Posts Tagged ‘darkness’

Taboo

I’m about to write something that is difficult for me to put into words. It is difficult for us as a society to talk about. It is something that we too often want to push beneath the rug because we feel that it is to painful to talk about. I am about to talk about depression, suicide, and that new show that came on Netflix that everyone is talking about (13 Reasons Why).

DISCLAIMER: Trigger Warnings going off here.
Let me preface this before anyone continues reading. If you struggle with depression and/or thoughts of suicide, you are not alone. This is not something we can take lightly.

If you need help, do not be afraid to seek it out. There are many resources out there for you, including people who are willing to sit and listen to you (including, but not limited to, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)).

It seems like every day we get rocked by the news of another promising life cut short by violence and bloodshed, but the sting is so much more potent when we discover that the person lost the battle against themselves. Suicide brings a pain of regret because those who are left behind will forever ask themselves if there was something that they missed. Something they could have done to prevent this tragedy.

We cry because looking back, we can see the signs that led up to this point. And the more we ask and seek the answers to why, more is revealed. More evidence that, if we had only known … and we find ourselves taking on the burden of death. If feels as though we were the ones that, through our words and actions (or the lack of them), killed them.

Here’s the thing: We, as human beings, are good at hiding things. As someone who has struggled with depression in the past, I know how easily it is to hide behind the mask of a smile, a laugh and have people not see. It hasn’t been until recently that I began to be open with myself enough to start talking about the struggle I faced all those years ago. I talk about it in terms that I understand, my darkness within, because it makes it easier for me.

For years I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to discuss how I felt or how close to the edge I had gotten. I didn’t want to share it because it scarred me. But here’s the hope that I share now: while that darkness never fully left me, by talking about it, it has become easier to carry within me.

This is something that is important for everyone, no matter if you have been in the shadow of depression or not. If someone comes to you, it isn’t your job to fix the problem. It isn’t your job to burn away the darkness. What your job is, in that moment, is to listen. To be still and be present with them. If someone shares, through words or actions, then it is your place to journey with them. To let them know that you will help shoulder the burden of the darkness that they face. That you will be there for them as a refuge of light.

I started talking about my personal struggles because I knew I could not shoulder it alone. Even after all these years, there are moments when I feel overwhelmed by doubts and fears and it feels as though the night is physically reaching out to drag me down.

Reaching out to talk does not make me weak. Asking for help does not make me stupid. Having thoughts of self harm does not make me a coward.

A couple weeks ago Netflix released a new series based off a book by the same name, 13 Reasons Why. It is a powerful and painful story that follows the main character who receives recordings from a friend and classmate who had committed suicide. As he listens to the tapes, he begins to hear the reasons why she took her own life.

I watched the entire season in the course of one weekend. It was painful to watch at times. But not because of the darkness that I hold within, but because years ago, I found myself in the position of asking if it was something I did or didn’t do that led a classmate to attempt to take his own life.

Recently, the show has caught a lot of criticism because of the graphic details that it portrays. It covers topics about shaming, jumping to conclusions about people, bullying, turning a blind eye, depression, teenager drug use and drinking, rape, and, yes, suicide. I’ve heard it say that it glorifies death. That it doesn’t give people hope. That it doesn’t provide the resources necessary for people who are standing on that edge. That it pushes people.

But it’s a story for the survivors, not for those who are in darkness.

LISTEN: If you have thoughts of self harm or suicide, DO NOT watch this show. If you have been traumatized by your past and still struggle finding the light of each day, you may want to skip this show. Or watch it with someone who is willing to have an open conversation with you. Even if you have never struggled with depression, with bullying, with rape you may find this show difficult to watch.

Let me say it again: the show is not for those who are struggling with depression, with darkness. The show is for the rest of us. Those who may not realize how our lives intersect with another’s. How a little comment can break someones spirit. How an action can seem innocent, but destroys the confidence of friendship. How much damage our words can cause, even when we speak it as a joke.

The show is about how everything we experience can pile onto our souls and drag us down into darkness.

I’ve always believed that if I was strong enough, I could survive on my own. But I know now how dangerous that way of thinking is. It wasn’t myself that rescued me from my darkness, it was the love of those who were willing to listen. It was the strength of others who encouraged me to talk. To talk about anything. To write when speaking was too difficult. It was the people who stood up when I was unable to on my own. It is all the individuals who have poured out their love.

Depression is something that our society tells us to keep hidden. If you can smile, they tell you, then you can get through it all. Laugh. Get out more. Be active. Put the darkness into a box and lock it away. The world tells us to lie and say that everything is okay. But sometimes pretending is not enough.

