“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” – Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
As children we grew up afraid of the dark. We heard stories of the Boogie Man, ghosts and monsters hiding in our closets. We slept with a nightlight and blanket for extra security, just in case something was lurking under our beds.
I can recall many nights of sleeping in my parents’ bed or making a pallet on the floor beside them. Some nights I was just too terrified to sleep alone. Darkness is a scary thing.
We put a face to the dark as children, like the monsters we saw in scary movies. Yet, little did we know that there were much scarier things than beasts. Our emotions, our minds, our feelings…those are scarier than any movie I watched growing up.
While my days primarily consist of sunshine now, there were a few points in my life that I thought I wouldn’t survive. I experienced some hard times that I honestly thought I may not make it through.
While I’ve been extremely blessed in my life (great family, friends and accomplishments), my biggest struggles were within. There’s a saying that “a smile can hide so much,” and I found out just how true that was.
My inner critic has always been somewhat of a bitch. No one ever had to get on to me for anything because I would already be beating myself up for not being perfect. Ever since I can remember I strived for perfection. I had to be the best, or I was nothing at all.
That’s really tough to deal with when you’re a kid. Society and peers both put a ton of pressure on children, and putting stress on myself only made me feel 10 times worse. Unfortunately, I didn’t learn this lesson until 20 years later.
Losing competitions or games in middle school would throw me into brief periods of darkness. I’d be pissed, then sad, and eventually I would get over it. The process probably took me a little longer than my friends, but I managed to figure it out.
Fast forward a few years, and my best friend, Jacob, died in a tragic accident. That was the first time I’d ever experienced debilitating grief. I couldn’t move, couldn’t talk, couldn’t function. The following weeks were a total blur, and after 11 years I still haven’t fully healed.
The darkness I felt when I lost Jacob was something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It was a feeling that I never want to feel again and (knock on wood) I haven’t. While that moment taught me many valuable lessons it also took away a piece of me.
A few months after Jacob’s passing, I started High School. During those years, sports were my life. I lived and breathed the two-a-days, practices and games. Sports were a great outlet for me and my aggression but while the highs were high, the lows were very low. Again, I started to experience deep dark mental moments.
Once I’d graduated High School, I went through a period of transition. No longer was I a star athlete or Valedictorian, I was merely another college student. I still tried really hard to stand out in nursing school, but it just wasn’t the same.
My 4 years of college were full of academics and good grades, but they also consisted of a lot of parties and drunken nights. I had a lot of trouble adjusting to my new life as an adult. I’d never felt so lost in the crowd, and I really didn’t like it.
My late teens/early 20’s really tested my mental strength. I found myself very unhappy with my relationship, lost and confused about my purpose in life and just sad. My anxiety was at an all time high, and at that time I didn’t know how to control it.
After a while I settled in to my job as a Registered Nurse at the hospital. I was getting to work with babies (which I absolutely loved), and I started making friends that were a positive influence on my life. I felt accomplished, I felt happy. However, there was still this inner battle of discovering my true purpose.
Even though I was accomplishing all of the things I’d ever wanted to do, I faced a daily mental struggle. My mind wouldn’t just let me be happy in the present. I was constantly searching for the next best thing, the next life event I could check off my list.
I battled with my brain constantly and somehow found a way to keep the darkness out. I started focusing on my future with my boyfriend (at the time) and making plans for a wedding and kids. I thought I’d finally met my soulmate, but yet again I was wrong.
After almost 2 years of dating and living together, my boyfriend broke up with me. He told me he wasn’t ready for this life I’d been planning, and he left. That day was the single darkest day of my life.
I’d never felt that low, and I promised myself I would never go back to that level of devastation again. I didn’t eat for days. I laid on the floor and cried for a week before I could even semi function. I remember screaming at God, asking Him why he did this to me.
It was that point in my life, that level of darkness, that caused me to seek help from a therapist. I had no motivation for life, but I knew the only way I would return to the light was to let someone help me. Little did I know that finding my therapist was one of the best things to happen to me.
It’s been 2 years since I’ve began working with Megan, and my life has completely turned around. I’ve started this incredible journey of self discovery, and I’ve learned so many lessons about life.
Taking that huge leap to reach out for help benefited me in ways that I never even imagined. It showed me that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t crazy for feeling this way. It taught me that although no one’s darkness is the same, we all experience it at some point.
After 2 years of intense inner work and dedication, I’ve figured out how to stay in the light. I’ve learned how to embrace my little moments of darkness and then leave them to the night where they belong. I still have some shadows, but now I’m basking in the sunshine.
Working through the darkness is no easy task. It takes courage, dedication and strength. It’s a very uncomfortable process at first, but the benefits greatly outweigh the risks. If you’re struggling with darkness just know you aren’t alone. Even the happiest people you know have dealt with tough times.
No matter what you go through in life, you can survive. You can be broken down, lost, confused and still come out stronger than before. The light is a beautiful thing, but it takes work to bask in its glory. Keep on fighting and remember…until you’ve seen the darkness, you’ll never appreciate the light.