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Five years ago, I was trying to decide if I should wear heels or sneakers on my first date with Kathryn.

I opted for sneakers because it was raining, I was taking the bus, and above all I wanted her to know I was a sensible girl.

Five years later, and I still catch my breath when she smiles.

Do what you can to take the smallest step towards light.

This is my new goal in difficult moments. As November shuffles forward, I hold it close and feel empowered because even the hardest challenge can be broken into smaller and yet smaller steps. The idea for this goal came from my experiences working with adults with autism. For some individuals with autism, requests such as “get ready for bed” can be far too complicated, and a person may benefit from breaking down these complex routines into much simpler steps. If it’s too hard to get ready for bed, perhaps start with just getting undressed, or if that is difficult, just taking of your socks, or if that also seems overwhelming, just sit down on the bed. I could continue, but I think you understand. Any task can be made into a smaller step, and this is what I try to remember when the darkness raises its hand to try to take me under.

If you have read some of my past writings, you may be familiar with my history with November.  As I considered writing this post, it suddenly dawned on me that November 13th is just four short days away. November 13th, a day that has carried the deepest darkness for me for more than seven years. It’s not the day itself really, but what it reminds me of, what it brings back to memory.

It seems at times that my emotional memory is much stronger than my logical memory. The pain of past Novembers feels fresh and new, when in fact I know it is just old scars. The pain pins me down, holds me hostage, and demands to be felt. And instinctively I resist.

Sometimes the smallest step towards the light is accepting the darkness. Letting it in, letting it whisper and rage and swirl and silence. Letting it crawl along your skin.

My own struggle against suicidal ideation is rooted in escaping emotional pain. The darkness flourishes in thoughts of endlessness, of inability to endure the darkness. The darkness tries to panic me, and as I try to flee, it solidifies its hold.

Everything I know (so far) about living with borderline personality disorder and depression is in these words by Rainer Maria Rilke,

Let everything happen to you:

beauty and terror.

Just keep going.

No feeling is final.

I will let the darkness come if it must, as I hold within me the hope for light. When we ache in the absence of light, the ache in itself is a spark. My desire for light in the face of darkness is in fact a source of light. It shows me there is still life here. There is still some fight left in these bones. I will not give up, I will not give in, to the dark scars I carry.

Nothing can extinguish my hope. The darkness may call me stubborn, it may call me a foolish coward, but the embers of hope will still burn and the burning will lead me to light. Sometimes the smallest step from darkness is to accept it, allow it space to sit, and you may find your soul, much like one’s eyes, begin to adjust. There is beauty even in the deepest pain.  So easy to miss, so easy to dismiss, but if you look for it, there it is.

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