Up Close and Personal

The darkest hour is just before the dawn.   Thomas Fuller

The darkest hour is just before the dawn.

Thomas Fuller

I’ve always been somewhat sceptical of the above statement when it’s used to describe the rhythms of our lives. When things seem at their most despairing, does it inevitably mean the tide is about to shift? That said, I did have an experience recently that was very much in alignment with these words, and which I want to share with you. (Actually, a part of me doesn’t want to share, as it feels too personal, too exposing! Which, I realise, is exactly why it’s important to.)
 
In the spring of 2017, I found myself uncharacteristically falling into a state of chronic anxiety, accompanied by a heaviness and loss of enthusiasm. There had been no dramatic turn of events to trigger this. Yes, I’d had major and quite life-changing surgery a few months previously, but it had gone very well, and physically I had fully recovered. Yes, my husband and I had been trying to conceive for four years, but this was nothing new.
 
This darkness just wouldn’t shift. I couldn’t understand it, having weathered more dramatic storms in the past without feeling quite this rubbish for quite this long. I was doing all the ‘right’ things to support me, including lots of yoga and meditation, good nutrition, plenty of fresh air, daily journaling about my feelings. Each morning I’d wake up with anxiety coursing through my body. And even though my outer circumstances were pretty much unchanged, I no longer appreciated the same life I’d once loved. I was so stuck and uninspired I questioned whether I should still be teaching yoga.
 
After a few months, I even decided to try, for the first time in my life, medication, in the hope it could shift what were surely just some messed up chemicals in my brain. I use the word ‘even’ not because I have anything at all against medication – it is a lifesaver for many – but because I’d never felt the need for it before. It did help shift the deep anxiety I was experiencing. However, my mood remained low. I despaired: would I be like this forever?
 
I took some time off at Christmas, in the hope that a break would reset me. Within a day of stopping work, I suddenly developed terrible insomnia - the kind that good sleep hygiene and herbal supplements don’t do a thing for. So, in desperation, back to the GP I went, this time for sleeping tablets (another first) to add to the cocktail. But they didn’t work, either. At this very low point, I couldn’t imagine ever becoming a mother – I didn’t even want to be pregnant, with these drugs and dark feelings flowing through me, and risk passing on any of this on to a child in utero. 
 
At the start of 2018, at the suggestion of my wonderful acupuncturist, I went cold turkey on all medication. He also recommended a therapist, who I started seeing weekly. Slowly but surely, things started to shift. And by some miracle, in April I found myself pregnant.
 
With the benefit of hindsight, I can now see that both the surgery I had at the end of 2016 and trying to conceive over such a protracted period had taken their toll, emotionally. And that my soul was also crying out for some kind of big change. It is also clearer than ever to me how innately cyclical our lives are, and that no one cycle will last forever (however much we might believe this to be the case when we are steeped in the more challenging ones).
 
Again, with hindsight, I can question whether my biggest ‘mistake’ during this whole experience was to attempt to push away the darkness, rather than to trust it as just a passing phase, which would in time inevitably morph into something else. As a culture, we are quick to want everything to be sorted, to banish the uncomfortable stuff, viewing it as inherently negative and a hindrance. Of course, it’s a fine line between knowing when it’s appropriate to sit with it, and when it’s best to take decisive action to try and root it out. And it’s not always easy to discern the best path.
 
Perhaps the place I found myself in was actually part of a growth spurt I needed to go through to prepare me for where I was headed?  Perhaps it was a necessary gestation period to bring me to the beautiful space am currently in? It certainly feels like that now, although of course at the time it didn’t, and the thought I might be stuck there forever was pretty frightening.
 
It seems radical to trust in a passage that is so uncomfortable. But if something like this happens again, I’m going to dare to try and do so.