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Going Dark - Mental health awareness


Before our family walked through the fire of what can only be described as an 'annus horribilis' in 2020, we were very open about who we were and the different health issues we were dealing with. We were unafraid to tell people what was happening in our lives and what we were going through. Truth be told, amongst the, "Oh, I'm so sorry" and the "Ag shame!" comments which I'm sure, were very sincere for the most part, people were really not that interested. The adage being that everyone is 'dealing with their own stuff.' Everyone has a story to tell and 'stuff' that they are walking through. That's what I used to tell myself. That's how I would reason different responses and attitudes. It's different now. The truth is, as terse and as blunt as it sounds, most people simply don't care. People get tired of hearing that your family is struggling. They get tired of your, 'drama'. (If you can call autoimmune diseases and terminal illness, 'drama'...) They get tired of what they consider as, your 'negativity'.

 

Please understand that we are a very positive family. But we don't sugar coat things and we don't pretend. We laugh a lot and value each other’s company. We check on each regularly and we find the humour in just about everything! We are a family that has learned the value of acceptance, non-judgement, forgiveness and understanding. We have learnt these things the hard way. So, when we find people who actually see us for who we are, who are neither intimidated or put off by the rawness of who we are, we generally welcome them into our home and into our lives.

 

We have learnt what matters in our lives. We have learnt who matters. We have learnt that people will perceive different situations from theirs or their children's perspectives negating the facts and making a judgment based purely on their limited, prejudiced and source-lacking perspectives. This is okay because, people are human. But we have learnt that going dark, allows us to figure stuff out as a family. It allows us to gain perspective without outside influences. It allows us to come to grips with our own reasoning, judgements and insecurities. This in turn allows us the space to let go of what we don't need to hold onto and take what is left and to learn.

 

So, what do I mean? What does it mean for our family to go dark? The dictionary has the following explanation:

 

go dark.

 

idiom


to stop all activities or communication, especially temporarily but for a fairly long period:

Theatres have gone dark, and arts groups have disbanded.

Two of the company's factories will go dark by mid-December.

In the wake of the attacks, TV networks went dark.

The campaign had to go dark in August to save money for a flurry of ads to run just before the debates.

 

(of a spy or secret agent) to stop communicating for a period of time with the people you are secretly working for:

She was undercover and thought the gang were onto her, so she went dark.

 

Our explanation is that when we go dark, we close ranks. We are the secret agents safeguarding our family. We shut out, shut off and close the door on everything that we do not have the capacity to hold. That means, people, situations, events, friends and or family. We become insular and protective. We hide in order to heal, we cocoon, until such time that we feel we can immerge and continue our healing in the open.

 

It is in these moments and situations that we have found out who our true friends are. The people who notice. The people who check in. The people who show patience and tolerance. Those who don't ask a myriad of questions or try to insert themselves into our lives. Those who help from a distance or from close up without us having to explain anything or think of what to ask for. These are the people who know... they know because they have walked through the fire themselves and they understand where we are at.

 

To some, this may seem a little extreme but, after COVID hit in 2020, our lives changed drastically. Little did we realize what we would have to endure over the next three years. I learnt some hard lessons over that time and those lessons changed who I am. They changed our family dynamic, and they changed the relationship between us all... for the better.

 

I no longer share as openly as I once did. I no longer willingly allow myself to be vulnerable with people who seem kind but in retrospect, are not. I have learned to trust my intuition. I have learned to listen to that small whisper, my inner voice and to pay attention. I no longer give airtime to the judgement and condemnation that is doled out with very little consequence or reasoning. I no longer tolerate backhanded, passive aggressive comments or attempts to minimize who I am. I am protective - more so now than ever before; I am selective about who I spend my time with and in whom I will confide.

 

In going dark, we have learned to put boundaries in place. We have learned to safeguard our mental health and walk alongside each other as we navigate new and sometimes scary situations. We have a team of experts who have rallied around our family to ensure that we have the resources and channels to work through some of the more harrowing things we have had to endure. We have learned to have open and honest communication without being offended. We have learned to listen. To really listen, without trying to justify or solve anything but rather, we have learned to listen in order to understand. In short, we have done and continue to do the work!


Going dark may not be for everybody, but for us, it truly has been a lifesaver - in the very true sense of the word. Had we not learned these lessons, had we not done the work, I fear that some of us would not be here today. So, please, do what you need to do to ensure the mental safety of your family. Be vigilant in breaking toxic and outdated cycles that cause more harm than good; Communicate with honesty and love; Listen. Not to reply but rather, listen to understand. Give each other your time without conditions or 'quid pro quos', no 'tit for tats', just a safe space to be together. And lastly, don't ever think that you are finished growing, that you are finished learning. This, in itself will keep you humble.

 

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