Sometimes talking about it is not enough. Sometimes, no matter how many people pour out their love into our lives, it is not enough. Sometimes, despite the smiles, laughing, and activities, it isn’t enough.

There is a stigma about mental illness, about depression, that causes us to do more harm to ourselves by trying to hide it. Depression is more complicated than an emotion. It is a chemical imbalance. It is an illness that can be treated.

If you struggle, there is nothing wrong with seeking help. Just know that you aren’t alone.

Thin Places (an excerpt from Journeys; the adventures of a Nomad)

The following is a short excerpt from the second draft of Journeys; the adventures of a Nomad.  Hope y’all enjoy!

The summer following my sophomore year of high school, I received the opportunity to journey alongside forty of my classmates and friends to a weeklong summer camp at Young Life’s Saranac Village in upper state New York.  …

In the early morning hours, we boarded the bus and I began to open my eyes to those that surrounded me; we were an eccentric group of high school kids.  We had the jocks and the preps, members of the marching band and drum line, shy kids who kept to themselves, drug dealers and users, skaters, punks, and everything in between.  And as we began our journey towards the hills of the Adirondack Mountains of New York, we began to form a bond that crossed all the lines of our high school society.

We slept throughout the night as the miles flew beneath us. After a quick stop midmorning, we continued on our way, somehow ending up heading in the wrong direction for several hours. By lunchtime, when we were supposed to be arriving at camp, we were completely lost and still several hours from our destination.  After receiving directions from one of the locals in the area, we headed back onto the road hoping to catch the first night’s activities.

I don’t know if our bus driver missed the turn or forgot where we were going, but we were forced to make a quick turn around when we spotted a sign that simply stated “Canadian Border 5 Miles, Have Passport Ready.”  As night fell around us, we entered the wilderness and back roads that surrounded the Upper, Middle, and Lower Saranac Lakes.  For several hours we continued to wind our way up and down roads that we were sure contained our destination, even as someone shared that this was exactly like a scene out of Jeepers Creepers.

Unbeknownst to us, the light that stood at the entrance of the camp had burned out, leaving the driveway shrouded in darkness.  Although we had found the correct road, we continued to pass by the entrance, unaware that our destination was within reach. After stopping to ask for directions from a cop standing in the rain under a lamp post, we arrived at Young Life’s Saranac Village.

We piled out of the bus, unloaded our things into our cabins, and fell asleep after an exhausting twenty three and a half hours of traveling, to wake several hours later to see the beauty that surrounded us.

As I stood outside the cabins the next morning, looking out over the path that led down to the shores of Upper Saranac Lake and the Adirondack Mountains beyond, I felt a physical presence that I had never felt before. Within the golden rays of the sunrise reflecting off the waters, throwing a golden hue over the camp, I felt something looking over the islands and mountains that rose out of the waters before me; it was a physical presence up on the hill beside me. Everything seemed small as the air moved in peaceful breaths around me. It felt as if a friend was standing at my side, welcoming me back with open arms.

It wasn’t until I returned to this place, three years later, that I discovered the words to describe what I felt as I stood there.  There are places where the beauty of nature and the untamed wilderness allow us to feel a spiritual connection to something bigger than ourselves. These places where it feels as if the physical and spiritual worlds intertwine together were described to me as “thin places.”

And in that first morning at Young Life’s Saranac Village, I stumbled into one of these thin places and knew that there was something more.

I write this because it was just over 11 years ago that this adventure with Young Life changed my life. There is so much more to this story that is yet to be written out in words, but it has remained in my heart and has shaped my life.

I share it today because this morning, I was frustrated.  I was upset and angry. And yet, I have been surrounded by the beauty of nature each and every day for the past six weeks up here in Montana. When times our rough, we each need a reminder that God is and will always be present. Especially in the Thin Places.

This also goes out to an amazing man who showed me what it meant to give your life for something bigger. He has continued to be a positive influence in the lives of the youth and a pillar of faith in my life, even though our paths parted years ago. He was and is more than a Young Life Leader, but a mentor, friend, and brother in Christ.

The Silence in the Night

I read an article recently that stated that the internet and social media were slowly killing us.  We, as a society, are loosing the battle against our humanity.  We no longer interact with one another, but through a computer screen.  We don’t know how to relate to one another.  Have a conversation like we used to.  We live digital lives that are killing us.

We don’t see one another any more.  We don’t see the struggles and the pain of living.  Our walls and boards and posts are filled with highlights, while we hide the darkness of life from prying eyes.  Nobody knows our struggles because we want to keep up the appearance of being strong, being brave, living the good life.  Our friends no longer see us for who we truly are, they just see what we want them to see.

It is a mask.  A lie.

