I’m finally beginning to resurface after sinking into the internal void a week or so ago, which manifested as severe depression. Monday it reached a crisis point. I hadn’t been able to sleep at all on Sunday night and I called my therapist, extremely agitated and crying. I felt like the black emptiness inside me was going to absorb and devour me. So we set up an emergency therapy session, in which my therapist had me mentally “climb” down into the black hole, as if it were a real hole in the ground.
I imagined descending on a rope ladder–solid enough, but flexible and unlikely to break. As I descended a little, I looked up and could see the blue sky up above, and as long as I could see it, I was safe. The ladder also made me feel secure enough to descend a little more. He asked me to tell him what was below me. I couldn’t see anything at first, but after awhile my eyes adjusted and I said there was some kind of mist down below that obscured what was below that.
“Is there a bottom?” I knew there was a bottom even though I couldn’t see it.
“Yes, but it’s obscured by some kind of mist or steam.”
“How far down does it go?”
“I have no idea. Could be ten feet, or ten miles”
“Descend a little further, into the mist. What do you see and feel?”
I climbed down cautiously until the mist was up to my neck, looking up every so often to make sure the opening to the hole was still there. It was, but was a little smaller. The mist around me didn’t feel bad, but I couldn’t see my own body through it. It felt damp and slightly cool.
“A little wet and a little cool, but not terrible. But I don’t want to go any further down because then it will cover my face and I won’t be able to see. I don’t like that feeling of not knowing where I’m going.”
“So you’re afraid of not knowing what’s going to happen.”
“Yes, that’s it. It’s not that being in this hole is so bad, it’s that I don’t know what’s beyond it. Or something might jump out at me!”
I opened my eyes and realized I felt less agitated, almost relaxed. That night I slept better, though not well, and the next day I just felt ornery and snappish. I didn’t know where all the anger was coming from, but it was an improvement over the black depression from hell.
A few days previously, I had called my son in Florida with a question.
“I have to get out of here,” I told him. “I want to start over. I have too many bad memories associated with this place. How crazy would be to just pack some stuff in my car, sell the rest, drive down there and live in my car for a few weeks until I get a job and a new place?”
“Mom, you can’t do that.”
“This is a high crime area. Yes, your idea is crazy.”
“You’re probably right,” I said.
Talking about this conversation today in therapy, I realized how crazy it did sound. You take yourself wherever you go. Maybe I just need to learn how to re-frame my current location and create new, positive memories instead of trying to escape from myself by escaping somewhere else. Leaving suddenly with no real plan was running away, not running toward.
I think this depression had several triggers, but was probably going to happen even if there hadn’t been any triggers at all, because of the point I’ve reached in this therapeutic journey. My mind would have turned something–anything!–into a trigger, and it was close to that point anyway because almost everything was triggering me. My emotions are a lot more accessible to me now than they were at this time last year, but I haven’t learned how to regulate them well yet or make them work for me. Right now, it’s hit or miss. Whatever outer layer was protecting me from accessing these feelings before is no longer there. Being this vulnerable is scary, but only because I expect it to be scary, not because there is anything to fear.
Looking down below me into the chasm, I know there are a lot more feelings and memories I have yet to access. I don’t know how far the chasm drops or when the mist dissipates or whether anything is going to jump out at me when I least expect it. But I’ve got a rope ladder to ground me as I continue to climb down farther, knowing I’m in a safe place with someone I trust as a guide. So far, what I’ve encountered hasn’t been so bad at all; my fear of what might be there is worse than the reality of what is actually there.