Alone in the dark.


A few years ago, during a particularly harsh period of depression, a therapist asked me to try turning away my darkest thoughts.

“Try to reject them,” she suggested.

“I understand that you can’t keep from having the thoughts,” she said,  “but try to reject them once you have them.”

The suggestion sounded reasonable.  After all, turning away dark thoughts seemed desirable.

And it’s kind of obvious, right? Because who would want to think dark thoughts?

But the truth was that I wanted to think dark thoughts. I was comfortable thinking dark thoughts and very good at it too.

And I actually couldn’t turn away my dark thoughts.

The harder I tried to reject my dark thoughts, the more clear it became that my dark thoughts were part of my fabric, part of my life and part of me.

My dark thoughts weren’t situational, circumstantial,  occasional or fleeting. My dark thoughts were a heavy, thick lens that colored everything I did and everything I saw.

I came to think of my dark thoughts the way I thought of other peoples’ interests, pursuits, and passions.

To me, for instance, other people viewed the world through the perspectives shaped by their religions, cultures or politics.  I reasoned that I was similar, just seeing the world through a perspective of my own, albeit a gloomy one.

So what if I was obsessed with death and dying? Death and dying, aside from being my neurotic obsessions, were merely my interests, pursuits and passions.  Morbid as they were, they were my religion.

Was it really a problem to be glued to a perspective so gloomy?

I likened myself to any number of artists whose muses were gloomy. I took comfort in the long accepted tradition of the tortured and self-destructive creator. I rationalized my dark side as fueling my creative side, a necessary but useful evil.

In terms of my art, the dark side construct worked out fine.  My moody paintings were easily explained by dark forces. Perhaps they were made even artier by the stories peeking out from the canvasses.

The real problem was that my dark take on the world was completely isolating.

Unlike an actual religion, culture or political sphere, there was no place to go where people like me gathered to celebrate or confirm our dark view of the world.  There was no Meetup group for people looking to share their dark thoughts over coffee and conversation.  Nobody was organizing bike rides to cemeteries and funeral homes. Nobody was suggesting we all get together to overdose.

Death just didn’t work well in groups.

Death didn’t even work well in small groups.

While my family and close friends knew I was obsessed with death, they could barely tolerate my frequent references to death.

When a celebrity died by suicide, I needed to talk about it.

But the people in my life didn’t.

They not only didn’t need to talk about it, they were scared to talk about it.

They were scared to trigger me.

Yes. People who love me were scared to trigger my obsession with death by allowing me to talk about death.

It’s kind of funny and cute if you think about it.

It’s wrong.

But it’s sweet.

So there I was.

I was stuck. Alone.

Alone with my dark thoughts.

And the really serious problem was that my dark thoughts were soothing.

The more depressed I was, the stronger the bond was between me and my thoughts.

I was at home with my thoughts. My thoughts were safe. They were familiar and reliable.

They comforted me.

I wish I could now tell you how I learned to successfully reject my thoughts, but I’m not quite there.

But I’m closer.

I would say that today I can experience the dark thought without feeling the urge or the tug that makes the thought more real.

Today I can keep the thought from becoming more than a thought.

I would say that today I can disable the dark thought.

And I like the idea of disabling something that has the power to disable me. I just need to keep practicing the move.

Yeah. You heard it here.

I got a move.

xoxo, d

Giving power to personal stories of thriving
through wearable, shareable art.

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