The Dark Place

September 29/2014


The Dark PlaceSeven hundred and fifty-nine days, give or take. That’s two years and twenty nine days that I have been in pain. This isn’t about sympathy. I’ve had lots and lots of sympathy since September of 2012. I was in pain before that, and worked through it, but it got to the point that it affected my job performance. My dream job is now a distant memory, warped and miss-shaped, the edges of that memory dulled by the drugs.

I’ve learned so many things since that day, when I lost my dream job. I’ve learned new words like Peripheral Arterial Disease and Heparin Induced Thrombocytopenia, also known as H.I.T. Large words with medical definitions so complicated they would astound a man of lesser education. I also discovered all about the consequences of another word. Amputation. The mere mention of such a word sends chills down the backs of the queasy. That word was very frightening to me at first, but the pain was much greater than my fear, and I reluctantly agreed to the consequences of that word, if it would stop the pain. It didn’t, at least not completely. It is true that the bad parts had to be removed. My right foot, starved of blood from a clogged artery and therefore starved of oxygen, essentially died and was affecting the rest of the leg it was attached to, and so the simple solution was to detach the offending appendage. Was this just a simple solution to a medical problem?  Maybe the surgeon, well practiced in this type of operation may have considered it routine, due to the sheer number of amputations he has had to perform over the course of his learned career. My guess, after having talked at great length with the man, was that every operation was hard for him, not in the actual performance of the deed, but rather in the consequences he knew to be true for his patients.

I really don’t want to sound whiny. The pain I now have in both legs is certainly a lot less than the severity of 13 Months ago. The so called Phantom pain, the pain felt in the foot that was no longer there, has lessened to the point that it is mostly Phantom Sensation now. Yes, I can still feel my foot, more than a year after it was removed along with my ankle and the part of my leg that is no longer there beneath my knee. It is most unsettling to reach down to scratch what is no longer there. As to my other leg and foot, well that is another story.

After the first operation to replace a section of artery in my right leg, the surgeon ordered Heparin, a blood thinner, a very common drug that is used in a wide variety of medical treatments. In my case, it was used as a sort of cleaner, a thinner of blood, allowing the fast and free flowing liquid to wash away any remaining bits and small particles of the Plaque that was on my arterial walls. For some unknown and unexplainable medical reason my body’s defences sensed the drug as a foreign invader, and I developed the condition known medically as H.I.T. The consequence of this was opposite to what the doctors were trying to achieve. Instead of thinning my blood as expected, my blood volume coagulated to such an extent that blood flow was lost to both legs. The nerves in my good leg died, along with the tissue and some bone mass. Luckily, I was in hospital at the time of this new crisis, and the doctors, and there were three of them, worked together for over five hours removing clots to save my legs, and my life. I am alive today, and typing this as a direct result of their combined years of experience and skill as surgeons. I am and always will be grateful to these amazingly gifted men. That doesn’t change the fact that I now have nerve pain in my once good leg and foot, parts of me that were fine before February of 2013.

So, how do I cope with the constant pain, you may ask? It at times seems a daunting task to be sure. The ‘nerve’ drugs, I have found out, don’t actually take the pain away, but rather bathes the nerve endings in something to stop the rapid firing, and otherwise overly heightened sensations they are communicating to the brain. The pain killers work too, but are so powerful they sometimes leave you in a zombie state and then you don’t know which end is up. That’s no way to live. The doctors all say the ‘discomfort’ will go away with time. Oh yes they all say that, but not one of them will say how much time. I guess they don’t want to appear uneducated by saying they don’t know how much time. A couple of them went out on a limb, and qualified their answer by saying the very vague statement, “It is different for everyone.” Thank you for reassuring me that someday, maybe, I will be free of this heavy wet woollen blanket of despair, this discomfort.

