I am still here. I am still alive. I still read blog posts, and muse about comments I could leave, or topics I could also write about. But I am stuck. And I am scared. I have spent the past few months paralyzed by this fear, unable to move forward, mostly shut down, just waiting for life to be over. The thought of writing sent me into a panic. The thought of feeling energy, or spiritwork, or journeying, made me shake.
They still do. But I had a period where I started opening up, again. Tentatively stepping forward, back into the light. Slowly letting emotions in, and opening up to energy, and the thought of maybe attempting contact with Dionysus, or Ariadne, or Hades, or the unknown oceanic woman that I will write more about later.
And then the slow opening of a flower still shut tightly against the wind, became an overnight bursting forth that was too much for me. I was not reopening to the state I was in before I closed off due to a visit with my biological family and several other factors. I was reopening further. Reopening to a decade ago, when I was at my most fragile, and most vulnerable, but closest to the heart of me.
There is an essay in an anthology called Sacred Sorrows: Embracing and Transforming Depression, that I return to every time I start to descend. In an essay called “Meeting the Shadow at Mid-Life: The Changing of the Gods”, author Dr. Connie Zweig writes:
“The lowest point of the labyrinth, where the confrontation with evil takes place, proves to be a place of reversal…These moments of underworld Winter, however difficult, can open out into great depth. For the underworld is always with us, simultaneous and continuous with the upper world, offering us the depths in any moment.”
I have descended into the heart of the labyrinth multiple times, but I think there are multiple labyrinths inside oneself. They do not exist separately from one another, but in layers that spiral downwards, overlaid, one on top of the other. The heart of one is the beginning of another, and when someone reaches that heart they can either take that lesson with them and retrace their steps back into the light, or they can continue down further.
These labyrinths are misleading. It can be hard to see the gate leading down to the next deeper level, when you are rejoicing in finally reaching the end, and eager to get back out as fast as your legs can carry you.
But, sometimes, it is not about choosing to go further down. Sometimes, it is about having things stripped away from you. It is about when you open your eyes and, suddenly, you are there: naked, and lost, and aching with a hurt so deep that it leaves you bone tired and wanting nothing more than to just pass into dust.
But you cannot become dust. And so you trudge on, moving in what feels like circles in this sea of the unknown, and every little thing becomes a cause for wishing to die: accidentally burning a meal, or forgetting someone’s birthday, or feeling like nobody can possibly understand the areas you are walking, and how alone you are.
The furthest into the labyrinths I ever ventured was between 2002-2004. I was a teenager, then, and had not exactly had the smoothest childhood: a binge alcoholic father who alternated between neglecting and emotionally abusing me; a situation where financial hardship made me worry about having a place to sleep and food to eat; not knowing what was wrong with me for the continuing escalation of self-harm I was involved in starting at the age of ten.
Around that time, I made it to the center of a labyrinth, and was so overwhelmed and lost by what I found there, I tried to kill myself. I did not experience that reversal Zweig wrote about. I just landed myself in this place of festering self-loathing and feeling like a failure for not even being able to end it. I did not deserve death. I deserved the constant drudging pain that life brought me. Eventually, I closed off emotionally. Eventually, I was just a ghost passing through.
Things got better when Z came along and suddenly gave everything context and meaning, and I began to learn that who I am is not only okay, but sacred and worthy of love. But joining with him did not erase everything prior. In fact, it suddenly made everything very hard, and very painful. That is what healing is.
But, eventually, I learned what “happy” meant. And, eventually, I saw that even a life full of pain and hardship is worth it, when it is actually being lived, and not just scraping by. Things were going well. There were ups, and there were downs, but I grew to see that I would be okay and make it through each trip downwards.
Until now. It is scary, not being able to honestly say that I will make it through this. It is scary, suddenly one day finding yourself stuck back in the exact same place you were a decade ago. It is scary knowing that the last time you were here, it culminated in almost losing your life, and never actually recovering.
But sometimes we have to go back, to move forward. We have to retrace familiar labyrinths to get to the center, so we can actually make it all the way back out again. It may take days, or months, or years. It may stir up all the inner gunk you spent years trying to hide; make old habits reappear; make improvements you had made disappear. But the only way out, is through. The only way to actual, bone-level healing, is to revisit the heart of things with a state of surrender and grace. Over, and over, and over again.
But this time, I am not alone. I do not have to do it alone. Nobody does. It may feel like it, and it may feel like there cannot possibly be anyone out there who can relate to the pain you are feeling, or anyone out there who could possibly love you. But that is not true. I am living proof of the saying that there are people out there who love you, whom you have just not met yet. Maybe I am even one of them. At the very least, I am here for anyone who found themselves feeling like this post was hitting too close to home. And I am just one comment away from anyone who needs it.