Darkness responds

Hey Ben,

It’s your Darkness. I read your letter, and I have a lot to say. It has been a long time since we’ve really connected. Maybe too long. I realize that you have no idea why I’ve been trying to get your attention all these years, so let me set the record straight.

I may be the “darkness that has yet to brighten and the weight that has yet to lighten,” but that’s because you’ve been unwilling to face me until now.
I’m not here to cripple your motivation or suffocate your desire. I take no pleasure in draining you of your joy or affecting your relationships. In fact, quite the opposite. What I need you to understand is that, believe it or not, I’m here to help you. You need help remembering what you’ve hidden.

I know you move through life feeling as though something deep within you is fractured or broken. You’ve secretly hoped for some diagnosis that would help you make sense of the ways you feel different than most. All the while you’ve run from the depression that has been with you for as long as you can remember. You’ve sought to avoid the darkness within hoping to outrun it, but you can’t. You can’t outrun it. You can’t outrun me because I’m part of you.

I have to give you credit though. Your will power is incredible. How you’ve managed to maintain this façade of being calm, cool and collected is beyond my comprehension. Every time I’ve tried to get you to slow down long enough to see me, you’ve found a new distraction to divert your attention elsewhere. Luckily, it seems as though God has finally decided you’ve run long enough and now that you’ve stopped moving so quickly, I can say what I’ve been trying to tell you for over twenty years. Except I can’t just say it. I need you to see it and feel it.

I need you to think back to the time your stepdad hit you for saying a curse word. Do you remember that? You’re standing in a motel room, at the edge of the bed furthest from the door. Your siblings are off to your right and for some reason, your stepdad thinks he hears you cuss. Despite your objections, he is convinced of your guilt and storms over to enact his heavy-handed discipline. As his hand makes contact with your pre-pubescent face, you feel the sudden sting followed by a searing heat on your cheek. Tears fill your eyes and as you prepare for the next blow, you notice a more subtle heat ignite in your chest.

It is a small, but familiar flame. You stand there defenseless, embarrassed and afraid, but there is another emotion. One that burns deeper than the others because it never completely goes away. It’s as if by hitting you he somehow reminds you of every bruise he’s inflicted, every tear he’s caused and every ounce of fear he’s made you, your siblings or your mother feel. As you traverse this continuum of abuse, you notice the flame within grow into an inferno that begs to be unleashed, so that it can consume the man who has stoked its flames for so long, but you’re too small and he’s too strong. Any altercation could result in more pain or even death, so your survival instincts suppress the fire within.

Do you remember that fire?

That fire is your anger and aggression. You once felt it frequently, but you realized it could be dangerous, so you buried it. I’m here to help you remember that you’re angry. Incredibly, justifiably, consistently angry for so many reasons. But your anger isn’t here alone. It is accompanied by the grief you’ve buried with it. Do you remember what your grief feels like?

I need you to remember. Look back in your mind’s eye and see one evening in particular. You’re in foster care now and your foster mom is getting ready to tuck you into bed. As you lay there waiting for her to kiss you goodnight, your thoughts drift to your previous life. You focus on the person you were closest to. The person you loved most. The person who left. You’re thinking of your biological mom, and as you wonder where she is or if she’s going to come back, you become aware of a dull, throbbing ache in your chest. The pain isn’t physical, but it feels tangible and real, as if there is a literal hole where your heart once was.

You describe this hole to your foster mom who hugs you and lovingly tells you that she understands. You know you should be grateful that you have a safe place to stay and a family that loves you, but you can’t stop missing your mom. She’s your best friend, and now she’s gone. The aching void within you that feels as deep and cold as the pacific is your grief Ben. You have a lot to grieve. More than you’re even aware of.

Your anger and grief have been waiting to be acknowledged. When they couldn’t get your attention, they summoned me. Think of me as the bat-signal of your most uncomfortable emotions. I’m here to help you remember that you’re angry because you lost a large chunk of your childhood.

I’m here so you remember that you grieve because you’ve always carried burdens you weren’t meant to hold.

You’re angry that your parents didn’t protect you when they should have.

You grieve the loss of security, joy and comfort.

You’re angry that you couldn’t defend yourself against the abuse.

You grieve all that was taken from you with each act of emotional and physical violence.

You’re angry that you never had the chance to confront your step-dad once you were big enough to defend yourself. Death robbed you of that vindication.

There is so much more that stokes the flames of your anger and causes the seas of your grief to churn. There is more for you to remember. You’ve judged your grief and anger as too dangerous to explore, and no one is blaming you for that, but now it’s time to investigate your darkness.

While we’re talking, I should let you know that it isn’t just anger and grief that you’ve tucked away. In suppressing them, you’ve suppressed yourself. You aren’t broken, but you’ve shut off key parts of your identity. Your sexuality and sense of intimacy have suffered and in ways been distorted. So I’ve come to help you restore your balance. You are strong enough to feel the flames of your anger and the waves of your depression without being consumed or consuming others. Behind the smoke and mist, YOU are waiting.

You’ve been searching for your deepest truths, but they cannot be known apart from your darkest emotions. Your anger and grief are informative, healthy and cleansing. Both possess the capabilities to be restorative or destructive, but balanced they lead to regeneration.

I guess what I really want is the chance to reintroduce myself. Yes I am your darkness. Yes I can feel all-encompassing, insatiable and persistent, but I have a purpose and you need to feel me. I’m here to help you see yourself, your whole self. I’m here to reintroduce you to anger and grief. Your anger won’t destroy the people you love and your grief won’t swallow you whole. You are strong enough, and have enough support around you to experience them and still be healthy.

Most importantly, I’m here to remind you that you aren’t broken. You’re just missing the hidden parts of yourself, and you feel incomplete. Love me or hate me, it doesn’t really matter. I am your darkness, and believe it or not, I’m here to help. Some days this will feel like the hardest thing you’ve ever done, but know that those days are only part of your story.

Now that you know who I am and why I’m here, what you do next is entirely up to you. Suppress me, run from me, pretend we’ve never met and that you aren’t angry or grieving…it’s your call. Know that I can’t leave until my work is done. If you’re willing to accept my invitation, you’ll find what you’ve been searching for. Your move.


Your Darkness

2 thoughts on “Darkness responds

  1. I felt this cause this was me three years ago. My lowest point was walking down 13 in Syracuse drunk. It’s been a long time since that moment but I never forget it. A reminder to never be complacent, to never let anyone try to label or box me in.


  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. We’ve known each other a long time, my friend. When we were younger, you always hid your inner darkness expertly. I caught rare glimpses in vulnerable moments over the years, but noticed early in our relationship that on these tender wounds I musn’t pry or spy. To be a good friend to you is to accept you, just as you are.

    Though I couldn’t possibly share your experiences, I can relate to that universal darkness. I’ve summoned it myself, again and again, by running from my own demons. I notice that in order to be a good friend to myself, I must accept myself, including the darkness, just as I am.

    I applaud your example of courage and authenticity 🙂


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