Rolling Back the Darkness

I went for an adventuring hike with some girlfriends one weekend. I adventured so hard it broke me. I started crying on the side of the mountain. I didn’t stop for a year and a half.

We flew to New Mexico. We were packed for two nights off the grid and into the wild. One of my college teammates was in pursuit of a ‘long walk’ and her discussion of such birthed this getaway. It was going to be a 20-25 mile loop from out of a tucked away valley up to a hidden vista with its alpine lakes and mountain streams. It was an introduction to the Sangre de Cristo mountains and a more intense camping experience in tandem. I was giddy with anticipation.

In the weeks leading up to my girlfriends getaway, my parents had begun to purge 40 years of basement storage in hopes of putting their suburban ‘raise the kids’ house on the market for a retiree’s winter home in Florida. Discovered amongst 1960s college textbooks was a box of calendars, newspaper clippings, letters and artwork from the year my brother died. I was 11 at the time. 2 ½ years older than my twin brothers. It must have been too heavy for my mom grieving the injustice of a child’s death. She swept everything into a box, threw it in the basement, and upon its discovery 25 years later, gave it to me. I’m sure it was still too heavy to touch but too precious to toss. Two days before I got on a plane to Albuquerque I sorted through the garbage for the gems, in service to my surviving twin brother, who I knew was not able to do that work at this time. He has not ever. I read the notes from other mothers saying they couldn’t imagine, we’re sorry for our loss, didn’t know what to say, and we’re praying for comfort. I found the last drawings my brother had sketched out and hung on his walls that final summer. I recalled us speculating whether he knew what was coming because the little people in the picture had word bubbles, “Help me! I’m dying!”

I cried, sorted, reminisced, and threw it away. I did the work. Task accomplished. Sad day over. Little did I know, I had released the grip that long-held my grief in place. Then in an emotionally depleted state, I hopped on a plane for a grand adventure in a new place. There, I physically depleted myself. I went there with people I felt safe with and for whom I didn’t need to present. And it cracked my pain open- so far open, there was no turning back. The only way out was through it. But I didn’t know that yet.

I was fine being sad when I came home. There was a major upheaval with my husband’s work and maybe my darkness was because he was leaving his stable and generous corporate compensation package. Then when the darkness endured I credited it to the year’s grief milestone of my son outliving my brother, and I was now acquainted with a mother’s view of losing an almost nine year old boy. A boy who you can see as a man, whose passions and talents are already known, and who held my heart from the very first time he was placed upon my chest. I leaned into the wonder of how my mother chose forgiveness for doctors, chose trust with the Lord, and chose life for herself and our family after such a betrayal as burying the most precious of children. There were other nuances I endured and justified as appropriate sadness, but at the year mark, I knew it was too much.

I started counseling. I asked my doctor to have my hormones tested for any imbalances- the offered me an antidepressant and begged me to take it so I ” would be happy”. I was working out and eating the best for my body. My hormones were off and the supplements lead me to feel physically fantastic. So after 6 months of working on the mental, emotional and physical components of myself, I decided the 18 months of sadness must be a spiritual issue. Something was broken only God could fix. I had exhausted all my tools and there was no remedy.

I had signed up for a weekend camping trip- women only- hosted by my church. I was so desperate for a resolution, I was fanatical about it. I just wanted to breathe again. I remember what it felt like not to be buried deep, not to have the darkness ever present, and I was not going to leave that land until I got mine. If I had to be the only one left and God and I were going to have to go at it as Jacob had wrestled through the night, I was up for it. There was no way I wasn’t getting what ONLY He had.

There was a tent filled with women ready to serve by praying for the brokenhearted, the weary, the heavy burdened, and lost sheep. I walked in aggressive and looking for someone ready to fight for what I knew existed somewhere outside of our grasp. I sat with two kind women that had no idea how to handle my tears and heavy mucus output. I used all the Kleenex at their station. Trauma novices. I must have sufficiently proven my point, that I’m in bad effing shape because they did point out one of the volunteers that was prophetic. If this was a spiritual issue, I needed someone with as much advantage as possible. She sat with me, battled me, searched my heart & soul, and as a spiritual surgeon would found the wound, took it to the Healer, and something was different. I knew a profound spirit shift had occurred, but my words and emotions did not yet know how to communicate it. So I ran off to a hiking trail and laid in the cushion of fall leaves. Even my physical body felt complete peace, to the last knuckle of my fingers and toes. Like the best orgasm I’ve ever had. I laid so long an APB got put out by my friends. They thought I was lost. Seriously. But the truth was, I was found.

I waited for a week after camp expecting the sadness may return. I talked to my husband about the possibility of having to go to a residential treatment venue to resolve the depression. A second week passed and the deep darkness stayed away, conversations processing what happened at camp, and a third week, no more profound sadness.

There were a couple hellacious sessions with my counselor where we sorted it out. My deep sadness was rooted in my brother’s death, but it was the rejection I felt from parents that disappeared under the weight of their own grief. I had buried it deep for 25 years until a box of memorabilia dug it up. My Father sought to heal my heart and he was just waiting for a time when I was ready for it. My pain, my recovery was for my benefit, but I still needed to partner in the work. I had a choice to pursue the pain to its root.

My freedom came one day in a tent. I wasn’t leaving there until I got mine. And I did.

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