The Shadow Self

The shadow self lies under the surface, and I hope it isn’t real. It seems to go away when I feel the burn of whiskey on my lips. It’s the pain-experiencing part of me. It’s grief, it’s unresolved, and untidy. It’s honest about my limits.

My shadow self, with all its curling around bruises. Protecting it’s comforts like a precious ring. I despise it’s weakness. I can’t carry the dead weight. If I have to claim it as my own, I’d rather die. Something inside give an ultimatum. The parts of myself are ripping me in halves. One the golden darling, and the other running to the slop. “Why can’t I…” Blame. “How am I still…” Impatience. In the old place, the old familiar smash against my built up self. Cut off at the knees, just as the letter said that I wrote to myself 15 years ago.

I’m still here. Shadow is here too.

Limited, crippled and small.

Grieving, hurting, hope deferred.

What purpose does my shadow self serve? How does it serve me in showing up now?

It reminds me to look at the pain- not letting it get to stage 4. It calls it like it is- not receding into blind optimism. It helps me show up. Even in my weakness. Boundaries, limits, values based, diligent, self compassion. Telling my ambition, “Hush.”

Light and Easy

Written on a dark COVID day. By Morgan Myers, LPC

Light and easy

Simple and fine

Come out with me

The glory is mine.

Even on a bad day

All the pain stings

Pressing heel to the ground

The lightness is brings.

What happened to the ache

that settled in there?

Landlocked and muddy

to birds of the air.

What seemed sown on

A ring in my skin

was marring my back

and tattooing in.

What do I carry?

I’ve lost count now.

Assuming it’s mine

I throw on the pile.

Hunching over

pulling apart

Ripping the seams

I get a new start.

Eyelids are lifting,

spine’s column can flex

Glorious light foot

A hopeful deep breath.

Walk with me

We aren’t workhorses- measured for the size of our burden-bearing muscles.

We aren’t bred for our usefulness.

We aren’t bred at all.

We are dropped into the landscape.

Without the aid of our agency.

For the sheer pleasure we bring.

This is not a means.

This is the end in itself.

Kissing in place of breeding.

Strolling in place of striving.

Pleasure in place of purpose.

We are beauty-makers. It is good.

We are beauty-bearers. And it is good.

In our being, it is good.

In our being is our doing.

Walk with me in the wide and narrow path.

Mindful walking and on-going.

In all our created ness and our limits,

All is well.

Regeneration

As my heat tolerant beauties become shriveled and dead to the stem, to the ground, I feel a sense of loss. Or it might be more like a donation has been made to a good cause. There’s an empty spot to take it’s place. It’s not a failure- it’s a benevolence.

The time had come for ice to form where life once flowed. To freeze it in it’s place and then wilt it as if to say, “Nothing to see here- I’ve gone to a better place.” The life retreats to its roots where it will bud again. We don’t like this kind of visible decay. It is a sign of age and change.

We all fear change. As a signal of our possible past failure, or potential failures to adapt now. But we need to see we have no part in that change and we can sit back and see the beauty in it. Or how about the “spectacle” of it. We need to not blame ourselves for some lack of longevity. We need to not cling to bare branches like an expired vase of flowers with brown water at the base, the petals gone.

We need to see the regeneration of life! And the beauty of the next crop often greener and fuller. We know now what little we can do to create regeneration.

Even in the Darkness

By Morgan Myers

Depression is a dark, wet blanket that pulls everything down to below status quo. It paints everything in grayscale. It’s a deep hole that is sometimes impossible to climb out of. It can go on for days, weeks or months. For me it’s usually months. I have memories of losing interest in virtually everything in life. I sit and let others tell me what I’m obligated to do. I wait for my child to cry to signal me to any sort of action. I let my boss get irritated at my lack of activity before I get into gear. It can be completely crippling and terrifying. It grabs at my ankles as I tread the water forward. Anxiety pulls me into worried vigilance for the next shoe to drop. It may be as small as someone not responding to my text, but feels like the status of all my relationships is in jeopardy. It makes a mountain out of a mole hill in every area of life. My nervous system is wrecked. I go from manic responses to the stimuli I perceive as danger, to carelessness for everything going on around me. I feel completely trapped in these states. And when I think of my healthy self and a normal response to this life, I crumble. I realize how little bearings I have in my life. 

There is little hope to hold onto. Especially as I’ve been trained as a psychotherapist and the perspective I easily have for others vanishes when it comes to myself. I try medications to no avail, and my faith doesn’t offer me any answers. As a Christian this is a constant question. How do I go on holding onto my faith when everything feels hopeless? There have been moments when I have seen the total joy of experiencing God. For the most part, my faith has been unwavering throughout my depression experience. But I often wonder how I can hold feelings of hopelessness and hope at the same time. 

I have prayed for many years for answers and healing, and for the most part God has been silent. But He has shown up for me in different ways. I have found hope in the quiet moments. I feel God’s comfort. I remember Jesus broke down. He stopped and wept. He got worn out under the pressure. And he didn’t try to self-help his way out of it. He didn’t pray his way to a new phase of his most successful life possible. Our first reaction to pain is often, “How can I get through this?” Jesus prayed honestly, IN IT. He was present in his pain and humble in showing it to his father and his friends. He cried. He grieved. He asked to not have to go through it. But then he went through it anyway. He was disappointed but kept his faith. He went before us in all things. 

And that’s where the light breaks through for me. I have a comforter in Christ who experienced the depths of suffering and held onto his faith. And I realize faith and hopelessness in depression aren’t at odds with each other. 

Just because we have eternal hope doesn’t mean we can’t feel hopeless sometimes.

Just because we know we’re loved doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to feel unlovable sometimes.

Just because we feel dark and despairing doesn’t mean we don’t have light within us.

“Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! Even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.” (Ps 139:7-8, 12)

Christ as my comforter has always been just enough. For many years I have prayed for healing from my anxiety and depression, but I have gotten just enough. “You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Ps 56:8) The presence of God in my deep pain is my healing balm.  The crumbs of God’s mercy have been enough for me. And when I look for the light at the end of the tunnel I see he is the light in the midst of the tunnel.

Fig Leaves

Rushing through the garden

with fig leaves woven together

a privacy fence deep and muffled.

Why is everything always in need of maintenance?

The lake was a little too sticky and muddy today.

The chaos at home needs organizing

My day needs some white space.

I can’t remember what brings joy

Or maybe it’s that everything brings me “joy”

Or is that just “security” I’m feeling?

Are these fig leaves little security blankets to cover up what I’m afraid of?

A diversion from the bare brokenness.

They’re all gone now!

The leaves were taken away when they told us to stay home.

Spending our time staring into the glass at ourselves.

I only have white space now

Bare skin exposed, I have hidden in fear.

Clinging to my security, frail and dying away.

“Good Riddance!”

I let that chaff blow away.

I go to the lake with sticky hands and muddy feet.

White noise to white space

I see the light like paradise.