The Dark Days Ahead

In March, when the Coronavirus came to New Jersey, we were heading toward Spring. The weather was mild. The days were getting longer. We were slowly shedding layers and heading outdoors. There was a sliver of light at the end of the tunnel.

But now, as the Next Wave approaches, we are about to head back underground. It’s Halloween eve. It’s already snowing in North Jersey. There are 4 days til Election Day. And tomorrow we set the clocks back an hour. The days will immediately get shorter. The world may quickly get scarier due to the unstable political climate.

I feel like I’m heading back into the darkness. And this time, there will be no light in sight for months. It will feel like I’m suffocating. I’ll be surrounded by chill and damp, unable to escape the cave walls closing in around me. There will be no way to turn around. I will have no choice but to move forward. No choice but to keep going, until I see that sliver of light.

I have written before about depression as a dragon. That dragon lives right here, in this cave system, this limestone labyrinth. He’s big, and clumsy, and doesn’t move quickly. But he’s lying there, waiting for me to take a wrong turn.

I might not come across him at all. I might make it through without ever hearing him slither against the walls. I might never see his fire-breath ahead of me, and mistake it for the light at the end. But just in case I do, I have to be ready for battle.

Mostly everyone I know is dealing with some sort of situational anxiety and/or depression right now. Folks with clinical diagnoses are having a much harder time. Those of us who have suffered from seasonal depression in the past must prepare ourselves, now. We must arm ourselves.

And how can we do that?

  • Make appointments with physical and mental health care providers, now. We can’t put it off any longer.
  • Make any necessary adjustments to medications, now.
  • Make healthy shopping lists. Buy as many fresh foods as possible. Try to limit the number of prepared foods.
  • Limit (or eliminate) intake of caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, non-prescribed drugs.
  • Wake up with the sunrise to get as much daylight as possible.
  • Get outside every day. Take a walk. Or just stand outside the door and turn your face up to the sun. Even if it’s behind a cloud.
  • Move around. Exercise. Turn on some music and dance.
  • Sing. Loudly. Belt out some power ballads to extend the breath.
  • Unplug from all devices for at least a while every day.
  • Read. Listen to audiobooks. Learn something new.
  • Create something. Write, doodle, sketch, sculpt, build, make music.
  • Clean out a drawer, a closet, paint a wall.
  • Practice gratitude for the smallest of things which are actually the biggest of things; your heartbeat, your breath, your mind and your spirit.
  • Reach out to others, on social media, with texts, with phone calls, with a handwritten letter, with silly memes.
  • Find a cause to support, a place to volunteer. Be of service to someone else.
  • Continue to make meaningful human connections.

We are heading into the darkness of the cave. But we’ll all be in there together. May we all be properly armed, and ready to do battle. For ourselves. For each other. For the light.

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