Except that it isn’t.
It is darkest in the middle of the night, when you wake suddenly from a half remembered dream and for a few seconds you can’t see or even think coherently because you are so afraid. Then you realise that it was just a dream and you remember how to turn on the light and the fear vanishes with the click of the light switch until all that remains is a vague sense of unease.
Only I can’t wake up.
The shadows lurking behind the door and the monsters under the bed are only too real and try as I might I can’t find the light switch nor even remember where it was in the first place. I fumble around in the darkness, terrified of things that I can’t see and imagining horrors in every corner until I am paralysed with fear and all I can do is hide under the duvet and pray that morning will come soon.
It is so very dark in this nightmare world that I can’t remember the last time I truly stood in the daylight or even really recall what the sun looks like. There are times when I think I’ve glimpsed it; that maybe this time I can finally see the first fingers of light chasing the shadows away. Then I realise that it’s still the middle of the night and there are still endless hours filled with dark shapes that shift and change until my imagination runs wild and I can’t tell what is real and what fear has conjured.
Over the last few months I have come to realise that the dawn might not be coming.
I have spent so many hours and days and years in the darkness that I can no longer escape from the idea that I might never walk in the sun again.
I don’t want to live the rest of my life in darkness yet the twin shadows of guilt and shame have grown so tall that I don’t seem to be able to escape from them no matter how far or fast I run.
Guilt at being a awful mother, a useless wife, a disappointing daughter, an unreliable friend.
Shame at who I am, who I’ve become and the damage I am doing to those I love.
So much guilt.
So much shame.
Last night I broke down into huge, hyperventilating sobs, unable to work out how I was going to make it through the next few minutes with the huge weight of depression bearing down and threatening to crush me completely. I clung to the door frame in Squidge’s room, feeling my head spin with panic and my knees buckle and in that moment I just wanted it all to end.
To just stop.
For someone to just let me leave this life with all its pain and darkness.
To stop hurting.
Yet I am still here.
I am still mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend and as much as it hurts to keep living, how exhausting it is to keep fighting and how much damage I think I do to others it is nothing compared to the pain I would cause if I gave up.
By living I can at least try and reverse some of that damage.
Small steps towards redemption.
Towards the sun.
I may well have to accept that dawn isn’t coming; that maybe the best I can hope is that the darkness will fade a little and that the shadows will become a little less tall. It might not sound like much but even a little bit of light helps us to see things more clearly and maybe, just maybe, I will start to find my way towards the light.