“Have you ever dealt with the dark demon of despair? Have you ever invited him to walk with you as you wend your way through life? Has he ever held your hand as you balanced on the razor’s edge of sanity and seduced you with his promises of oblivion?” ~ SSHenry
Sometimes the demon of despair doesn’t need an invitation. Sometimes he just appears out of the clear blue and swoops you up before you have a chance to protest. One minute you are on top of the world. The next minute you’ve been dragged down into a morass of pain so deep that you are sure that you will never find a way out.
And sometimes; sometimes it seems that the only way to be rid of the pain is to stop living.
Yes, I know despair is not the usual topic for this time of the year. Usually we focus on love and romance and the promise of spring, but here is the thing; there are people all around you who are grappling with this demon even as we speak. Who knows, you may be one of them yourself. And it is times of the year like this; holidays dedicated to love and family and having a positive outlook on life that can be the hardest for these people because it emphasizes everything that they do not (or that they no longer) have.
The reasons why any one of us may give in to this demon are as many and as varied as there are people in the world. Perhaps you’ve lost someone close to you to death. Perhaps you love has left you for someone else. Perhaps you’ve received bad news regarding your job or your finances or your health. Perhaps you have simply become jaded by life and no longer see the purpose of it all. Does it really matter? If there is one thing about the demon, it is that he is an equal opportunity employer and absolutely no respecter of persons.
And while we may not be able to predict when this demon comes to call or just how hard he’ll impact us when he does, we do have a choice of whether or not we will give in to the despair that is his dark inheritance.
Yes. There are going to be days when it seems that we cannot take a single more moment; moments that are so painful that the thought of bearing one more instant is physically painful. But there is one way to ensure that the despair will not consume you entirely and that is to find your anchor of joy.
Your anchor of joy is what keeps you tethered to the knowledge that this clinging fog of doubt and depression is not the way it always was, nor the way it always will be. And while it may seem impossible to remember the good times when the darkness threatens to swallow you whole, if you can find just one moment of joy in each day and hold that close to your heart, it can be enough to keep you alive.
It doesn’t have to be anything big. Perhaps it is the contented purr of a cat, the vivid colors of a spectacular sunset, the overwhelming awesomeness of your favorite piece music or the simple beauty in a budding flower. It may even be something more mundane like the deep robust scent of your coffee, the way the sun slants through your bedroom window or the feel of clean sheets against your skin.
Whatever it is that brings you that moment of joy, however brief, hold it close. Hold it tight. As you slog through the rest of your day; as the cold darkness of despair threatens to engulf you, focus on that moment. Relieve it in your mind as many times as you need to and know that there is hope.
And one morning you will wake up to find that the one moment has become two, and then three and, before you know it they will have multiplied and you will have banished that cold dark demon from your life and will be living in the sunlight once again.
So don’t give up. And if you know someone close to you that is wrestling with this particular demon, don’t give up on them. Help them to find their anchor of joy. You cannot find it for them, but you can help them to recognize it for what it is and encourage them to hold it close to their hearts and hold tight to the knowledge that there are brighter days to come.