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When Anxiety Makes You Feel Lost in the Dark

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As children, we are often petrified of the dark and believe scary things come to life when the lights go out. The black unknown could hold anything for us — from monsters under the bed to trolls hiding in the closet, and even scary squeaks and creaks. The darkness has too many shadows and secrets for us as kids to feel secure and safe under its curtain.

Kids know light can make everything far less scary. That pile of clothing on the chair in the corner, the one you were certain was a man wielding a knife last night, looks much less threatening under the bright lights.

Darkness has always made me feel uncomfortable. Even sunless gray days leave me feeling nauseated and uneasy. There is something so secure and comforting about lights. In my opinion, a house truly becomes a home when the rooms are flooded by light and filled with life. Light not only allows us to see things better, but it also has a way of wrapping us in a sense of security and comfort.

Children are not wrong. Monsters love the dark. If there is one thing I have learned about my anxiety and panic disorder it is that it thrives when it is left alone in the dark. So, this is me turning the spotlight on.

The last two months have been a challenge for me. After my husband came down with a stomach illness, that ugly anxiety monster grabbed my hand and hasn’t let go. I have spiraled so far out of control that simply leaving my house now leaves me panicked and restless. Even my sleep has become consumed by my anxious intrusive thoughts, and committing to anything feels pretty close to impossible. I simply do not feel like myself. This is the persistent monster that haunts me and hijacks my life from time to time.

Some days he is so far away I can hardly recall what he looks like. Other days he doesn’t leave my side, filling my life with fear, worry and weakness. I am really struggling to pull my hand free from his. Like so many that struggle with anxiety, I have lost my balance and I am furiously trying to regain it. My anxiety loves to convince me that dark isolation will make the smallest disruption to my life. He loves to whisper in my ear how uncomfortable everyone will be if I talk about him. I simply feel lost in all this darkness. That may be difficult for you to read, it may make you feel uneasy or uncomfortable — as it should. It is uncomfortable and scary and extremely isolating.

When we struggle, we so often believe that we need to do it alone; that such weakness needs to be kept in the dark for nobody to see. Most of us have been brainwashed into believing that anything other than success and positivity is weakness. When we do mention our struggles, people often like to remind us how much worse it could be. While very true — it could always be worse — that not only devalues our feelings, but it makes us feel wrong for struggling at all.

If we are led to believe that we should not struggle, our only choice is to turn the lights off and struggle in the dark, alone. And we all know how quickly monsters can grow and shape-shift into much scarier monster with the absence of light. It is so vital for all of us to stop trying to silence our fears and struggles by shoving them deeper and deeper into the dark. We need to bring our imperfections and tribulations out into the light by talking about them, honestly and unapologetically.

Some will back away, ignore, or even pretend they did not hear you. Some struggles make others so uncomfortable that they themselves run and hide in the dark. This type of response only pushes us back into the dark, which can leave us feeling isolated and ashamed of ourselves. As I have grown with my anxiety and panic, I have decided that I simply will not apologize for what is there when the light shines. I will not allow others to dictate when I should be proud of myself and what messes are acceptable to leave the light on for. I refuse to leave parts of myself in the dark so others can sit comfortably with me.

If you are struggling: turn the light on. Talk about it. Let others know how you feel, explain what your struggle feels like, what you need and how they can help. You just may find those monsters aren’t nearly as scary when brought into the light and you may find you were never alone in the dark after all.

woman with heart tattoo on her hand flipping a light switch

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Getty image via Marjan_Apostolovic

Originally published: March 26, 2018
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