a list to combat darkness

there’s a new song on repeat in my world. it isn’t a new song, only new to me, an old gospel tune sung in duet a capella that’s too pretty and in too high a range for me to sing along, but there’s a voice inside the center of my chest that sings notes beyond the range that my vocal chords can sing and that voice sings with every song.

i didn’t find this song, it was sent to me on a cd mixed especially for me in a package with fancy tea from ithaca, new york. i didn’t open the package when it first arrived. the package sat on my desk (which is half of the dining room table, a table that is never used for eating because i stand at the kitchen sink or counter when i eat) while i wrote letters and journal entries and stories no one will read (because i already burned them) and i wondered what the package contained and why i was waiting to open it. i finally opened the package two nights later before i rushed out the door, late to leave for somewhere. i first noticed the tea and realized i’d need to buy a tea infuser to drink this gift. i opened the cd case, looking for a song list. there wasn’t one. i set the cd aside for another two days.

two days ago i played the cd while i was writing at my dining room table-desk. i heard several songs i liked and several that reminded me of the one who mixed the cd for me. the next to the last track is the song i’ve been playing on repeat. the next to the last track is where i would place my best self if i were mixing the soundtrack of all versions of me that i’ve shifted and changed in the past eleven months.

a few days ago i watched myself plummet from a precariously okayish place to the darkest and most shameful (which quickly becomes suicidal) pit. as i was falling from okayishness to shame i detoured into heavy drinking, trying to obliterate my consciousness. it worked, if such a thing as blackout drinking could possibly be a workable solution to anything. i mean, i did lose a few hours of everything i said (and i’m certain some of the things i said were offensive, because i think offensive things on a semi-regular basis and in a blackout i can’t censor or remember), but i stopped rather than continuing drinking that night and that meant my consciousness returned and my shame had increased because blackout drinking is yet another shame-trigger in my addict-laden world and i got into a fight that i can’t remember how it started or what it was about and the next day i wanted to die. i hung out in the darkness for a day. i made myself sit still and felt the shame without acting on it. i found the next to the last track on the cd mixed especially for me the day after i wanted to die but didn’t kill myself. that song has been playing on repeat ever since.

i have an accelerated shame-to-suicidal-thoughts advancement. i can trust the space between my suicidal thoughts and suicidal action enough to know that i’m not going to off myself. instead, suicidal thoughts are my cue that my shame has reached intolerable levels and that i need better support, coping mechanisms, and protection from situations where shame is triggered (at least until i can actually heal shame). most of us probably need better support, coping mechanisms, and protection from situations where shame is triggered, which is why i’m telling you this story. i’m only at the beginning of making a list of things that might help, but here’s what i’ve got so far…
1. speak up as soon as you realize you’re in a shame-triggering environment.
2. exit the shame-triggering environment immediately.
(yeah, yeah, i know an intimate thanksgiving dinner party is a rather inopportune time to speak up or leave a situation, but trust me, it’s gonna be less awkward than the blackout drinking and ensuing offensiveness and fighting if you stay and don’t speak up.)
3. as much as you want to erase yourself and escape your present circumstances with blackout drinking, don’t. please don’t.
4. call for support AHORITA (that means faster than right now, an immediacy we can’t translate into english). call someone you trust and get the fuck out of there, pronto.
(yes, i know that #4 seems a lot like a combination of #1 and #2, but if you’re still reading the list, you probably didn’t do #1 or #2 which is why #4 advises you again to do it now.)
5. don’t kill yourself.
6. listen to a song on repeat that softens the edges of harsh feelings and wait for a better feeling to arrive.
7. when a better feeling arrives you can start listening to some of the things your mind is telling you but only to some of them. do not trust what shame says. do not trust your self-destructive impulses. do not trust your suicidal tendencies. wait for a better feeling state before you begin trusting anything your mind says.
8. take a nap.
9. walk outside. breathe fresh air. feel the sunshine or the wind or the rain or the snow or whatever weather is happening outside. go outside. take a walk. breathe fresh air.
10. write, yell, dance, scream, cry, paint, run, bake, take a bath, break glass, punch the heavy bag, play the guitar, do whatever makes you feel alive.
11. you’re gonna be okay. you’re already okayish again now.

p.s. i hope you never need this list. but if you do, i hope you remember to use it.

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About angel joy

love is an action verb. i live love in action.
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