I had a very unexpected visitor break in this past week. I sensed he was coming not long before it happened. I tried to hide. My family tried to tell me he was coming and I yelled at them to be quiet.
Despair broke in with a vengeance. He was a dark, black tsunami. An overwhelming, all encompassing force that exploded into my soul and just kept coming. He kept filling me with darkness, pushing inward unrelentingly. I was soon enveloped in a swirling murkiness containing fragmented fears and thoughts that mocked me.
All peace was gone. Sleep hid as well. I simply tossed and turned in bed, swirling in thoughts that haunted me like ghosts.
He told me no one would understand what he was doing to me. He mocked any attempt at reason. He laughed when I wondered if he would ever leave. And then he showed me his companion, shame. My husband shared a reading with me he thought would help. It was supposed to be a way out, but it wasn’t. Despair’s companion said, “See, you can’t do this. You should be ashamed.”
Everything in the world became a source of pain. I had lost all trust. I withdrew. I stopped watching any news. I said goodbye to my Facebook friends, and dropped off. My world shrunk to home and work. I yelled at my daughter to turn the radio off in the car; I couldn’t stand listening to the news. I walked away from any conversations at work that involved what was going on in the world. All of it was too painful. All of it just highlighted how lost I was in despair.
And then a friend sent me one more thing to read, this. Somebody else had been lost too. Despair had lied. Despair had told me no one would understand, but they did. I read it over and over, my soul grabbed onto it like a buoy in my tsunami. I read it out loud to a friend. And as I did, I realized the tide had changed. The tsunami of despair was retreating.
The fact that I knew I wasn’t alone had given me hope. And hope is the antidote to despair. This tsunami has changed me, the landscape of my soul isn’t the same. I still don’t trust enough to fully engage in the world again. But the gift has been a new way of living for now. I cherish the safety of my home and family, and am doing things to help heal and nurture my soul. I’m also practicing giving myself the permission and space to take my time doing this.
My wish for all the rest of you in despair is to know you are not alone.
Top photo: the 2004 tsunami that hit beaches on the Indian Ocean;
this one at Ao Nang, Thailand (Wikipedia)
Heather Schlessman, PhD is a Pediatric Nurse Practitioner who has spent her career either working with or teaching about families. She is also a mother who, like so many other parents, spent years muddling her way raising 3 wonderfully different children, one who happens to be experiencing a disability. Fortunately she has a life partner who muddled along with her. Spending most of her time trying to be perfect, as that would be the safest way to live, she became aware of a desire to be able to see people in a more compassionate way. Little did she know that the person she needed the most compassion for was herself. There is a saying that when you are ready to learn a teacher will appear, and so it was for Dr. Schlessman. She was introduced to the work of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, the developer of Nonviolent Communication, and her world completely changed. She learned a way to have an intimate connection with herself and others, a way to truly contribute. Her passion now is to help others find their way to a more compassionate life. You can find more of Dr. Schlessman’s empathic expressions along with her husband’s, Rev. Mark Schlessman on their website.