Dancing in the Light During the Seasons When Darkness Abounds


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Confession: My greatest fear is that I will lose my life to suicide.

I don’t say that to be melodramatic, I simply state it as a fact. As a person living with bipolar disorder, it is a fear that silently stalks me, always watching for a misstep to expose a weakness it can take advantage of, a crack it can slide itself into. Once inside it starts searching for the gaps serotonin has been unable to fill, settling into each one, and methodically goes to work on eroding my mind’s defenses.

Sometimes the process is slow, my mental erosion, building up to a collapse. Others it is swift and jarring, flinging me from the light of life into a plunging darkness that swallows my soul instantly. And then there are times when it’s an excavation of my insides, a scooping and hollowing out of my personhood designed to leave me as nothing more than an outward shell of a woman.

When I was 13, years of abuse at the hands of my father gave birth to a despair that swiftly engulfed me one Saturday afternoon while my belly was empty from hunger and my father was out on a golf outing. That time it was pills. It was an amateurish and desperate attempt at escaping the hell I lived in that lead me to a drugged sleep but not death.

At 20 it found me after a series of rapid changes over a short amount of time and the hormonal shift that comes with miscarriage. Becoming an airman, being stationed at my first base, the dissolving of a tech school relationship that had left me pregnant and then suddenly not, surrounded by people I did not know, working a job that wasn’t what I had envisioned or hoped for when I swore an oath to protect and serve my country, being estranged from my family…it found me in my dorm room and I went to work at my next shift, telling my supervisor I couldn’t arm up and that instead, I needed to be taken to the mental health clinic on base to be seen.

It started feverishly raking its claws on the walls of my mind daily just shy of Alex’s first birthday. I was constantly triggered by anxiety and depression, guilt over not being the mother I thought my kids deserved, feelings of overwhelm when he would scream inconsolably, and my thoughts dancing with sudden desires to just leave and never come back. I started seeing a therapist who specialized in treated women with postpartum mood disorders like PPD and its grasp on my mind unclenched just enough for light to enter in again.

In July 2011 I woke up on a Monday, found it staring me steadfastly in the eyes and just knew: I wouldn’t make it past the next two weeks alive if I didn’t get help. Even with the help I had been getting, my symptoms had been getting worse. I was dancing with what I know now was hypomania and plummeting into gravity wells of depression hourly. It was constant and unrelenting, its devouring and feasting on my mind. It’s appetite was insatiable and if I wasn’t crying from the burn depression’s cold grip had around my heart, I was screaming from the rage flashing through me…if I wasn’t bounding off the Earth from the energy vibrating through my body and bursting out of my fingertips, I was pressing my sweating, anxious body into the coolness of my bathroom floor, praying each inhalation would quell the panic trying to claw it’s way out of my skin. My mind was too loud, full of thoughts that spun and splintered into chaos at a pace that often left me nauseated. Two days later,  I found a sitter for Brennan, put myself on a bus with Alex wrapped to my chest in the Moby, and walked into the VA Behavioral Health Clinic in Philadelphia, with whispers of death roaring in my ears. The intake psych diagnosed me with rapid cycling bipolar disorder type 2 & OCD and put me on a mood stabilizer. Within a week it kicked in and I embarked on a new treatment journey for an illness that I could more accurately name.

Treatment has helped, and while other times it just shows up to flirt, every Fall has become hunting season. Suicide is the predator, my life and sanity the prey. No matter how well I’ve been taking care of myself and compliant in treatment, it hunts me down, licking its chops as it circles me, watching…waiting.

Two years ago I had to go inpatient to stay safe from its advances. I slowly paced the halls of the VA Mental Health psychiatric ward in Waco in my green, floppy, foam sock shoes desperately wanting to go home to my boys and my life but at the same time stay hidden, monitored by those who whose job it was to not let Death have me. “Do you really want to die?” the doctor had asked me. No. I didn’t. I just wanted relief and couldn’t find it in living with a mind designed to self-destruct…fray at the edges…unravel…erode…become my enemy.

