“What’s wrong?” is probably one of the most frequently used phrases I have heard throughout my life. For me, I usually never knew how to answer this question because I used to not understand my feelings at all. I have gotten better at learning to explain myself and my actions to the people around me in a way that may help them understand what is going on inside my head.
When I try to explain mental illness to people, I like to use the analogy of darkness. We all experience darkness every day. How you respond to that darkness is what makes the difference. There are many different responses. Some people immediately scream and start freaking out, contributing nothing to solving the problem. Some people are paralyzed and feel like if they move, something horrible will happen. These people disappear into the darkness. Then there are people who will just turn the lights back on or light a candle. These people have learned that they can solve the problem of being in the dark for themselves.
This is very similar to how people respond to internal darkness. Internal darkness can be a number of different things. It could be a negative thought or stress or whatever you may struggle with internally on a day to day basis. We all experience this darkness in our own ways. How we respond to it can be very similar to how people respond to literal darkness. Once people feel the darkness creeping its way in, they may freak out and try to run away from it, which does not do anything except let the darkness grow. Some people may freeze out of fear and confusion of not knowing what to do or thinking if they do anything the situation will be so much worse. So, they sit there and let the darkness consume them. Then there are those people who can illuminate the darkness right away and move on with their day.
Darkness is such a common occurrence in the world. Pretty much everything can lead to darkness, right? Candles will eventually melt, light bulbs burn out, the sun sets. The dark is such a commonality, so it seems harmless in a way. I don’t know if it is just the fact that I am scared of the dark that makes me so fascinated with it, but, if you think about it, darkness is everywhere. We just hide it with the presence of light. It is always there though. It seems to consume everything around it. It changes the way people perceive things. You feel differently in the dark. You are timid to touch anything because you don’t know where it is or how it will feel. When we do feel things though, we feel them more intensely. Think about if you run into the side of a table in the dark. It seems to hurt more because you were not prepared for it. We obviously see different in the dark because we have this metaphorical mask over our eyes. We are blind to the world around us. We think differently in the dark as well. Our minds want to know what is going on. We are confused because we do not know what is going to happen next exactly. Our minds race and try to make some sense of the situation.
So, when we are experiencing this internal darkness, the world around us seems to change. We are afraid to feel and when we do it hurts worse. For example, if you are having a bad day and struggling with your self-confidence and someone doesn’t say hi to you in the hall, you immediately may think that person doesn’t like you, and that makes your day even worse. We are blinded to things that maybe used to seem so obvious to us. Like, you may be surrounded by your friends and family and still could think that no one likes you or wants to be around you. We also think differently. We like to catastrophize things. Which means we like to think of the worst possible outcome of every situation. Our mind never seems to stop thinking of what could possibly happen next, so you can prepare yourself for the worst.
So, how do you get out of this darkness? It is different for every specific person, but the commonality within everyone is acknowledgement. In order to get out of a situation or change a situation you have to first realize that you are in the situation. You have to tell yourself you are in the dark. Once you are aware of the situation, it is up to you how you respond. You have to decide if you run away, if you stay still, or if you find the light switch. Finding the light switch is the hardest thing to do in the dark but it is the most effective. Once you find it, you know where it is, and you know that it is obtainable. This will make it easier to find the next time the darkness creeps in.
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class of 2020
Hi, my name is Meredith. I am scared of the dark. I am a senior at Alter High School. I have four sisters, one brother, two very loving parents, and two adorably mischievous cats. I love to sing, dance, and act. I have bipolar disorder. I am the manager of a small café. I am obsessed with pineapples and the color purple. All these things make up who I am as a person. Some of them may have more of an effect on my life than others, but they are all necessary to truly describe me.
To address it right away… yes, I am afraid of the dark, and yes, I am a senior in high school. It is not particularly the literal darkness that scares me, although it is pretty terrifying, but the internal darkness I have struggled with my whole life. I believe that everyone has some sort of internal darkness. It could be stress, anxiety, or just any negative thoughts. Just how people react to the literal darkness in different ways, people deal with their internal darkness differently. Throughout this little blog I will be delving deeper into my own concept of internal darkness.
We are absolutely THRILLED at all of the positive engagement and strong students that reach out to us wanting to help others sharing their stories, personal battles and triumphs. Meredith Russ is most certainly one of those people.
We are so excited Meredith will not only share her story, she will be a regular contributor on our blog in a section titled "A Light in the Dark." Meredith will be posting on a regular basis beginning this week detailing her own journey while engaging others who face the similar challenges.
Thanks, Dayton Daily News, for featuring us in your article!
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