to deal with my emotions head on, I would have to do it without my good friend the wine bottle.
I was lucky enough to find an amazing counsellor who I instantly connected with, and who made me feel completely safe. He would listen carefully and gently encourage me, slowly unraveling the panic that shrouded my eyes. He didn't talk often, but when he did, he would touch his fingertips to his heart and speak with such clarity and compassion that it made me start to feel hopeful again. As the weeks passed, I felt calm enough to allow all kinds of buried emotions and memories bubble to the surface that needed to be felt and reflected on. Old hurts that had never healed, life failures and choices that left me feeling ashamed, and one abusive relationship that changed me in a way I wouldn't wish on anyone. I started to digest this pain slowly, cried often, and called my Mom almost everyday. But slowly, I started to feel stronger, and more at peace. I remember telling my counsellor that it felt like I was finally coming up for air. It was in that session, that I saw the bright yellow daffodil photographs that hung on his wall for the first time. I hadn't noticed them before. I literally couldn't SEE something that didn't match my own vibration/perspective. Sadly, I had to find a new counsellor eventually, as this special person passed away soon in our working together. It was a horrible jolt to work through at such an emotionally vulnerable time, but it cemented into place my drive to work through the pain of my past, and finally leave it behind me for good. I started thinking about the birthplaces of some of my destructive behaviours. At what point did I decide that alcohol would improve my life? Why had I been choosing to distract myself from my pain rather than work through it?
A few months later, I decided to hire a life coach to start working towards creating a new future. My life coach, (or my fairy god mother, as I like to call her) first asked me to tell her what my life would look like if she had a magic wand and could create anything for me. Now this sounds simple enough, but in that moment I realized how long it had been since I had asked myself what I truly hoped for. I hadn't actually allowed myself to hope for a long time. At some point I felt like my dreams had been shattered by my life experiences, and I had been simply drifting along looking for something to ease the pain of that loss. My answer to her question surprised me by its simplicity, but also by the fact that it sounded possible. Simple ideas like self employment, freedom of expression, family, home, and community poured from my lips. I wasn't really asking for much, and these were my greatest desires! In many ways, I had already begun working towards this future. I just needed to keep that vision in focus and start running after it.
My life coach loaded me up with all kinds of tools to improve my life. Breathing exercises and positive affirmations to calm my body and mind, vision boards to start aiming at goals, and she showed me how to address emotional pain within my body. I felt silly sometimes doing these things because they seem too simple to be truly effective, but the truth is every one of them improved my state of mind, (literally the structure of my brain) and therefore the state of my life. I was surprised by how happiness was literally at my fingertips at all times. How little effort it took to simply brighten my own spirits instead of drowning them or waiting for something to do it for me. Often, if I struggled with something she would ask me "What would you choose to feel instead?". And the biggest miracle of all? When I changed, my life changed with me. Within the first year since asking for help: my career path has changed, I've lived in a different city for the first time in my life, my friendships flourished, and I now feel like my dreams are no longer far fetched or shattered, but actually achievable.
It can be hard to ask for help. And even harder to just stop the rat race just long enough to listen to that inner voice that is crying out for change. I had to hit bottom before I was ready to hear it. The first few steps can seem long and painful. I know I spent more than a few nights lying in my bed staring at the dark ceiling wondering when the pain would stop. But the amazing thing about time, is that it truly does heal. I would encourage anyone who feels like they need to start making changes in their life to start right now. Even if it's just taking one tiny step every day. I promise you that these steps will start to gain momentum. I never could have imagined how much my life would improve, and now look back at those years as "the dark time" in my life. I'll admit that I still battle with some of these emotional struggles and triggers. Some scars will take longer than others to heal. But I now know the most important thing is to not give up hope. We have the power to change our lives. And there are people out there who want to help us find our way, if only we are willing to ask.