Waiting in the Dark

Mental illness is messy. In the darkness, there are no clean cut paths forward. It is isolating. It can be terrifying, as your own brain tells you that you aren’t enough, as your own brain tries to kill you. And in that darkness, amid all that pain, we want relief, but sadly, the twisted behemoth that is the mental health system is often too slow to respond.

I have experienced this first hand, anxiety dripping out of me as I twisted in the wind, waiting for an appointment with a therapist, waiting to someone to talk to. And the cruel joke of it was that there were people I could talk to, but my mental illness had me so convinced that if I opened up to them they would run. I was sure they would leave me, just as others had left me. And so I hid, waiting in the darkness for a system that was slow to respond.

As my boss said yesterday, the mental health system sadly does not move at crisis speed. That is one of the nice things about recovery support specialists and crisis hotlines, is that you have the opportunity to talk to someone in a safe space and stabilize yourself while sitting there waiting in the dark. Yet the rest of the system needs to catch up.

On second thought, the rest of the world needs to catch up. Because the same society that is filled with concern for cancer and multiple sclerosis and the myriad of other horrible diseases out there so often turn a cold shoulder to mental illness, stigmatizing an illness that we didn’t choose and that isn’t our fault. Too often we are left waiting in the dark because society left us there, out of sight and tragically out of mind.

Yet I want to leave all of you with a positive note before I go, which is that while too many suffer alone, waiting in the dark, there are so many people that are also waiting, waiting to pull you out of dark. People who have been there, and can help guide you or at the very least can wait in the darkness with you until it passes. Because it can pass. Recovery is possible. And you are not alone. These are not cliched things thrown around without meaning or merit, but lifelines thrown into the abyss to help pull you out.

It is time to turn on a light.

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