I was once a part of a community who loved unconditionally.  We fought for one another.  Lifted one another up.  We were brothers and sisters.  Over the years we drifted apart.  Our paths have taken us away from one another, but yet we still keep in touch, ever so loosely.

Over the past week, several of my brothers and sisters in faith have reached out to ask for prayers.  They have opened their hearts and revealed their fears, doubts, and the darkness that they face.  One asked if there was anything they could be praying about for me.

It took me off guard.  And I stumbled.  And I realized that I don’t have it all together, unlike what I’ve allowed people to see.  What I’ve wanted people to see.

19 The Darkness Within

I recently downloaded the newest album from one of my favorite bands, Red’s “of Beauty and Rage.”  I’ve been listening to it almost constantly because it is such a powerful movement of lyrics and music; the classical strings juxtaposed against contemporary rock.

The leading title of the album is a song titled Darkest Part.  A song about the darkness that we keep within ourselves.

I never wanted you to see
The darkest part of me
I knew you’d run away
I waited but you never came

You see, we all have this darkness lurking beneath the surface.  The true self that we don’t want anyone else to bear witness to.

I’ve been struggling.  Over the past several weeks, I’ve been having a hard time being still before God.  It’s like I can no longer hear His gentle whispers.  I’m going through a time of waiting as I wrestle with thoughts about the future.  It’s a darkness that scares me.  A silence that is deafening.

I lay asleep at night and my thoughts consume my sleep.  I pray and it feels as if nobody is listening, even though my heart reminds me that God is still present.  I read the word of God, and I still feel empty.  And it scares me.

I’ve never tried to hide from the darkness, for it is part of me.  Part of who I am.  And yet I fear it.

I spilled my heart out to one of my brothers, asking for prayers.  And I’m still waiting.  The darkness hasn’t faded.  Nor has the silence turned to celebration.  But I no longer feel as if I face this struggle alone.

We are each surrounded by individuals who believe in us.  Brothers and sisters who constantly fight for us.  Family and friends who embrace us in love for who we are, even though they know the darkness that we keep hidden.

The Darkness that Consumes (aka: reflections from 33January)

A week ago, I was hanging out with, what seemed like, several hundred other amazing individuals at the Old Orchard Gallery in Webster Groves, MO for the monthly 33 show put on by MySLArt.org, 33January.  I’ve been multiple times, but this event was different.  It was special because for the first time, I was one of the 33 artists showing work in the gallery.  In fact, this was the first time since my Senior Show when I graduated from Anderson University that I have shown any work publicly.

Photo by Jenn Sarti Photography

Photo by Jenn Sarti Photography

It was an amazing night filled with conversations, laughter, and many friendships.  I was even blessed by the presence of several individuals that I serve with in the ERT who dropped by throughout the night.

I enjoyed the night, watching people in the room respond to the art around them.  Many pieces were extremely beautiful!  Oh, there were some amazing pieces that surrounded us.  If I had the money, I would have bought several.

What made me smile was watching people come across my art.  It was around a corner, so you couldn’t see it unless you came around the wall.  Most people were moving semi-clockwise around the room, and the two artists before my work had some amazing photography.  There were quite a few people who noticed my paintings and quickly took a step back.

17 Beneath the Mask

You can tell by people’s initial reaction that my paintings were not what was expected.  I never meant them to be.

You see, my art is a reflection of myself.  An avenue of expression that reveals the truth beneath the surface.  Two of my paintings were self portraits that expressed the struggle with the darkness that we keep hidden from the world.  My darkness is expressed through my art, an avenue of healthy release for the stress, frustrations, and fears that I keep hidden away from the world.

19 The Darkness Within

I stood by my work for part of the night and had a beautiful conversation with an older gentleman about how once that darkness we keep within ourselves is set free, there is no way to hide it once again.  He told me how his darkness came out in the war and that almost cost him his marriage.  He smiled as he sighed, stating “But if felt so good.”  He walked off, hand in hand with his wife.

His words are true.  The darkness that we keep within ourselves has the potential to ruin us, to kill us, and leave us broken.  But when we release it, it feels so good.  It feels good to get it out into the open.  To set it free.  To no longer have it hidden within us.

Our Holy Mother

It was a great night in the gallery, but there is a single moment that made it so awesome:  As I walked in, I overheard a mother ask her young daughter (probably around 7 years of age), “What piece is your favorite?”  For the next several minutes the little girl circled around the gallery.  She stopped in front of my paintings, pointing up at Our Holy Mother, and stated matter of factly, “This one.”

The look of shock on the mothers face was priceless!

Out of all the art in the gallery (somewhere around 80-90 pieces), she chose one of my paintings.  That was the best compliment I received the entire night.