It’s found me again as I’m nearing one year postpartum. It’s been a year that’s come with it’s difficulties as I’ve adjusted to mothering three while living with this illness, but joy has found me at various points throughout, grabbing my hand and saying, “dance with me, Addye. Be free.”

This is the freest I’ve ever felt in my almost 32 years of living and yet here I am again staring at the whites of Suicide’s eyes and searching desperately for a gun to shoot it with…

I want to keep dancing in the light.

But my marriage is barely breathing as my husband and I scour the landscape for a path that brings us back to each other. Each of my sons has An Issue that demands every ounce of my mental capacity daily that leaves me exhausted and specialized attention that is straining our finances. Writing here has brought some success this year, but exposure saw my inboxes become inundated with vitriol from those who’d rather the Other stay silent. I look at my baby as he screams and cries like babies do and brace myself against the panic that floods my system. Images I’d rather not see flash through my mind, unwarranted and unwanted. Overwhelm asks me repeatedly throughout the day if I’m done and my breath is labored when I whisper “No.” Worry fills me. Depression courts me. Anxiety ravages my insides, ripping me open, exposing where my heart and resolve are weak.

I want to keep dancing in the light.

So I tighten my grip as my mind cycles from one extreme to the next. I expand my ribs out as far as my bones and skin will allow and I drink in the morning air as I take Alex to school. I concentrate on the laughs bubbling up and spilling out of my infant son and use it to anchor me to the present. I respond when Brennan asks me if I know that lions are the only big cats that live in packs, and beg him to tell me more so I can marvel at how much information his brain clamors to hold. I take their pictures on my phone and use them to dig in and root deeper when the darkness pulls at me. I paint my lips with my favorite shade of purple lipstick because it makes my heart beat a little faster and my hips sway with power and allure when I walk. I text my friends. I use the internet to distract. I read the words of others, press my hands in paint, go away for a weekend retreat to hold onto myself. I call my psychiatrist and resolve to hold on until December 9th when I can sit in her office and say “help me.”

And I come here. Today. To find my way back after struggling to see Why My Words Matter in the hopes that it will help me remember why my life does.

For them.

For me.

I’m here to dance in the light even in the seasons when it can’t be found.

Selah.

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37 thoughts on “Dancing in the Light During the Seasons When Darkness Abounds

  1. I just read that as quickly as possible. Our life experiences are not the same, but I dance the same dance, live with the same fear. I need to escape. Really, really badly. But I can’t figure out how. The hole I am in right now wants me soul, wants to grab it, twist it and throw it away. And I am tempted to let it.

    • Charity- i wont pretend to know that darkness but i think with all things that if you can acknowledge a problem then you owe yourself to try and seek out some help. Good luck. I wish you well and i hope you find that rope to pulk yourself out of that hole. 🙂

    • I know this pain and this struggle as you know. But you’ve held on this long, I’ve watched you do it with so much strength, Charity. You can do it. I’m so proud of you. We’re making it 🙂 I promise.

  2. I love your honesty in your writing. I think the AA community needs your voice like the roar of a lion. So many probably suffer with these ailments and blame themselves so they don’t seek the proper treatment.

    • I’m really, very thankful that you’ve stuck around and have read my words here this long. I truly appreciate that. And I think you’re right-so many in our community aren’t aware of what these ailments actually are and don’t get treatment, which sucks. We have to do better. I’m trying to do my part.

  3. Girl. Damn. I’ve been having a… week. In between panic attacks yesterday, I had the realization that suicide would be more likely to take my life than the cancers that are ripping through my family. Fuck, right?

    Anyway, you are not alone. I am here with you.

  4. I feel you. Oh man. How many relapses do I have to have? Do we all have to have? You are so not alone. And you do just keep dancing in the light, and the times the light shines, they just get longer, and the dark times, they get shorter. And you have so much love around you. And so many who know how you feel. Fucking sucks. Love you.

