I have been afraid of admitting it for such a long long time. Part of that was the idea that admitting it was true, well, meant that it was true. If I stayed safe in denial, there was the slim possibility that it wasn't true, that everything was fine, that I was just going through "a rough patch".
I was terrified that saying it out loud would make the whole world crash down around me. That I would lose friends. That I would ruin my children. That people would treat me differently - that they would give me "the look" and whisper and say meaningless phrases like "you poor thing" while giving me that annoying injured puppy dog look and then tiptoe around me like I'm too fragile to touch.
I figured if I just stopped moving, everything would be ok. If I stopped moving, things certainly couldn't get worse. They'd just stay the same, which wasn't great, or even good, or even fine if I was totally honest, but it seemed like every time I took a tiny step yet another catastrophe would rear its ugly head and make things that much worse, push me even further down into the rut I had found myself in. My "rut" was more like underground caves that spread for miles and miles in endless unexplored caverns under the surface, with whole rivers and waterfalls and ecosystems hidden deep below, completely unknown to the people walking around oblivious on the earth above.
I felt like admitting it would mean those caverns would collapse on me. Just thinking about it made me feel claustrophobic, like I was suffocating. So I stopped moving and kept my mouth shut and stayed in denial. But the earth kept quaking and I kept slipping and finding myself falling even deeper and deeper into the darkness until it swallowed me whole.
Then one morning, while I was getting ready to start my daily struggle to just stay put, it slipped out, quiet as a whisper, shaky and unsure.
"I am suffering."
It echoed off the cavern walls, repeating again and again, each time louder than the next, in chorus and round robin, a sick grown-up version of a childhood song, until every part of the phrase was repeated all at once in a deafening roar that consumed my entire being.
"I! AM! SUFFERING!"
The echoes changed, voices I no longer recognized, but were somehow still distinctly my own. "I am sad. I am lonely. I am gloomy, dejected, downcast. I am miserable, morbid, disheartened, discouraged, devalued, suppressed. I am depressed."
Three little words can change so much. I thought saying it out loud would send me deeper into the darkness, but I was wrong. I have been wrong about a lot of things. Instead, somehow, a great weight has been lifted.
I will find my way to the surface someday. I will climb to the top and feel the sunlight warm on my skin again. For now I am content with no longer being afraid of the dark. I am climbing my way out, step by step, but I am enjoying exploring these caverns on my way out. They are dark; they are cold and damp and contain creatures that thrive in the absence of light; but they are strangely beautiful.
The more I move, the easier the movement gets. The more I trust my feet, the steadier my stride. The more I look up, the more I realize there is already light here. And hope. And love.
The closer I get to the surface, the more I realize that I am not alone. That I have never been alone. There are others climbing with me. People who love me. Who have always been there by my side, it was just too dark for me to see.
We are climbing out of the darkness together. Will you join us?