Dancing with your Shadow

Your shadow is always there, regardless of where you are. Even in a dark room you cast a shadow on something. It can be behind you, in front of you, beside you, under you and over you. It’s always there, casting itself, a constant companion.

A shadow is more than simply an area you darken; it’s something you carry with you for life. It got me thinking when I saw the (adorable) video of a little girl who was scared to death of her own shadow. A shadow for me is a reminder of what’s there. I have started to think of the whole area of mental health as a shadow of sorts. The shadow is the part you don’t pay much attention to most of the time.

A shadow for me symbolises our low points and our high points and being able to live with it and accept it is important, vitally important. Things will not always be sunny and the sun won’t always be in your face and that’s ok. Sometimes you’ll be gazing down at a long and enduring shadow as it refuses to leave you and sometimes it will be behind you and out of mind.
In my case my shadow is an anxious one. It shouts up ominous words at me and sometimes envelops me in its grip, stifling my every thought. It can be withdrawn, it can be out of sorts and it can be downright rude. On the flip side it can also be loving, happy and carefree. It can also be just ok, getting by and middling the road, nothing too fancy. It all happens and that’s ok.

When I saw that little girl I did briefly consider how ridiculous the whole concept was, I mean, scared of a shadow. But then I stopped being an ass and thought about it. We all have our shadows to fear. The hard part is realising that we control the shadow and what it thinks. Yes, ok, some people will try and get in on it, but you choose how to let them in. Some people will be nasty, they’ll try and bring you down and they’ll try and keep you down. You control their influence. You control how you much you let them interact with you in that manner. On the other side of it you have the people who will feed your shadow with healthy thoughts. They’ll hug it, they’ll embrace it and if you’re lucky enough they’ll even love it. Let the good people in, it’ll be worth it in the end.

The important thing is to not deny your shadow. Don’t pretend it’s not there. If you’re going to accept the laughing and dancing then you have to be willing to accept the crying and the curled up in a ball under a duvet pretending the world doesn’t exist. It exists and you do have to deal with it. Here’s the trick though. Your happy and laughing shadow will usually come with the help of others, but you’re muggy and head wrecking shadow may only go with the help of others.

So what do you do? Well, my advice would be to stop, breath and talk. Go to someone you trust. Go to your partner, go to a friend, go to a family member, go for a walk, go for a shower, go for a cycle, go for a hike, go to a counsellor, do something! It may not shake itself. It’s ok to need help every now and then. We all need a little TLC at times and accepting that can be the hardest thing to do. It’s not shameful or weak. It’s hard and it’s brave.

Accept it, own it and carry on.

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