Moving forward when it seems like the universe is conspiring to keep you stuck exactly where you are is incredibly difficult. When the darkness seems completely impenetrable and there is no light to be found, it is almost impossible not to ask yourself, “Why should I even bother to go on?” Despair creeps in like a fog, wrapping its cold hands around your heart, and leaves you with the inescapable certainty that nothing will ever be any better than it is now.
Many years ago, I lived through a night when I felt that exact level of despair. Sitting on the floor in my bedroom, surrounded by boxes, I had waited all day for the man I loved and trusted to come and help me move out of my apartment, but he never showed up. I felt abandoned and alone; but more importantly, I felt completely overwhelmed. I had to get my belongings out of there, but I did not have the slightest idea how to go about doing it. I simply could not move. I was staring into a deep, dark hole that had just opened up in front of my eyes, and I knew that if I moved at all in any direction it would swallow me up and I would never come out again. It was not in my imagination; it was there, in my bedroom, calling me—beckoning me to jump in. And as I sat there, staring into the abyss, I knew I was in the worst danger I had ever faced in my life, because I wanted to jump in. I wanted to die.
I remember that night as if was yesterday. I remember the darkness, and I remember the cold terror that gripped my heart. And I also remember what I did to save myself. With what seemed like, and in retrospect was a monumental effort, I turned my head away from the gaping darkness in front of me, stood up and walked into another room. Then I picked up a box and walked down the stairs and out to my car.
Some people say that faith is the antidote to despair, but they are wrong. The antidote to despair is volition—the conscious exercise of free will. No matter how exhausted you are, no matter how tired or sick or fed up, if you have the strength of will to move your pinky finger a sixteenth of an inch, or to blink your eyes, or to take a breath, you can believe in yourself again. It is a matter of saying “If I can do this, then I can do that” and slowly, inexorably creeping along in the darkness until you can see the light again.
When you are in despair, use your journal to move yourself back towards the light. You don’t have to write a long entry; you don’t need to write an entry at all. Just close your eyes, take three slow, deep breaths and set an intention to honor what you are feeling. Then write it down one word at a time: Tired. Afraid. Sick. Scared. Numb. Hurt…whatever comes to mind. As you release your pain, your inertia will subside and you will begin to find the resources you need to move on.