"Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortals ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore!”
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!” –
Merely this and nothing more.” – Edgar Allan Poe, The Raven, 1845
Yet in the darkness, there is something…
Boo! Happy Halloween month!
Let’s talk about accountability and the community, our theme this month at LYF!
Once I made the journey to the highest plateau Red Rock Canyon’s Calico Basin had to offer, I thought a lot about the ideas of fate and destiny on the way back down. Not only did I think a lot about the person I had become over tortured years spent running in aimless circles of self-loathing thoughts and actions, but I began to think a lot about the community around me.
My community. The people who may have loved me even if I never saw them.
Depression can be a blinding illness, yet when the fog clears, we must be prepared to examine what is left, and more importantly, we must be prepared to pick up the pieces.
After my hike through Calico Basin, I spent much of that year searching the corridors of mind for an answer to a question I wasn’t sure if I had the answer to: What comes next?
I would spend much of the following summer writing a novel called The Pagoda exploring that question.
When the dark clouds in your mind drift away, and the warm sun is shining once more, what do you do? There was one answer that came with the passage of time, one that I didn’t want to deal with, but realized was too necessary to avoid for too long.
The element of accountability is an all too often skipped element of the journey towards self-love, and better mental health in general.
A quick Google search will yield more questions than answers on the topic of personal accountability. Personal accountability? Instead you’ll find fiscal responsibility. Search personal accountability and mental health? You will likely be overwhelmed by the amount of ultimately useless opinion pieces that provide no real answers.
So what about the rest of us? What about those people who have made the decision to seek help, to become someone stronger, and most importantly, someone who recognizes their own importance?
Begin by soul searching, and auditing yourself.
Sometimes the best way to take stock of a situation, is to perform an audit.
An audit is something that professional writers perform, when developing content strategy for future plans. An audit will collect and catalogue every little functioning part of something, be it a writer’s portfolio, or an entire organization. Learning to audit myself was a crucial first step on the journey.
Examine yourself. What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? Vulnerability is good here, so be honest. In my darkest moments, I could honestly say that I hated myself, hated the person I was, and who I was becoming. Here are some steps that I took to change that:
Speak your truth out loud: I had to say this out loud many times before I could move on
Write about your experience: write often and as frequently as possible
Write it all and write it honestly: I journaled extensively during my bouts with depression
Create lists: List everything you like about yourself and everything others like about you
Enjoy self-expression through free-writing sessions: Write everything! I wrote everything that came to mind during these late night sessions to catalogue my thoughts and so should you!
It was a gradual realization, but once I realized that I could not continue down that path, I found that I needed to wrestle with those demons, and those metaphorical voices in my head.
And with my journal and my personal audit, the stage was set for the next part of the battle.
Acceptance is difficult, but asking forgiveness is harder.
I recall reading about the twelve steps for Alcoholics Anonymous in a Stephen King novel, and steps eight and nine came to mind when I began thinking about this, even though I have never had a substance abuse problem.
Step eight: Make a list of all of those you have hurt
Step nine: Call the people you’ve hurt and make amends
This part of personal accountability is the messiest, and the most subjective. Better accountability, for you, may be making amends with yourself, yet for some of us this is more complicated.
I did not learn this lesson until fairly recently myself, despite having begun my journey years ago.
Recognizing a helping hand when it is there.
There was one person, in particular, who continually reached out as I began to spiral back into a mentally dark place. In moments of depression, of self-loathing hatred that I tried to shed like dead skin, a friend continued to appear to check up on me, the only ray of light in a quickening darkness that seemed impenetrable, and always growing darker.
The depression passed, as it always inevitably does, and I realized in the clarity that followed that there were, in fact, people around me who cared about me, even if my mind told me otherwise. Like the protagonist of my novel, in those moments, I felt alone in a room full of people. And every room had this bluish tinge that never seemed to fade: A blue room for a blue mind.
I reached out to my friend, and I opened up in a serious and sincere way for the first time to anyone, and I was lucky enough to find that she was receptive, and willing to forgive me.
In my personal audit, I realized that when a depressed mood washed over me, I became outwardly hostile, harsh, and oftentimes no one someone would want to be around, with every spoken word shelled in hollow angry tones. I seemed bitter, and angry, even though internally I was the farthest thing from it.
Yet when she forgave me, I felt like weeping openly. She would go on to become something of a mentor, guiding me toward therapy, and helping me to see the value of myself and what I had to give to the world.
Whether only to yourself, or to those around you, personal accountability begins with acceptance.
While the journey toward self-love is one that will last for the rest of your life, with many twists, turns, and occasionally back-tracking, there is one important final step for what we call the first phase: seeking help.
Seeking help when you feel all alone.
While I have written here about being privileged and lucky enough to have someone who did not give up on me, I know also what it means to be alone. It likely took me two really bad bouts with depression to understand what it means to truly make amends because during my first serious bout, just after my Grandfather’s death in 2016, I was alone and did not really have anyone in that time of struggle. So then, the question becomes, what would I have done in that moment, and what should you do if there is no one around when you find yourself wanting to make amends to yourself?
If you need professional help, it is important to reach out.
Find mental health resources in your area. Therapy is the best start, yet this can be cost prohibitive for many, especially now in the uncertainty of 2020, and the looming election cannot be making the strain on mental health services any lighter. Yet one thing that both Google and social media can be tremendous with is finding support groups, and making real connections with real people who may be going through the same thing.
The Love Yourself Foundation, promotes self-love practices, and consistently provides content that promotes these practices. Art has always been a central means of that expression.
In the days following that revelation of reaching out, I found myself writing extensively about those dark moments as viewed from the other side. One piece that stood out more than others was a poem I simply titled Anger. I usually dated my work, but for some reason, the only thing I wrote was “5:49pm on a Monday” in the upper righthand corner. Perhaps some part of me didn’t want to remember.
Yet the final stanzas of this poem are more abrupt, and more striking now than what I remembered writing a couple of years ago, lines I want to end with now:
There’s help somewhere out there, past the seas of despair,
I just have to reach out, and other hands will grab me that have always been there,
I will seek the help I need,
And no longer will I plead,
And perhaps there will come a day,
When the world will see me in a new way.
There is help out there now. The sun is still shining. Just reach out. This is your moment, do not let anyone, especially those dastardly voices in the back of your mind, take it from you.
About the Author
Originally from New Jersey, Shane moved to Las Vegas to start his college career. He has now entered his last semester at UNLV and will be receiving a Bachelor's Degree in English and Professional Writing. Shane has also obtained an Associates Degree in Criminal Justice (with high honors), and has written several novels, two of which have been published.