  5. This is … masterful and beautiful, poetic and brave, brilliant and important. Thank you for writing it, I hope that it feeds you. Your work is courageous and wise – I mean what you are doing for yourself, although your writing is too. You can make it. Your experience can improve and you are doing everything write to move it forward, and I hope it does for you soon. And again, thank you.

  6. Oh, Addye. It always amazes me how close the escapes feel: dance in the light, in the joy, be free. It turns out to be inches from the darkness that looks like freedom, rest. I just keep coming back to knowing, from experience, freedom through joy. I believe that the darker dance lies about freedom. If all I can do is turn away, because I don’t know if there’s freedom there, then I just keep repeating “I don’t know for sure about that darkness.” So far, that’s kept me here. I hope it always does; I share your fear.

  7. I feel your words – every one.
    Your strength floors me and inspires me. Thank you for your honest, difficult, beautiful words.
    I ride a roller coaster, similar to yours.
    Take care of you.

  8. Keep talking, keep writing, keep creating, keep celebrating. You have a purpose, and I don’t say that to keep you alive. I say it, because you know it. It’s work, and it’s work because life hasn’t been fair… you’ve had the brunt of some major bullshit, friend. MAJOR. That is a whole steaming pile to step over. But I’m here, and I can listen, and you are never alone. xo

    • Thank you so much Alexandra. Thank you for always seeing me and for getting it because you KNOW what we’ve had to go through. Thank you. I will. I’ll keep doing all of it.

  9. I remember first “meeting you” on Instagram. I knew from the photos you shared and the words attached to them you were a mom I wanted to get to know. I instantly knew there was a beauty to you that I wanted to get it know better. I also found our blog and knew your words here would allow me to see and get to know a deeper part of you, your story. What I wasn’t completely ready for was this. I have read many a blog post about depression, PDD and anxiety. While I have never had the journey these woman have had I have always been deeply touched by their words, their strength and their incredible beauty but nothing like yours Abby. I have never been so deeply brought in. Been so deeply touched. Seen and felt such incredible strength and been filled with such beautiful words. I have no story to offer to console. No story to offer you hope or relate. I only know this. There is an incredible beauty you radiate. There is a strength in your words and it is incredible and amazing. Your story is important and meaningful to others and I am listening XOXXOXOXO

  10. I am kinda choked with tears here. Just the other day you managed to help me step out of the shadows, where I have been stuck for a while. Just the fact that you were there, that you listened, that you understood, made all the difference in the world.
    I cannot put to words what an influence you have on me. How much I enjoy your personality, your fierceness, your bravery. How much you brighten up social media for me and bring a smile on my face every time. You are nothing short of amazing, and I will never stop telling you this. I hate that you have to struggle with this, that you have to deal with fear and darkness. I want you to know that you are not alone, never, and that I will uphold you with prayer (as many others I am sure.)

    It will never sees to amaze me how you can struggle with darkness and at the same time can shine into the darkness of others and chase those shadows away. Much love to you my friend.

    • I love you so much. The feelings? I promise you they are mutual. You are such a light in my life. Always have been since we first found each other a few years ago. Thank you, M.

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  13. Hugs to you. So many of your words resonate with me. Speak directly to my soul. I struggle with my own demons and so I want you to know that you are not alone.

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  15. Sometimes I go on binge reading nights where I just read stuff to help me not feel alone as I do. I understand that fear. I share it as well. Please know you are not alone. For what that’s worth. Your gift with words to explain such a complex, difficult thing to deal with is so comforting. You have no idea. Thank you. Please keep writing. I’m sending love your way. Hope your doctor’s appt goes well. You are so strong!

    • I’m so glad my words have helped you find some comfort in the midst of your own struggle. We won’t let the fear win, right? We can do this-together. Thank you so much. My appointment went really well and I’ve tweaked one med and am trying an new one, so I have hope. I really do. And I have it for you too 🙂

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