I’ve been running from The Darkness since I left home at the age of 17. I escaped a broken family to the military, found it unwelcoming to creative non-conformists but fulfilled my commitment. The first man I dated was a drunkard who suffered from post traumatic stress disorder; the second raped me. The rest of my time in the military was a blur of men, the different places I lived and The Darkness stalking me. At the end of my tour, I set my world on fire to keep the Darkness away, abandoned everything and everyone, and emerged from the flames like the mythical Phoenix. I ran home to Ohio. I didn’t stay long and continued onward to New York, where I reinvented myself for a very brief period of contentedness.
It didn’t last. Darkness, fire, rebirth, and a few years, men and states later, I ended up in the arms of yet another unworthy man. I followed him to DC, bore the mental abuse, and tried to tell myself this was the best life would ever get.
I took a job in a field I didn’t care for and ended up running from job-to-job-to-job, unable to find a place where I was happy. I was hit by a drunk driver at 26, leaving me with a long lifetime of constant pain. I had a miscarriage, gave all my money to the unworthy man and couldn’t pay my bills despite the good job. I moved from Virginia to Maryland and back to Virginia, unable to shake the pursuing Darkness. Finally, I put all my belongings in storage, ready to set my word afire and flee once again.
I worked up the nerve to ditch the dysfunctional man, but before I could run far, I met the man who would become my first husband. He wanted normal things: stability, house, family. I convinced myself if I had these things, the Darkness would be gone. He needed a mother, not a wife, but I married him anyway and prayed it was enough.
It wasn’t. I set my world afire once more, and I fled him, too. I put everything I valued in my truck, grabbed the dog, and left. Away from DC, the east coast, everything I owned, my first husband. I ran to Texas to a new job and divorced the first husband. Yet again, I was reborn. Soon after, I met my soul mate. Some part of me knew I couldn’t keep running if I wanted to keep him. I turned around to see if The Darkness still chased me. After fifteen years of running, The Darkness was closer than ever.
I told the man who would become my second husband to stay away from me – I was dangerous. He saw The Darkness, and he saw me.
You’re brilliant and beautiful. I love you, Darkness and all, he said. But if you don’t deal with it and accept the fate for which you were put on this earth, you’ll be consumed by it.
I couldn’t yet face the Darkness even with his support, but I could see how wrong my path was. My path wasn’t a career I loathed, and it wasn’t ignoring my true gift: writing. So I worked full time and wrote full time. I found true joy for the first time in my life, but The Darkness got too close. I ran away from that job – the only job I’d ever remotely enjoyed. This time, I kept my only ally in life – my guardian angel and partner.
I took a new job in a new state. With my husband and my writing, I saw The Darkness recede, and I grew happy. Instead of looking over my shoulder, I started looking into the future. I vowed to run towards something instead of away from something. I wasn’t just reborn – I was alive for the first time in my life.
And then, this past summer, I tripped. The Darkness swallowed me. As in one of my upcoming novels, The Darkness turned me inside out. I couldn’t go to work and could barely leave the house. It pinned me beneath it, and the more I tried to run, the heavier it got. Everything I’d run from in life was there: my near-poverty upbringing; the breaking apart of my family when I was a kid; my struggle with my weight and social anxiety issues; with finding acceptance at any job; with men and dysfunctional relationships; the pending financial disaster I’d been building; fear of failure and ending up as miserable as my parents. I thought I’d suffocate, until the Darkness spoke to me.
You can run again and risk losing the man you love, or you can face me and be happy, it said.
I want to be happy, I replied.
Then do what you must.
It’s not that easy. I’m scared.
Sometimes life only gives us difficult choices, but you still must choose. I am a part of you. You must accept me and deal with me before you can move on, it said.
I thought hard as I looked at all the things I’d accumulated that were bankrupting me financially and emotionally. I looked at what made me happy in life: my husband and my writing. I saw how I’d hurt my most precious treasures – and myself – by setting my world on fire whenever The Darkness got too close.
This is gonna hurt, I told The Darkness.
Not for long, it said. You only have to do this once.
In that moment, I made my choice. I would face The Darkness within me, no matter how hard it was. I loved my husband too much to hurt him more, and I was sick of being a coward. I took a leave of absence in early September to deal with my past as well as the depression and anxiety that have haunted me my whole life. Writing has always been my solace and my passion. Through it, I’ll heal the world I broke and my own soul, and become the partner my husband deserves.
The Phoenix will be reborn once more, not of fire, but of Darkness, and will emerge stronger than ever.