Don’t read this alone in the dark. That thing under your bed might get anxious. The monsters that come to life when the lights go out would know. The dead-eyed woman on the ceiling above you might get angry.

Here goes anyway: There are things in this world far scarier than an imagination’s creations.

I slept in the same bed as my mother until I was 9 years old. Nothing terrified me more than unexplained noises, the bleak emptiness of my dark room and the creatures my mind imagined lived there.

In middle school I got punched in the face for the first time. I remember it, clear as day. The kid in front of me in math class warned me, said I had better quit bumping his chair or else. I forgot his warning. He didn’t.

The thing about getting really hit for the first time is that it dispels the anticipation. Before, you worry. Will it hurt? Would I black out, and everyone make fun of me forever?

I rubbed my cheek for a couple days, but I lost the fear of being hit. It wasn’t as bad as I imagined.

There was no blow to take to get rid of my fear of the dark. Goosebumps would raise on my skin at the thought, and a little shiver would make its way down my spine. The things I imagined lived in that blackness terrified me. I grew up, I learned to sleep in my own bed. I knew there wasn’t really anything awaiting me just beyond my vision. The fear, however, took longer to go away.

In my first house out on my own, the air conditioning flipped off for whatever reason six times a week. Turning it back on meant a trip down to the unfinished basement to the circuit breaker. There were no windows. Weird noises were commonplace. It was a nightmare’s playground.

I would have been OK except every single light was set up to be turned off down there. There were no switches at the top of the stairs. It was a horror movie opening credits death waiting to happen. I was in my early 20s, but it didn’t stop the dread. It didn’t stop me from flicking the switch and racing up the stairs in pitch blackness as fast as my dignity would allow.

I don’t fear the darkness anymore. It’s comfortable, it’s quiet. Wanna know my secret to not being afraid of the things that go bump in the night?

Depression.

It’s hard to talk about. It was tough to write that word. There’s a stigma that’s associated with people who have had it. However, it seems someone famous is killing themselves every other day. It’s not talked about, but it happens just as much in the southern Pennyrile.

I hope you’re reading these words. Bad times can overcome anyone. I remember the first time I sat alone in the dark and wishing, hoping that there was a boogeyman just around the corner. I was struggling with an emptiness inside, a feeling of worthlessness and terrifying thoughts about the bottle of pills in my lap. I was more afraid of being inside my own head than the supernatural. I remember taking a nighttime walk on a poorly-lit street and seeing a car that didn’t see me at first veer into the lane I was walking in. I didn’t move. In some ways that still haunt me, I wanted it to hit me. I never thought about the fantastical things my head used to imagine would have been on that road.

I don’t write this for you to feel sorry for me. Depression is an incredibly common ailment many of us struggle with. Like cancer, it doesn’t care what color you are, what kind of car you own or how successful you are. It takes away who you are.

I don’t know you. But these feelings you have, you’re not alone in them. There is no small victory that can make that go away. I’m sorry.

Even if you have no one to talk to, though, remember that there are options. There are people to help. Before you take that final step, please call 1-800-273-8255. Personally, I used their online, anonymous chat to talk through the worst of my times. Depression isn’t a competition, but I know if I can survive, there’s hope for you too. You don’t have to be afraid of the darkness, even if it’s just the darkness inside your own head. That’s this week’s small victory.

(JESSE JONES is the editor of The Eagle Post, a member of the New Era Media Group. Email jjones@kentuckynewera.com for any reason at all.)

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