At my office only the senior management team have the power to lock up the building at the end of the night. This means once they leave, you leave. One night I was working late and there was only one manager left in the building. Unfortunately he didn't realise I was still in the office and when he left I happened to be in the bathroom.
I was washing my hands when suddenly everything went black. I started to panic as I realised that he must have locked up and I had about 2 seconds to get to the front door before the alarm went off. I went to open the door and it wouldn't open. I tried again. It still wouldn't open.
My first thought was 'I didn't know that locking the building locked all the internal doors as well.' My panic mounted as I contemplated a night spent locked in my work bathroom. Toilet-germs everywhere. No phone, nothing to do. No pillow or blanket. I felt like I was in the opening scene of a horror film, as I tried not to imagine an invisible hand reaching out to grab my ankle.
My second thought was 'Hold on. This is a bathroom. I locked the door.'
Setting the trap
This is a classic Casey Murray move. Sometimes I just get so stuck in the darkness that I forget that I locked myself in. Experience tells me I'm not the only one with this unfortunate habit. We unknowingly wander into the crap because hey, that's part of life. Then we lock ourselves in and when everything goes dark we look up and say 'why have you trapped me in here?!?!'
My default response is to accept defeat, curl into a ball and barricade the door with my own negative self talk. 'I'm single' becomes 'NO-ONE WILL EVER LOVE ME!' 'I'm having a bad hair day' becomes 'I'M THE UGLIEST GIRL IN THE ENTIRE WORLD.' 'I slightly over-cooked those cookies' becomes 'I'M GOING TO BE A TERRIBLE MOTHER.' I let life buffet me around and forget that I can actually do something.
I think it starts with being honest. We are human, we feel pain, disappointment, heartbreak, loss, betrayal. There's not a lot of point in pretending otherwise. We can try bottling it up, but at some point we end up looking back on our bad decisions and unhealthy relationships and wonder what it was that sucked all the joy out of life.
Sometimes it's so much easier to escape. There are a million and one vices these days that will claim to take the pain away. Chocolate and trashy reality TV are my personal favourites. I can sink into nothingness for hours and pretend that I don't have to do life. But life is always there waiting for me, and the reality is the more I try to ignore it the more it will trap me.
Acknowledging how your feeling is important, but I also think step two is important. Take responsibility for your life. I wish it was as simple as just flicking a lock and turning a handle. It can be a frustratingly long process and everyone is different. But at some point you are going to have to get the ball rolling and let yourself actually live again. Unfortunately being a grown-up means we can't just stop at 'I feel xyz because of abc.' We actually need to find a way to work through it. Not hide it and hope it goes away. Actually deal with it head-on.
For me, step two started with counselling. After spending two and a half years firmly locked in the darkness, I eventually reached out towards that lock. I will admit, that first session didn't automatically change my life. It wasn't the magic kiss that made everything better. But that day I took a stand. That day I decided I didn't want to be locked in the darkness forever. I didn't come away suddenly feeling like everything was sunshine and rainbows, but I did come away from it feeling empowered. Casey was back.
Somewhere in there I also experimented with this whole letting God in thing. At first all I had to say was 'ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! What are you doing to me!' I'll be honest, I didn't want to bring my burdens before God. Part of me felt like I was admitting failure, while the other part of me felt like it was God's fault that I had burdens in the first place. More than that, I didn't think this alleged 'God' that people spoke of would actually bother helping me anyway. I didn't want to sit around talking to a brick wall, re-living all my pain in the vain hope that someone out there was listening and could fix it. I just wanted God to wave his magic wand and make it all go away.
I remember repeating 'I don't want to do this' because I genuinely didn't want to. I was overwhelmed by the thought of having to actually deal with my mess. I was sitting at the bottom of crap mountain, looking up and thinking there was no way I could ever make it to the top. God didn't wipe everything out, He didn't do all the work for me, but He did pick me up off my feet and point me in the right direction. Somehow through talking/yelling/whining to Him I managed to find strength. Then eventually I found peace.
Over time, Casey has found her feet again. It took a while. At times I felt like I was picking the lock with a toothpick, but it was worth hanging in there. I'm not saying I don't occasionally take a step back through the door to dwell in the darkness. It's definitely an ongoing process. No matter who you are or how strong you away, mess has a way of finding you. But you don't have to be locked in the dark forever.
So take a stand. Give darkness the finger. It doesn't own you. You belong to someone a lot more powerful than a crusty old lock. And quite frankly He didn't make you to be locked inside the metaphorical bathroom of doom. Life will crap on your parade. It happens and it can be really, REALLY awful. But we need to learn not to lock ourselves in every time we get given a raw deal. Somehow we need to find a way to unlock that door and step through it.
It sure as heck isn't going to unlock itself.
Casey Murray works in marketing for a company that sells nail guns, where she eats large amounts of chocolate and wears pretty dresses in an attempt to avoid becoming 'one of the boys.' In her spare time she likes having inappropriate conversations with friends and writes to try and make sense of it all.
Casey Murray's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/casey-murray.html