The Winter Solstice is quickly approaching. On December 21, 2021 the sun will be the furthest away from us here in the Northern Hemisphere and we will have the shortest amount of sunlight. Other people refer to it as “the darkest day of the year.”
I sat in a doctors office a few weeks ago and did my best to describe the debilitating anxiety I had been feeling 2-4 days each month since November of 2020. I said, “I call them ‘dark days’ and on those days there is no amount of exercise, eating healthy, avoiding sugar, prayer, scripture reading, or talking it out that can stop it.”
I told her that on those days, my mind raced with every worst case scenario, I was overly sensitive, and that there was no hope or joy to be found. I admitted that I now understood why people commit suicide—-that my only comfort on those days was knowing that it would pass. My anxiety is the worst about 2-4 days a month, just before and just after my menstrual cycle. But even knowing that the pain and suffering of this anxiety would likely pass in a day or so didn’t keep the thoughts of how could I kill myself in a way to make it look like an accident from rolling around in my head. It was as if every happy moment was tainted with darkness and hopelessness.
If you happened to see me out and about on one of those dark days this past year, I doubt you could tell anything was wrong. I’m a fantastic actress. And when I can’t act, I recluse. Only those closest to me have seen me at my worst.
I described what had happened the weekend prior that had led to this doctor visit… my work life has hit an all-time stress high lately. And on that Sunday, the reality hit that Monday was coming and I would need to begin preparing for another stressful week ahead.
I sat on the edge of my bed and tried to force my body to breathe. My heart was racing. I was silently sobbing so as not to upset the rest of my family, but I could not seem to get my body to calm down. I prayed and prayed for God to meet me in that low place, but I just felt more and more darkness falling on me. I was suffocating.
I don’t know what made me do this, but without even thinking I quietly opened my closet door and sat in the floor before closing the door behind me. Now, understand my closet is tiny… about 3’x4’. With clothes and Brian’s instruments and shoes, I couldn’t even find an empty spot to sit on so I just sat on top of my cute fall and winter boots. Suddenly I began to feel safe, and memories of my childhood flooded back when I would do the very same thing after my mom and dad fought or I got in trouble or I just needed to have a safe place to feel all my feelings without someone getting mad at me for feeling that way. (Something to dissect in therapy, for sure.)
That’s where Brian found me. In the floor of my closet, sobbing so hard I couldn’t see. Begging for him to keep the door shut so I could feel safe.
The next night, Brian made me dinner and sat across from me at the table and said, “we need help.” He was right. We had tried to fight this battle alone for far too long. I kept telling myself it was pre-menopause or not eating healthy enough or not getting enough exercise, but when I would make changes, it didn’t help. Everything just seemed to be getting worse.
Within a day, we found ourselves sitting in the doctors office as I described all of the emotions. To my amazement, she repeated back to me what I had described and then said, “so let me guess, you never quite bounce back to what you could call ‘happy or joyful Nora’ between the bouts of dark days.” She was right. The truth hit like an anvil over my head as I said “I don’t think I’ve felt joy in a long time.”
All this to say, I got help that day. I talked and let people into the pain and was heard. I learned that my brain had been programmed to full on “fight or flight” mode between the pandemic and cancer scare and life changes and it just needed some help to reset. I began medication that day, and noticed a dramatic difference after just a week. Sometimes you don’t know just how bad you are feeling until you begin to feel better, am I right? It will take a full 6 weeks for everything to be fully in my system, but so far I’m beyond grateful.
So, why am I sharing all of this with you all? Because I’ve always tried to be transparent with my readers. And I think I thought for the longest time deep down that going on medication for anxiety or depression showed a lack of faith… no one taught me that, it was just some warped belief I had deep down. I had had what I call “normal anxiety”… the kind you get when an unexpected bill comes or your kid forgets to text you and you don’t know where they are. Those moments of anxiety are understandable. But anxiety that is all consuming and can’t be calmed no matter what you do is another animal all together. I’m just sorry I waited this long to get help.
December 21, 2021 will be the “darkest day of the year.” But do you know what happens on December 22? We start moving closer to the sun. And little by little, we will get more daylight each day. Today may seem dark, but light is coming. Don’t you feel it? Light is coming.
My favorite verse has always been John 1:5:
“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
This verse means so much more to me now.
DISCLAIMER: I’m not a doctor. I’m not any kind of substitute for your doctors advice. But if anything in this post felt familiar to you, and you are not currently seeing a doctor for your mental health, please seek help. You matter. Your health matters. And the enemy is a big fat lier. Don’t wait. Light and joy filled days are coming.