The solution is to take drugs. Drugs with side effects like, weight gain, blotchy skin, a feeling of tiredness all the time, perhaps depression at times, and oh yes, let’s not forget constipation. Not to worry, there’s a pill for that too. At times it is too much to bear. Last night was one of those times, and that indeed prompted this writing. The blanket was so heavy last night that it bore me down into The Dark Place. The pain was no more intense than it had been the night before or the month before that. It was the never-ending-ness of it. It was the weight of the knowing that there was no end date to this. That was the heaviness that weighted me down into The Dark Place. The fact that I lay there weeping, my tears rolling down my face and falling onto my pillow, only seemed to make matters worse. Growing up in a time when it was not manly to cry, not something my father would tolerate from any of his sons, seemed to weigh on me even more than the pins and needles of my misery.

The Dark Place; The Dark Place is not a scary horror scene from a film or novel. It is not a place of excitement. It is a place of utter desolation and despair. For many, The Dark Place is the last stop here on earth, before the final leap, before the final cut, that last gunshot to the temple. It is the last place a person goes who has lost all hope of being able to live in a world that doesn’t understand what they are going through. I know this place well, for I have been there more than once. I have been to the darkness, and I can write about it now. I have learned how to find the stairs up and out of that desolate place. Each time after I have visited that kind of depression, I say never again. Never again will I let myself go down there. I am learning that one has no choice in the matter. The only choice, for those still in control, is whether to stay down there or not. I chose not to stay there. I chose not to give in to the demon, not to let it win. Even as I write this now, I refuse to capitalise its name, for I have won this time.

Today is better, and tomorrow will be better still. I will try and continue to fight this seemingly never ending battle. I will try to understand and to be more understanding of people whose pain I do not know. People who seem normal and bright and unaffected on the outside, but who are deep into battle on the inside, these people I will try and understand, because now, I too am one of them.


23 thoughts on “The Dark Place

  1. …I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate this post, Lockie… suffice to say, many of us, I believe, at some time or another, has some sense of a Dark Place of his or her own… I’ve had my own share of that, which I need not go into here… but let me tell you, that I DO understand, 100%, that man… the bravery and courage is not about trying to get through it, although, God knows that’s tough as hell, but in sharing it with others in a manner that asks not for pity, but for that most elusive of all traits… understanding… the mere words of telling you, I’m there for you, that man, mean little enough when the onslaught comes again, but for whatever modicum of comfort it may offer… I AM THERE FOR YOU… LUVZYA ! Cheers :):)

  2. Lockie, I knew something had happened, but was unaware of the magnitude. It takes a great man to be able to put into words the pain, both physical and mental, that you must be feeling. I can’t do anything for the pain, but pray to God that you will have the strength to fight this battle to it’s ultimate end. I also suffered from clots in one leg, but thanks to my doctor it was diagnosed early enough to be treatable with blood thinners. I did throw a clot that passed through most of my lung before getting stuck in a very small vein. Had it moved a few cms further, It had a clear shot to the brain. Miracles do happen. I pray for one for you, my friend.

  3. I have visited the Dark Place more frequently than I care to admit over the last few years. Like you, I wear pain like a cloak. I have a personal relationship with that demon who sits on your shoulder and whispers in your ear, inviting you to go with him. He knows where I live and he knows how to manipulate me. The bastard won’t leave me alone but, like you, I’ve managed to fight him off, so far. People who’ve never lived with incapacitating chronic pain always pat us on the back and tell us that everything will be alright. There are very few people who understand, but I do. We’re members of an elite club who become stronger through the adversity of pain. We will survive because we are stronger than the demon. I used to apologize for telling people my story, but no more. Through our talent for writing, we will help others to climb out of that desolate place that haunts us. Our writing is our gift. We can use it for good.

    • Yes Becky, and I believe we all carry that dark stranger with us. I had never, that I can remember, had bouts of depression. Thought I was generally a happy guy, and I still am. We all have really bad days, and everyone walks their own road, and we best not judge, because you just never know when that person with the blank stare might be you.

