The Darkened Climb of Life
It is difficult to escape the times in life when we are overwhelmed with feelings of negativity, sadness, anxiety, fear, and hopelessness. Whether they come from mental difficulties or life’s traumas, such feelings can become like a mass of darkness residing within us, some sort of void that inhibits our ability to love, feel joy, care about what is going on around us, have ambitions and hopes, or even get out of bed.
For those who have never been through the worst of it, the emptiness can be difficult to truly comprehend. Cue the hashtag: #thestruggleisreal. Yet there is hope, a true, finite, and tangible hope, for those who suffer such things. It is not the hope that the fight you are going through right now will instantly hurt less through some remedy. Most of the time, temporary joys and tender mercies eventually give way to a return of the sadness in the short run, its magnitude sometimes temporarily worsened because you felt a brief reprise of peace.
But despite the reality that life can be immensely trying and exhausting, I promise there really is a way to get through most every difficulty that emotional darkness has to offer, so allow me to begin explaining some uplifting news, first through analogy.
The Darkened Climb
There once was a man who set out to reach a mountain peak. The way up was straightforward, but required great exertion. As the man was well underway, a darkness unexpectedly came over him. It was so immense and confusing that he had no choice but to wait for a time, doing little and hoping that it would dissipate.
Hours passed, or more it seemed, and yet nothing changed. Hopelessness began to set in, the man regretting the decisions that led him to climb. He longed to be in another place or in another time when he could see the path before him, when anxiety and doubt did not consume him.
Eventually, he was forced to accept that he could not wait around anticipating the darkness to ever lift, but this presented a new dilemma. He could try to return whence he came, hoping that light would once again fill his world, or he could continue climbing, knowing that he would at the very least be closer to reaching his desired goal.
Realizing that he could be no more certain going back than going forward, the man decided to continue climbing. It felt impossible. He stumbled greatly at times, moving slowly, tripping and hurting himself as he went. Sometimes he could see a slight distance up the path. Other times he could see no further than the reach of his hand. And still other times, he caught a brief glimpse of what he thought might be the mountaintop far above him, or of a person climbing somewhere ahead.
Then came a wondrous moment, a time when the darkness lifted entirely. It happened to come as he reached the summit. There, he gazed out in sheer wonder at the serene valleys around him, and the majesty of still more peaks on the horizon. Yet, to his surprise, there were others there with him, those who must have been near him the whole time.
He asked them about the darkness, how they had made it up, and they looked at him confused, for they had never seen it. They instead recounted experiences watching him struggle, stumble, and fall in moments when to them the way was simple. Many tried to help and guide, but it seemed as though he could not or would not hear them and was instead insistent on going it alone. Some became discouraged, several commented, and left his side, but others stayed nearby to continue the trek with him. And finally, they had reached the end, joyous at what they had accomplished together.
Moving Forward is Power During Times of Darkness
When we feel a darkness overpowering us, it can change so much about how we see the world, and how we see others. Yet, we should fight to remember the things that matter most to us, the goals that we have centered our lives around. Though discouraged and slowed by the darkness he experienced, the man pushed through his fears, and not alone mind you, recalling the purpose for which he had already come so far.
The man could have remained in one spot and safely waited out the storm. But those who live through periods of anxiety, depression, and panic know that sometimes those feelings can last for ages, and sitting still and remaining idle often only encourage the feelings to become even worse. Being inactive therefore presents its own set of risks. That is not to say that we don’t need periods of relaxation, of doing everything we can just to keep breathing, but we need to be careful to not overindulge.
Even though pushing through the darkness toward our goals often doesn’t change the way we feel in the short run, it prepares us for joy in the future. Sometimes we are much like gardeners who, despite hard work and seeing signs of progress as crops grow, do not actually get to enjoy the fruits of their labor until the end season is come. That is often the case with those of us who suffer times of darkness, or the man who kept climbing despite his discouragement. But that doesn’t change the fact that we are progressing as we work.
I conclude by saying that those who experience the darkest of times can sometimes only manage to crawl. This process can be so debilitating that it takes hours to even get out of bed. Yet there is no speed at which you should feel pressured to go. Consistent movement forward, even at the slowest of paces, will combat the gravity of depression and anxiety seek try to pull you downwards. As I have watched so many who struggle, and have struggled so greatly myself, I have come to see a transformation in all those who just try to keep moving forward. They claw for every inch at times, the heartache so real, but over time they feel better than they did.
Ultimately, that’s what most of us want, to feel today just a little bit better than yesterday, and climbing forward will make that happen, even through the littlest of strides each passing moment.