This here post is pretty serious. You have friends, classmates, coworkers, acquaintances, or maybe you yourself are in a very desperate place and feeling all alone. Alone can be a pretty dark place and this post is meant to let people who are in this place know that others have been there too and there is always somewhere to turn. I want you to have resources, and HOPE!
There are many joys but also many hardships in life; maybe it’s an unexpected medical diagnosis, a child or close friend who has taken a fatal overdose. It could be a severe or even fatal car accident or a dreadful shooting spree. Very dark storms can also come in the form of a fight with a spouse, an injust accusation, the death of a parent or a natural disaster.
None of us are immune to one of these dark storm experiences.
Where do you turn? Where does your help come from?
Suffering in Silence
How will help come if no one knows you are suffering? For some, it is a big deal to admit that you are hurting. Just think how hard it might be for a big, strong, important police officer to admit they are suffering, or a pastor who ministers to others in pain. It can be equally hard for any person to humble themselves in this way and share that they are in pain. Maybe you have been hurt by betrayal of your confidence or belittled in the past when you shared your pain. Maybe you feel foolish or like no one will take you seriously.
Consider your support system; family members, friends, pastors, counselors. Consider who among them cares about you, will keep your confidence, will not judge you and will not then bombard you with questions or following up with you if that is not what you want?
I once faced a very dark place, and as a psychotherapist, and a person who inadvertently tends to convey that my life has been and is perfect (even though that is not what I’ve ever tried to convey, because it’s not the truth), it was a very huge barrier to asking for support. I was low and dark enough to have to reach out for support. I chose one person and told them very generally what I was struggling with (literally no details) and asked them to pray for me. This was a remarkable experience for me, because it confirmed that it was the right thing to do, when I was in such doubt about opening myself up like that. The person, knowing me quite well, immediately said two things; 1. I will pray, and 2. I know how hard this must have been for you to ask. This person then left me alone. They didn’t pry or ask for details. They didn’t start calling me daily. I asked for prayer and they prayed.
This may not be your story. You may need and want the person to check back in with you. You may feel you need to give some details or ask for advice. It’s asking for what you need that is important. It’s the person asking you, “What can I do to support you?”
The feeling you are having in this moment may feel different 15 minutes from now, or 2 hours from now. When a crying episode is over, you may not feel all light and fluffy, but you may have a sense of relief, even if it is temporary. You may cry again soon after, and then you may feel differently again. The point is, the dark feelings that are rushing through you now, may not be rushing through you later.
Your Words Matter
The dark words and words that signify your devastation are not necessary accurate or helpful. “I am stupid.” “No one cares about me.” “There is no way I can ever get through this.” “Everything bad happens to me.” “I want to kill myself.” These are very strong and definitive words. While we have to take statements about self-harm very seriously, and take action on them when someone uses them, more often than not, they can’t think of strong enough words to convey the level of pain they are feeling, and these are very strong words.
Try slowing down your thoughts. Breath can help with this. Notice that you have just made a strong statement. Take a breath. Look up. Ask yourself, “If I’m being really honest with myself, is this statement really true?” Substitute that statement with something that is TRUE, like, “I’m hurting so badly right now.” Say it over and over again, in place of those other statements. Let yourself breathe a little deeper and say kind things to yourself.
A Scheming Mind
Beware of anger! Despair paired with anger can get the mind moving in a dangerous direction. We may feel flooded with thoughts like, “Punch the wall!” “Get drunk!” “Cut myself.” “Bang my head.” Unfortunately, with poor coping skills and ego strengths, not enough or the right kind of support, we can act these thoughts out and make them a reality. Some people then learn that after they commit one of these aggressive acts they feel a temporary sense of relief. Some report that the emotional pain was too great and they had to turn it into physical pain. Some people imagine that if they do one of these things that it will bring help. Some people think that if they do one of these things they will teach the other person a lesson and make them sorry. These things rarely come true and the person who has commit the aggressive act then just feels bad about doing it.
If you are having an urge to act out in a physically aggressive manner, take a breath. If your fist is already clenched or you have taken Jack out of the liquor cabinet, or picked up a sharp object, stop and breathe. Validate, “I am in so much pain.” Breathe, cry, breathe. Did I mention, BREATHE! Consider your options. Taking a shower or bath may take you to a new emotional experience. You may still be crying, but we are looking for a reduction in your physical tension so that you can release the urge to do something aggressive. Get outside, even if it’s cold. Get some fresh air to fill your lungs.
How Feelings Get Even More Complicated
Notice that there might be things in the past that are making your feelings so much stronger in this moment. Maybe you had hard experiences as a child. Maybe a parent drank too much and was emotionally too unavailable to notice or help you feel better. Maybe a parent abandoned you and you always wished or begged that they would just come back and help you and love you. If these are things you have suffered, and they keep reappearing in your present day pain, now is the time to seek support through counseling, or at least through sharing the experience with a loved one who is either a support to you or who triggers these feelings in you but is a place to hear from you about it.
Maybe you have had two traumas that are similar and this one is unearthing the previous one. Even doing a little bit of work with a professional on this can help improve your coping skills and mindset, so that when a painful experience comes, you are better equipped to manage it.
Things You May Not Have Learned In Childhood
If you had a parent or other role models who fueled your worries or were not able to help you settle your worries down, then you may not have learned effective coping skills or developed good ego strengths. It’s not too late to start learning and practicing through self-help books, a mentor or a professional counselor.
I know, this is a really tough one to swallow. Personally, I wish I would never have to experience deep pain, ever again. [BIG HUG] That just might not be the case. There can be many lessons in our pain; how to cope with hard things so we can help others, how to prevent what might be preventable next time, truths learned about who has your back, the experience of having weathered a bad storm and still be standing, lessons about where you pulled your strength from, how your faith comforts and guides you, and so much more.
All that said, maybe you still feel like you have no one available in your exact dark moment of despair. It could be late at night, or you haven’t allowed yourself to reach out to someone, your key people couldn’t be reached, or for any other reason you are still feeling alone. There are numbers you can call and I will note them down a little farther, but you can cry out to God. He is always there for you to cry out to and talk to. There are many verses that share the promise that God is always with you and wants good for you. Click here for one link. Google term like, “Verses about God’s love.” “Verses about comfort.” …etc.
Things To Remember
The more you practice something, the better you get at it. In an experience where you wanted to flee, or hit something, and you do not do that, you learn something about yourself and you can take that lesson into your next experience.
You are strong!
You are loved!
You are human and you have deep and strong feelings!
Whether you know it and believe it or not, you were created by a God who made you on purpose and who has a purpose for your life. He wants good for you and He is with you always, even if you don’t see Him, hear Him or feel Him.
If you are suffering, seek support. You are worth it! No matter what you are feeling right now, know that your life is precious and you deserve to have loving arms wrapped around you. Be bold. Be persistent. Don’t stop until you connect with people with love, care and concern for you.
Check these resources;
Samaritans Hotline – You can call and you can chat at this link 24 hours/day.
National Alliance on Mental Illness
One thought on “When You Feel Deep Despair”
Well written and wonderful practical ideas. Thank you
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