The Darkness Reaching Out For The Darkness

Picnic CancelledBeyond the blues, beyond the shadows, beyond the rain
Beyond the darkness and all the pain
When you’re walking in circles, with holes in your shoes
Love is the road that leads out beyond the blues

Well, it was bound to strike at some point. I had a hint of it as I was leaving Cambodia. Usually it’s a short, sinking feeling in my gut, the fear of some pending calamity (a calamity that never happens, by the way). And then it’s gone. This time was no different. As I walked across the border from Poipet to Aranya Prathat in Thailand my heart skipped a beat, a short-lived hole opened up and in blew a cold Canadian Norther.

I knew what was coming.

It usually strikes within a week. It’s awful. I walk around with a huge burden, inescapable, all consuming and nothing makes it go away. Sometimes I feel like I am walking around with an anvil in my guts. At others, it’s just a throbbing sorrow. I can’t look people in the eyes. I walk around, if I walk around at all, in a kind of daze. I lose all patience. I get angry easily. I stuff it all deeper inside. I stop writing. I don’t talk. All I do is sit and think and think and think. Believe me I’ve tried everything to rid myself of it: alcohol, drugs (prescription or otherwise–one humorous side note, opium works quite well actually, but that’s not really a practical option is it?), anti-depressants, exercise, work, travel, therapy, you name it. The darkness comes when it comes . . .

It struck a few days ago. It’s proximate cause was my ex-wife–something I may or may not discuss at another time. But I’m in deep now. The urge is to just stay in my hotel room, huddle up, read a book, watch TV, watch my iPod, but under no circumstances go out, meet people, see things, do stuff. It’s especially scary right now because I’m traveling and the last thing I need is to try and work myself out of this. It’s pointless anyway, as the only cure I know is time. I had this whole big journal entry on what I was going to blog when it hit, but of course, I forgot my journal in my hotel room. (That’s another symptom: I get forgetful.)

The reason I write this is twofold: one, it’s raining and doing anything other than sitting here writing this is just not possible. You’d understand this if you’d ever lived through a Straits rain shower. They are intense. The other reason is more pragmatic. The only thing I’ve ever found that even remotely helps, other than sighing, and oddly enough, listening to “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones, is to talk about it. Hiding it is the absolute worst thing in the world to do. It makes it worse, prolongs it, or at least it seems to.

How long will it last? I don’t know. I’m about three or four days in. Sometimes it’s gone in 24 hours. Other times it lasts a few days or a week. If I’m lucky it’ll be gone in a day or two. But there have been two prolonged, longer-than-a-year-bouts that exacted steep personal prices. Once in my early twenties and another the year before last. I’ll write about the last one sometime soon. I’m just not sure yet how much I want to reveal.

Until then, all I can say is that I am grateful. I know that may sound perverse, but I wouldn’t trade my life for any other. I wouldn’t trade my afflictions or decisions for something easier or softer. It’s my life, and in spite of the ‘darkness reaching out for the darkness’ as I call it, it’s a good life.

The rain has passed, as it always does. And this will too. In the meantime I’m going to go walk out in the sun, feel the heat on my skin and shade my eyes from the glare. I’m alive, after all, might as well act like it.

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Sean Paul Kelley

Traveler of the (real) Silk Road, scholar and historian, photographer and writer - founder of The Agonist.

13 CommentsLeave a comment

  • it could be worse, you could be here in blizzard land!

    “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you’ve imagined.” -Henry David Thoreau

  • … but have you tried jacking off?

    Just kidding.

    Consider the possibility that space you find is appropriate in the current climate. That those whistling along without a care in the world live in a deluded state.

    I know it feels bad, but sometimes embracing pain is the best way to overcome it, or at least to understand it.

    I remember feeling a dark, oppressive mood as I wrote a diary entry. A few days later, I learned that our friend Rick had died that day, perhaps as I wrote.

    Someone somewhere is in pain, suffering, alone, perhaps hungry, freezing, certainly in far worse shape than you. Do you feel their cry, hear their prayer? Maybe there’s a real reason you feel what you feel.

    And then again, perhaps not. But I wouldn’t dimsiss the possibility out of hand.

    I did inhale.

  • “Is not our first thought to go on the road? The road is our source, our vault of treasures, our wealth. Only on the road does the ‘traveller’ feel like himself, at home.”
    Ryszard Kapuscinski

  • I remember telling another farmer I had trouble sleeping on full moon nights. His reply: you’re not working hard enough.

    Of course I dismissed this. Then I got into a stretch where I was in fact working myself into a state of exhaustion each and every day, and guess what? I slept like a baby.

    You come from a line of people that worked hard with their hands, each and every day. Evolution can’t keep pace with the changes our society has undergone.

    Find a farmer. Hoe some weeds. Harvest some rice. Hire on to a construction job for a couple of days.

    Better than any pill for an ailing spirit.

    I did inhale.

  • Personally i find that my mood turns on a dime the day of the summer solstice. A very hardcore switch, i have consciously felt it flip 2 years in a row now. However that means the winter solstice brings the bounce back. This time around I have more connections with the sorts of people that like to commemorate winter solstice – there is a very profound reason that it’s a big deal for people.

    Soo… go find out what they do in the more eclectic sectors of SE asia for that gig! Sounds like you are now in one of the more interesting zones of the world, I would have a hard time being bored now… especially since it’s super cheap 😀

  • Maybe a year ago, there was a medical study that showed that consistent activity during the day was one thing that would actually help people with chronic depression. Of course, it sounded contradictory. Depressed people want to curl up into a ball in the darkness and interact with nobody (I know because several people in my household, not counting others in extended family, suffer from depression). But to the extent the individual could force themselves into activity, even if it meant little or no interaction with others, their depression lifted sooner.

  • Major turns in the financial markets tend to cluster within a few days of solstices and equinoxes. For example, the recent plunge in the stock market bottomed on September 18.

  • were probably designed for winter hibernation, summer mania. hard work the farm and herds six to eight months of the year then go to the stone hut, curl up in the animal skins, stoke the peat fire and wake me in spring. mr. edison brought the summer mania 24/7/365 and some of us don’t fare so well when the lights never go out. that’s why they do it in torture cells. all light or all dark. so the genes take over. add the contemplative poet that sees all the suffering and as they say to houston, we’ve got a problem.
    myself, i like high altitude nepal this time of year. walk in. carry your own pack. no 60 cycle hum. no cars, no electricity. a dark that let’s you walk at night by starlight and a day where the center of the sky is black, it’s so blue. and a light that taught the buddhists about clarity. look for the emptiness in that dream of sadness. and enjoy that up post boat ride.

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