  4. Very well written. I am sorry to hear about your pain and troubles. But, I am also a firm believer in is better to talk about your troubles than to lock them away. There are many people who care for you and are rooting for you. Remember this always!

    • Thank you Rosemary that was kind of you to say, and yes I’m lucky to have lots of folks, like you, looking my way and sending well wishes. You are very right. Keeping things bottled up is never a good idea.

  5. Thank you Lockie for sharing your ongoing journey and helping all of us who love you understand what you are going through. Because of your wonderful outlook on life attitude, I never really understood the depth of your suffering until now. My heart breaks and the tears flow as I read all you have, and are still going through. You truly are my hero, and I am so proud of you for climbing out of that dark place time and time again. I love you cuz and I’m always here for you. Some day we will have that dance!! xoxo

  6. Lockie – I cannot even imagine the pain and the mental torment you live with everyday, but I do understand being in the dark place – a place many people having found for whatever reason. I admire you writing about the shadows of your life as it is words like these and people like you who lift others up, who may be in their own dark hell, and back into a small place of light.The words you have written will resonate with many and give them the hope and inspiration to fight and look forward to the dawning of a new day – whatever it may hold. Take the hands that reach out to you – do not turn away from your tears as they have a therapeutic effect in allowing the body to find some release from the burden of pain and depression.

    • Thank you Carol. I appreciate your comments. It was hard for me to write but at the same time therapeutic as well. If my words can help someone who is also struggling with their own dark place, then my job will have been done.

  7. I can identify with the dark place, it still engulfs me today. After being diagnosed with bipolar I thought my life was over, it almost was. But I have fought and continue to fight daily those battles in my mind. Beautifully written x

    • Thank you Emma. It is a battle sometimes just to climb up those steps to get out of the dark place, and see all the light around you. So many people in our lives that truly love us. Keep fighting. The reward is worth it.

  8. I simply love how you put into words the depth of your very real feelings. I know that dark place too, all too well I must say. Your description of the hopeless, helpless, never-ending-ness of it is just how I felt when I was in my “bottom” from Alcoholism and drug addiction 27+ years ago. My bottom was not one event. It stretched out for five years. The physical, emotion, mental and spiritual torture were too much to bear. I wished for the end every minute I came to and I wanted to die. I tried and I kept “coming to.” For the last year of that hell, I “came to” every day at the same time, 4AM, drank the rest of the 5th of scotch, ran downstairs to the bathroom from my loft, and threw up blood until the scotch would stay down. Then I would go out to the methadone program and the liquor store for another half gallon, and back home to do it all over again. I couldn’t get drunk and I couldn’t get sober. The detailed description of those five years is common to many with my illness but other people cannot understand that as an alcoholic/addict I had no choice. It’s interesting to me that I never did consciously make a decision to get help. I called a friend when I was in a total blackout and he came and took me to a 12-step meeting. I’ve been going ever since. It all seemed to happen TO me and not BY me. I do know one thing for sure, no matter what I have experienced since that time or in the future, it will never be as bad as that was. That utter and complete devastation and demoralization is in the past. Not that I don’t get into that dark place from time to time. I do. I always have that time to look back on and I know, it will never be that bad again. When I really get down, the one thing I know that will pull me out of it is to go help someone else. There is always a suffering alcoholic/addict who needs to hear my story so I still go to meetings to give back what was freely given to me.
    Jeez…I guess I had a lot to say about that one, Lockie.

    • I loved every word Libbie (Mb) and thanks for sharing with everyone what must have been a very troubling time in your life. The Dark Place is very real, and no one is immune to it’s blackness. I feel a helpless compassion for those who went down there and never came back. The ones who lost their battle weigh very heavy on me at times, and I wonder if there would have just been someone to talk to, perhaps their end would not have been. Thank you for reading my essay and for commenting.

  9. Pingback: THL Interview: Lockie Young | The Happy Lifeaholic

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