White Lights Lead to Red Lights, Red Lights Indicate the Exit. How to Find Forgiveness in the Dark.

I was all set to post 5 Quick Questions, volume 2 today because volume 1 was FUN. And we’ll get there this week. I promise. We’ll play together and laugh and gag at our computer screens when I tell you about stepping on disembodied mouse heads in the dark. Cross my heart.

But a comment arrived a couple days ago that waylaid me, friends. And it’s important. Essential, really. It’s important because it goes way beyond the Parenting Game and gets right to the heart. Right to soul. Right to core of How We Parent + Who We Are + Being Human + Survival.

Once upon a time, I wrote about bringing home our 2nd and 3rd kids. About how long we’d waited to adopt them. And about how amazing it was to finally have them… except when I realized I was in a dark, desolate mental place and so it turned out not to be amazing at all. I talked quite frankly in that post about how hard it is to forgive myself for that time. For living in the dark. For not being enough. For being, well, so totally human when my kids needed me to be so totally divine.

This week, a fellow mama found that post, and she commented.

I’m late to reading this, she said. I want to say I can forgive myself for giving in, but I can’t. I was so deep in the dark side that I did swallow that bottle of pills. Ambulances came, and my daughter, little at the time, had to explain to the neighbors at the bus stop that I was in the hospital, but she didn’t know why. My marriage was a shambles. I had to take months off work, leaving a classroom with no teacher. But the thing I can’t forgive myself for is that I almost left my daughter with no mother. I did put one foot in front of the other. I changed my meds and went to marriage counseling and saw my shrink regularly and I came through, my marriage survived, I survived, my family survived. I’m a better mother now. My daughter doesn’t remember that day, but I do, and I’m not sure I’ll ever truly forgive myself.

Have you been there, friends? Deep inside the dark? Where the despair already swallowed you whole? And where white lights should lead to red lights, and red lights should indicate the exit, but there are no damn lights at all? 

I have. Oh, I have BEEN THERE. Not with the swallowing of the pills. But in the middle of the crash landing, breathing in the smoke from the engine fires, and sure, certain, I wouldn’t survive it.

And forgiveness after crashing the mama plane? Forgiveness for being so very broken when my kids deserved peace? How do I do this forgiveness thing? And why would I try?

Sometimes, friends, sometimes clarity comes when we see a fellow mama’s story. Because it absolutely easier for me to offer her grace than it is to offer it to myself. And yet, when we’re gracious to another, we begin to see that grace belongs to all of us, yes? Even me.

Oh, mama, I wrote in reply. Oh, mama, you are worthy of absolute love… BOTH the you who lived in the dark and breathed desolation and drank despair and acted on the absence of hope, AND the you who survived and found enough of the light to live and love again.

I don’t have enough of the pieces of wisdom for forgiveness. But I do have one piece, and it’s this… I keep working to forgive myself because I want to see my children free. Free from shame. Free from beating themselves up. Free to throw their shoulders back and hold their heads high and accept the fullness of the light despite the inevitable time in the dark. And I don’t know how to teach them to release themselves from shame without setting an example of living in full freedom myself. I’m not there yet. I haven’t arrived. But I’ll set my feet on the forgiveness path as many times as it takes. Because forgiveness doesn’t just free ourselves. No. Forgiveness is one of the Wild Things, and a world of unreasonable grace is where I want to live.

So, friends, there’s my piece. My tiny bit. My white light. And I thought, perhaps, you might have a white light of your own. A gracious word. A bit of wisdom. A story of love to share, like the stories you shared with Not Evan when he needed to breathe joy.

It felt like there were no lights when I crash landed ten years ago. And maybe that’s the nature of the crash landing, I don’t know, to be lost and alone and blind and afraid. But I’m starting to think it doesn’t have to be that way. Not always. Or not for long. I’m starting to think that we might help each other find the exits a little sooner. That the exits may be closer than we know. And that if I add my white light to your white light to her white light to his white light, we may find our way together.



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50 responses to “White Lights Lead to Red Lights, Red Lights Indicate the Exit. How to Find Forgiveness in the Dark.”

  1. I’ve been struggling with depression since I was a kid. Sometimes it’s okay, and sometimes it’s worse. Sometimes I crossed a street without looking because i didn’t care enough about myself. I didn’t want to live, but i didn’t think dying would make anything better…I had a good life and felt empty, so why would heaven change anything? I mean the problem wasn’t where i was…the problem was me.

    and in some ways that’s true. I have clinical depression. It’s not situational. it doesn’t depend on what’s happening in my life or the world around me. It doesn’t matter who lives, who dies, what successes I have (several books published), or what failures (being unable to write for the better part of a last year). The depression is always there…situations can affect it, temporarily. but the depression is so much more than my mood. it dictates what I can and cannot do: my motivation, my energy, my drive, my passion.

