Feeling Powerful: Pulling Yourself From the Dark Place

August 06, 2009


When I was a kid I was pretty generally terrified. I would lie awake in my bed, night after night, tensely alert because I was sure that if my eyes closed even for a second something terrible would happen. I was afraid of the things that people were capable of doing when no one was looking, when the lights were out, when every one else was sleeping. I had the ability to dwell on these fears for an alarmingly long period of time, seeing only the scariest aspects of life around me, completely unable to find anything good or shiny or beautiful anywhere.


This morning I woke up crying, jolted out of sleep by the type of dream that is horrible and ends with you staring at your own face in the mirror assessing the depth of the damage. The type of dream that is so real and painful that you experience a dead calm spread over your body, as your brain switches to autopilot. When I woke up I was shaking and crying and C’s eyes were wide open. I think she had been watching me tremble in my sleep, because she seemed unfazed by my sudden movement.

It was one of those mornings that progressed as if I was still in the dream. Turn on the TV: three girls gunned down in Pittsburgh. Turned off the TV: I crumbled as I kept reliving the dream that I could not shake.

But, I am not a child anymore, and I can choose not to be afraid today. I can choose to brush the dark cobwebs from my brain and look around to notice the beautiful things around me. C as she rubs my forehead when I’m scared. FindingĀ Operation Beautiful. Seeing my sisters. My delicious cup of coffee.

Guide to Pulling Yourself Out of the Dark Place:

  1. Put on some music. Jump up and down. Look stupid. Bonus points if you pick up a hula hoop and rock out. It is nearly scientific fact that people are unable to frown while hula hooping.
  2. Dress up fancy and go somewhere mundane. Accept compliments. Smile. Take pictures!
  3. Sit down and start writing. Write about every single last thing that you are panicking about, no matter how small. Get it out of your body and onto a page. (Also works if you find someone that you love and trust and use them as a sounding board to do this verbally. Especially helpful if it is someone who really knows you, as they can help you by telling you those things that are absurd and out of your control and you should stop thinking about immediately.)
  4. Go to the bank and get some two-dollar bills. Pass them out as you buy things and watch the look on the cashier’s face.
  5. Turn on something hilarious or fantasy-based on TV or pick up a book. Take yourself out of your head and relax for a few minutes. Maybe by the time the program/reading session is over, you will be able to more clearly process your feelings.
  6. Go for a walk down the street. Smile at strangers. Try on silly sunglasses. Take your sweetheart out for pastries and coffee. Give the street performers a dollar. Go out and actively pursue something that is joyful and fun, chances are when you return home, you won’t even remember initially being in a funk.
  7. Call a best friend and ask about THEIR day. Have them distract you from your life with tales about theirs. You will feel good by just reaching out and making time for/the space to listen to someone that you really care about.
  8. Go to the bank and get some two-dollar bills. Pass them out as you buy things and watch the look on the cashier’s face.
  9. Get in your car and drive somewhere you’ve never been before. Take some time to explore. Buy yourself a milkshake on the way home to celebrate your adventure.
  10. Go to your favorite restaurant and order your favorite meal. Eat it slowly and savor the taste. Allow yourself to be comforted by the familiarity of the experience.

What do you do to cheer yourself up??