You can find my original article on elephant journal here
The dark clouds of misery suffocate me.
They suck the colour from my life, banish the light. It feels like I am losing the essence of who I am inside; that I will never be happy again.
I wrestle with urge to give up and let despair take me. Surrender to the agony of grief. What more can it take from me? I have nothing left to give its greedy strangling hands when they creep into my nightmares.
Fighting the dark clouds is a battle that rages daily. I fight for the motivation to crawl out of my warm bed each morning to confront the punishing dawn. Choosing what to wear feels like scaling Everest and the very thought of talking to people leaves my stomach in a hot tight knot.
The voices in my head tell me that I can’t do it, and I whimper and cringe apologetically before them—I believe them.
On those days I ache to be soothed. To regain the strength I need to put one foot in front of the other. It’s hard to know where to start.
Slowly, I’m identifying the methods that help me banish the dark clouds when they descend. And on the days where I have no fight left in my battered body, they give me a place to curl up safe to weather the storm until it passes.
I want to share these with you in the hope that they might help you find your own light in the darkness. And if you have suggestions that work for you, I would also love to hear them.
1. The Ocean
Nothing equals the peace that quietens my soul whilst watching the swell and fall of the ocean. The understanding that we are all part of something bigger and more powerful than our tiny lives is truly humbling.
I am forced to submit to the constant churn of the deep, and there is a comfort in that surrender. I can no more deny my soul it’s happiness than I can stop the surf crashing onto the white sand, embracing each grain with the knowledge that the tide will eternally shift, and they will never have this moment together again.
I close my eyes and listen to the melody of unrelenting waves, a constant in a world of unknowns. I listen to birds calling and how their freedom echoes in the early morning calm. My heartbeat slows and my mind clears.
The sea breeze caresses my hair like the gentlest lover soothing me to sleep. I let it blow away the cobwebs of indecision. The salt erodes anger, sadness, and pain. I let the darkness soar away, a kite sailing on the soft wind.
Perhaps I’m alone on that beach. Eyes fixed on the sapphire horizon, knees drawn to chest, toes digging into wet sand. Perhaps I allow someone I love to share the moment. Maybe I let them hold me, without talking, but breathing in the magic with me and letting my tears rain gently onto their chest.
A lifeline in the depths of the darkest place I tread, tethering me back to the light. Maybe they can’t follow where I go, and maybe I’m too heavy for them to pull back right now, but I know that they hold me safely. I know that their strength answering my weak tug promises a place where the sun shines still, awaiting my return, when I’m ready.
‘The cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea.’ ~ Isak Dinesen
As a child my mother made me tea every morning and every evening without fail. I remember the first few times feeling like a real grown up, being allowed to drink out of one of her beautiful cups, adorned with gold leaf and vibrant flowers. The flavour didn’t matter as much as sharing a moment with someone I adored
I came to know tea as part of my daily ceremony, to help me face the morning, and to discuss the going-ons of the day before bed. Opening my heart to my mum in order to make sense of the world, as the hot liquid gold spread comfort through my entire body.
Even now, aged 29, tea makes me a small child snuggled up next to my mum. There’s no situation that a cup of English breakfast can’t make better. Shared socially with friends from the same cherished pot, or being brought a cup in bed to tell you that you are loved.
In times of grief, pressing small shivering hands against the warmth of the mug reminds you that you are still alive. I don’t remember how many cups of tea I made when I lost my stepfather, but I do know that the ritual brought me normalcy and hope for the future. For where there is tea, there is another day dawning, and another morning where I will wake and face the world once again.
‘Come, let us have some tea and continue to talk about happy things.’ ~ Chaim Potok
Foamy Bubbles. Lots of them. Water as hot as I can manage before my skin blisters, run to overflowing. Lights out, candles flickering gently, a book and of course, tea.
I sink into that blissful pool of deliciousness and feel no guilt. No sense of time. No thoughts of housework, or to-do lists. I listen to music, or I don’t. Read, or don’t. I close my eyes. Dream. Let the water wash away the heartache, the resentment, the suffering. It sinks below the surface, trapped in rainbow bubbles. Later it will be sucked into the plughole, gone forever.
I feel my muscles relax in the heat and admire my body where it peeks out at me from its soapy landscape. I appreciate how my skin shines in the wet and let my hair drift like seaweed, embracing my inner mermaid.
Baths cleanse my soul from the outside in, taking me back to my happier self. Having the bathroom window open to let the cool breeze contrast with my warm body has been one of my favourite sensations since childhood. It evokes memories of carefree summers and long light evenings. No responsibilities yet, and no scar of loss.
I remind myself that showers are practical and baths are luxurious. And also that I deserve that luxury when I am hurting. I set up a shrine to my inner water goddess and let her sparkle.
4. Good Friends
Cliché? Maybe. But where would I be without them today? I’ve closed up shop and boarded my windows to the pain that prowls close by. Yet still my friends wait outside, patiently. They sit on the doorstep swinging their legs. Sometimes they slip a note under the door to let me know they are still there. They demand nothing. Not even a response. But they wait.
Sometimes they play just next-door so that I can enjoy their laughter from afar and not be left behind. And when I peek out of a gap in the panelled wood of my mind, they turn and they smile at me—the kind of smile that only a true friend can give you. A ‘Hey, I’m so pleased to see you,’ and a ‘No we don’t have to talk about a thing, or even try to fix it. We can just sit here and be’ kind of smile.
The hard days are a gift in disguise because they let us know these friends exist. And that it’s ok not to be ok. I reach out to these angels when I can. Sometimes I do it even when I am exhausted with the world, because they remind me that they think I am wonderful.
They prove to me that I am not as broken as I think I am. They show me, again and again, that though it may be different to what I once knew, one day, the world will be a beautiful place to be once again.