    Ah, my passion. That is my key. That is where my white light starts. Remembering what my passion is, and fighting to engage in it, even slightly, in some small way, creates that flicker in the darkness. I have a few things that are my passion, outside of my family, the largest two being writing and corsetry. I write fiction. I write for the same reason you breathe…because I must to survive…not just live, but simply survive. Writing keeps me sane; well, it keeps me in the happy part of not quite sane 😉 And corsetry? Well, I don’t sew, not well anyway, so I don’t make my own yet. But they thrill me. Corsets enchant me. And wearing one boosts my confidence, calms my anxiety, reminds me that breathing is important, makes me feel beautiful, gives me a layer of armor between me and… well, everything.

    If i cannot engage in one passion, i try the other. every day. Each morning I wake, I choose to let passion into my life, because it is the polar opposite of depression for me. Depression leaves me numb and empty. It leaves me afraid, unsure, broken, sometimes angry or in tears. Depression destroys. Passion fills me. It stirs me to life. It gives me hope, and confidence. Passion makes me strong, and even when my passion hurts (because sometimes the struggle does) it’s a pain that i can embrace. It’s never hopeless because the pain is helping me to grow.

    So passion is my light. It’s not my way out of the darkness, because shy of a God-given miracle, the darkness will always be in my life. Depression isn’t going anywhere for me, but that’s okay. Passion makes the darkness shine. And when you really look at the black around you, especially under a bright light, you realize that it’s made up of colours. There’s beauty there, if your light is bright enough.

    I’m content most days. I struggle. Some months are harder than others. Some days feel impossible. But with a small amount of passion I can get through those days. I am better than I was, and next year, I will be better than this year. Because my passion is greater than my darkness.

  2. I found your blog today and I’ve been binge reading posts. Thank you for making me laugh and thank you for being so real. I had postpartum depression with my oldest daughter, but I thought I was going to avoid it this second time around. Then life happened and here we are again. I dropped my kids off at my mother in laws today and as I started my car to drive away I thought to myself that now would be the perfect time to get in an accident, since my family wasn’t with me. It’s a scary and sobering moment when you realize you’re thinking about getting a car wreck as a good thing. The problem is, I can recognize that that isn’t a good path to be on, but I can’t figure out what to do about it. I know these are all warning signs, but I can’t seem to muster up the energy to figure out what to do about it. It feels like drowning, looking up through the water and instead of swimming up I just want to let go and float down. Maybe because it’s late and today has been exceptionally bad, it’s worse. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to put in to words what I’m feeling, so I can mend the damage to my marriage that my emotions caused today. For now, thank you for making me laugh. I needed it. Thank you for giving me a little light, because mine was gone.

  3. This is an older post, and I’m not sure how commenting goes. But I just wanted to write this out. Therapeutically. Today I am looking through older posts, and came across this one, when I thought I shoul be reading ones to do with depression. I have the mama guilt IN ABUNDANCE! Every day it seems, for my 16 year old especially, who lives with his grandparents, because for years his mama (me) lived the most chaotic life, and he needed stability. Now, my life is different, better, I have consistently made better choices, although the deep well of the tangled mess of me is still there…but he remains at his grandparents, because it’s home. Living this reality, in the face of many who judge is hard enough. But today, today when my son tells me that lately he has been having moment where he feels anxious, very anxious, and feels “shaky mom, literally, for no reason, and alot”, my heart breaks for my son and his misfortune of having me for a mama. But, reading this post helped. It is funny that a blog post, from people whom I’ve never met, would encourage and comfort me so. But I am grateful. It is still easy to say, ya, but what I’ve done is worse, I’m less deserving of grace. But I don’t think grace keeps score. For this I am abundantly grateful.

  4. over a year since the last post or comment on this thread. I pray every momma on here has found some peace in some way. The grey and the dark and the grey and the dark have swirled over and through for so many years, it feels like a lifetime. The one time I tried anti-depressants, though, I had the most horrific, vivid nightmares of harming people I woke up understanding how people end up in jail! It terrifies me to try that road again. We tried counseling, and were “dismissed” after 6 months when “out of crisis” but the marriage still suffers greatly. I don’t know where to find a good doctor, a good counselor. How do I do that?

    • I don’t have an answer for you. But my heart feels your pain through your words. I read this post a while back and felt like I needed to read it again today and then I saw your comment. You are not alone even though you feel it. The only thing I can say is to keep asking people. Keep seeking the light through the spinning darkness around you. It’s there, but it takes faith to find it. Maybe it finds you, I don’t know, it feels that way sometimes. I don’t know you but know that someone (me) is thinking of you and praying for you. I wish you peace.

    • Keep looking. There are great counselors and doctors out there, just keep seeing new ones until you find one who helps YOU. Be honest about what you need, and if this doctor/counselor doesn’t help you, find another one. It is really hard to keep looking, to keep telling strangers about your problems, but in the end it is worth it … good luck

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