Personal plea: if you’ve found this article because you’re in a crisis, please contact someone trustworthy or check suicide prevention.
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Just to finalise this week by joyfully diving into the heart of darkness, these last two days I’ve been trying to gently support someone I know experiencing an “I’d rather not exist” period.
In the last years, I’d had enough of these (Is depression a choice?). The first faint foreshadowings of both the question and the answer happened in my adolescence, but it took years of unemployment, chaotic relationships, and relocations to really bring it on in my late 20s and early 30s.
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Today, walking, I realised what some of these moments had given me.
Clarity, determination, perhaps a certain kind of cruelty that comes in handy – cold although compassionate cruelty towards the ideas and concepts and feelings and energies that got me to the brink, repeatedly, over years.
The compassion here is for myself.
I realised that over these repetitions, I’d acquired a skill that I didn’t possess before, namely to send what is trying to take hold in me but is poisoning me – others’ words, others’ energies, projected emotions, internalised negative social messages (on all the marginalised things that I am), habitual self-doubt, ingrained self-loathing, worn-out trains of thought that lead me down the rabbit hole (regardless of their truth or falsehood) – to hell without a millisecond of hesitation, and without discussion.
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I wasn’t like that. I’m by nature gentle (no killing mosquitos, vegetarian), sensitive, empathic to the point of losing myself. I never learnt to protect myself, or to set boundaries for self-protection and simply comfort (considering the latter a frivolous luxury). I was probably soft to the point of meek (being an HSP and on the autism spectrum probably play a part).
On top of that fairly spiritual (not in an esoteric sense; in the sense of easily sensing sanctity in nature, in the material world).
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So in my case, the only way to teach me to protect myself, to put up filters on what I let in from others (emotionally, intellectually, in terms of thoughts, images, sounds, feelings) and what I give my mental attention to once it’s here, was to put me up against the wall.
This wall, as I realised after many, many repetitions was: Either I go, or the things that drive my mind to such agony go. No matter what they are. Whether they’re socially accepted truths, whether they’re (seem) actual truths even.
I focussed the whole poignancy of the rapids-level emotions with a lens (probably the lens of my long-standing meditation practice; not sure I could do this without) into one beam of scorching intensity and said to these ideas, old and new feelings, authority messages, apparent truths, with calm yet fierce focus:
Either I die, or you die.
I decided for the latter.
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This is what it took for me to learn to start weeding out that which is harmful to me – regardless who says otherwise. How valuable it seems. How attached I am to it. How much it’s begging me to stay.
That’s what I mean by a warm coldness.
My nature and upbringing didn’t teach me that automatically – I learnt to use only one side of this coin. To only be soft, and warm.
I wish I could have learnt boundaries and assertiveness without having to be put up against this wall. Would have never gotten there.
On the other hand, once I have – repeatedly – it does simplify life.
I’m not squeamish about pruning my inner garden now.
I say to all beliefs, truths, foreign feelings that have been holding me down:
Either I go, or you go. That is just life.
And because I can evoke this life-or-death fierceness in me in an instant and wield it like an Ottoman sabre (in my dreams), it is you who go. No hesitation (anymore), no question.