Journeying Through a Valley of Darkness

Journeying Through a Valley of Darkness March 13, 2017

Everyone has their walk through the darkness. (image via Pixabay)

My posting here of late has been a bit sparse, as a glance at the archives will prove. I’m not sure I have enough of a readership for it to matter too terribly much (although if you’re reading this after I took a hiatus of over a week — something I absolutely hate doing — thank you), but at this point, it’s worth it to me to talk about it here.

I’ve written before about how much of my confessional writing — the stuff you can find around that’s not longer explications about politics or philosophical topics or whatever but instead focuses on my past religious experiences — has been motivated largely by my own selfish desires. In other words, I often have written primarily as catharsis, with the hope that my own experience would also resonate with someone else and bring them some sort of solace, perhaps in knowing that they are not alone.

This is going to be one of those posts. (If you wish to turn back, here’s your chance.)

I’ve had a growing sense of melancholy since November — some of my most depressing pieces of writing have happened since then — that essentially turned into a dry spell of writing in February.

In the past week, though, that melancholy turned into something more.

I have talked publicly about a number of very personal topics: about having to come to terms with the fact that my own parents held positions that I thought were beyond the pale even for people of their generation and background; about the scars from having been bullied as a child; about grieving over leaving teaching; about the ways in which I have had to grapple with toxic masculinity in my own life.

But early this week, I found an emotional trigger that absolutely rocked me, to the point that I’m not comfortable trying to cope with its aftermath too publicly.

And to add insult to injury, I received terrible news about the health of a family member just a few days ago.

So suffice it to say, I haven’t been in a place where I felt like I could write about…anything.

This isn’t the first time I’ve been in an emotional valley like this. It isn’t the first time I’ve felt this constant tightness in my chest (in fact, that’s how I know that it’s anxiety, an old foe I thought I’d mostly defeated over a decade ago).

But it is a valley that has made me much more aware of a number of truths about myself that I’d been perhaps aware of but never really seen for what they truly mean.

It’s true that I had a childhood where I was repeatedly rejected (at best) and tormented (at worst) by my peers. It’s true that I was taught that I needed to learn how to be strong and deal with my own problems, cutting me off from avenues of potential support. (My own father only found out about my childhood bullying last year. I’m 33.) It’s true I was told that I needed to act a certain way as a boy and then was derided when I couldn’t sufficiently conform to fit that standard.

All of this resulted in my construction, out of simple necessity for my survival, of a virtual exoskeleton meant to deflect those attacks and project strength, a strength that, I am coming to find, was more pretense than I have wanted to admit.

Because of this, I have often minimized the effects of this — and this is evident even in some of my own posts, where I tried to pivot quickly away from my own descriptions of my trauma — which has diminished my ability to deal with them meaningfully. And that has led me to much pain in the past week.

I’m going to have to take time to cope with all of this, some of which could maybe be resolved through actions I can take (and others that are very clearly out of my hands). It will require me to open old wounds in the hope that those scars can heal more effectively. I plan to seek help from medical professionals because no amount of unstructured (let alone public!) talking about it will provide the resolution I evidently need.

Rest assured, then, that this blog is not going to turn into an emotional journal for me. Nor do I plan to turn this into a long-term hiatus (and in fact, my ongoing conversation with my interfaith comrades at Crossing the Streams should be resuming this week).

But I have this thing about honesty — when I come to a point where I am finally being more honest with myself, I feel it necessary to be more honest with others about it as well. I did it when I deconverted, and, well…here I am. I don’t know any other way to deal with this, at least not one that doesn’t require me to engage in the same kind of emotional repression that I am now going to have to find a way to unlearn.

It’ll be a long road forward, I know, and it’s a journey through this valley that I will have to take on my own. With any luck, I’ll be able to resume writing more like normal, since it helps me feel more centered than when I’m at a loss, as has been the case lately.

If you’ve read this far — and especially if you’re still willing to read more — thank you.

If you’ve read this and you see in it anything that hits you personally — this is as good a time as any to reach out to others for help. You don’t have to sit in your exoskeleton waiting for the moment when that spear breaks through your armor.

Much love to all of you on your journeys.


Image via Pixabay


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