Part Two: Into the Darkness
(To read Part One, click here)
I’m an optimist. So how can I speak of such darkness? Because to reach the light at the end of the tunnel you have to go through the tunnel.
The storm had broken at 3 in the morning. I’d lain there thinking, “What if I go insane?” In the past, a thought like this would have been fleeting, and a moment later I’d have been on to something else.
Not this time.
I suddenly had no mental trampoline to bounce back from. The more I thought about it, the more I feared it would come to pass, unless I somehow managed to stop thinking about it. A radioactive fog enfolded me. I broke out in a sweat, drenching my sheets. I ordered myself not to think about it. Over and over again. Which failed utterly, of course.
I somehow made it to 5:30. That was when The Pantry Diner opened. I stood outside waiting for Lori to unlock the door, then sat down and ordered my usual. I buried my face in a paperback, only half comprehending the words I was reading. I glanced around, wondering if the regulars could tell I was insane. I made a feeble effort at humor with my server. She smiled. Good, no weird looks, I thought. I’m not totally crazy…yet.
My constant obsession, my mental core, was the singular thought: Maintain control at all costs. I told no one. No one must know that the old me was gone and the new me was mad—or on the verge of it.
It was exhausting not going insane. Sometimes I thought I should just let it happen. But I couldn’t. I’d go to a theater and think, What if I suddenly run into the aisle and start screaming? I’d get caught up in the movie for a bit, but then the thought would return. No! I’d shout in my head. I’m not going to do that!
Every time I drove, I’d think, What if I suddenly veer into oncoming traffic? I’d be OK with dying, but all those other people…
Fight or Flight Syndrome. I’d heard the phrase, but had no idea it could happen entirely inside a person’s head. I mean, there was nothing to fight with, nothing to flee from. Well, yes, there was Me. But you can’t run away from yourself. Can you? Not that I didn’t try. Oh, how I ached for a holiday from myself!
I finally told someone: Diane, the tall, stormy beauty from the party. We’d begun dating and had become increasingly committed. To my shock, she embraced my darkness. She had plenty of her own, she admitted, and mine made her feel less alone. I was dating Jonnie 2.o. I’d earned the right to by becoming Darren 2.0.
Then I began to think, What if I go crazy and kill Diane? I obsessed over this for months, fighting to keep the thought at bay. Finally, my voice shaking, I confessed my hideous fear to her.
She laughed out loud, and said, “Are you serious? I weigh 12 pounds more than you. I’d beat the shit out of you!”
My fear of harming her vanished in an instant. It was madly liberating. Finally! A fear I didn’t have to control!
It was my first glimpse of a light that would pierce not only my darkness, but Diane’s, as well.
But not yet.
To read Part Three: The Healing Wave, click here.