Understanding What it Means to Have a Dark Night of the Soul

6 years ago, I was in a place that seemed very foreign to me.  It was like my soul was in limbo.  Was I here on this earth or was I somewhat dead?  I wasn’t actually sure anymore.

I felt utterly and completely alone.  Now if you are my wonderful friends or family and you are reading this now, it might be a bit hurtful, but at that point in my life, I felt like not one other soul in the entire universe could understand my pain.

You see illness and pain starts to play tricks with your mind.  Eventually it wears you down.  Just like drug addiction or alcohol, it tears your soul into tiny pieces.  I was down to the last piece one day.  I was barely hanging on.

I had been diagnosed with my 7th disease earlier in the year and the doctor had said he didn’t know how to help me.  At that point I had a blood disease, a skin disease, a nerve or lymph system type disease, and autoimmune disease and a new genetic disease that slowed down how I processed vitamins and basically everything my body needed to survive. I was then hit with a secondary disease they believed was dormant in my body and then depression decided it wanted to come along and join in.  That’s where things got dark.

I felt like I had almost, almost lost all hope.  I would repeat under my breath that I had faith still, but it was the size of a mustard seed and I would talk to my higher power.

On the evening of my dark night of the soul, my girls were 11 and 12 years old.  They are 18 months apart and I had been sick, off and on, throughout most of their life.  I would get better for a few years, but then I would relapse.  I knew I needed pints of my blood taken for life, so I had gotten used to that from hereditary hemochromatosis and porphyria cutanea tarda, but when the sever stomach pains started, and I was unable to eat, things started going downhill.

I can remember trying to watch a movie with my husband, we had this thing where we’d put the kids to bed by 8p.m., then we’d have coffee together and watch a movie, and I couldn’t even make it 30 minutes before the pain started up again from whatever we had for dinner, and it competed with the all over body pain in the 18 trigger points where they said I likely had fibromyalgia (In 2009, my body decided that I was too happy because I had managed my other genetic conditions so well…that I went back to work full-time and that’s when it hit again).  So I spent the next 5 years in almost constant agony while trying to teach pre-school and be “Mrs. Happy”

It felt like I was always moving through quicksand…you know the most horrible moment in The Neverending Story?  That was what it felt like when I was trying to move through life.

On that evening in 2014, it felt like a descent into the underworld.  Many cultures have this, but I was not aware of what was happening at the time.  The Spanish monk and mystic, St. John of the Cross, wrote a poem called Noche Obscura del Alma, where he described a spiritual journey from chaos to peace.

Depending on who you are, you can actually seek God, or perhaps, you go the other way and blame God only to come back through this process with your faith tested, and a new version of whatever you previously believed.  Many people believe they are being tested during this process depending on their own personal beliefs and faith.

During your “Dark Night of the Soul” process, however long it takes, depression, psychosis, nervous breakdowns, feeling lost and hopeless and more can occur. 

It is important to note, this just isn’t a bad day.  This just isn’t one day usually…it is a process and the breaking down of your previous beliefs, identities, values, and morals becomes clearer to you.

It is not pretty.  It is very, very ugly.  And very, very eye opening.

You look at your old ways, and how you were before, and they do not fit the version of you who you really want to become.  There is friction.  Our world is not the same as we once thought during this process.  You might see people shy away from you and you might even push others away as you work to understand what is going on inside of you.

The ego never goes down without a fight, and during this process, the identity you had is known as the death of the ego.  People who knew me/you prior to this moment might not recognize what you are trying to do and therefore may not come with you as you transform into a new person.

As we awaken and go off autopilot, basically deciding we are tired of going through the motions, Ram Dass says you might get discouraged because your faith flickers.  Everything you thought you knew flickers in and out.  You might get scared and try to force things to fit again, but they don’t.

Once you have awakened you can’t get back to sleep…fully, says Ram Dass.  And that’s true.  You know something is out there and it’s different, but it’s calling to you as a new way you can actually live your life.

But once you start to go deeper inside, you realize that it is not out there in the world for you, it’s actually the work on the inside that you have to explore.

You have to BE HONEST with yourself and true about where you really are.

It is a very heavy time for you to really acknowledge that you have both darkness and light to deal with.  Don’t lose hope.  As you start to let what is really spirit talking to you inside your life and your heart, your old habits fall away that were not the best.  Getting angry, using others, lying, and taking advantage, these things really show up for you as habits that you don’t want to bring forward.

For me, it was fear.  It was anxiety, and it was the fact that even in my darkest moment, I said out loud to the universe or God, or whatever you believe, but I said it out loud that I needed a sign and I got one 5 minutes after saying it.

You can’t doubt this process, because it takes time.  You can’t go back to your old ways after a true dark night because you have seen the power of your mind and how it feels to push through.

Sit in this present moment.  Acknowledge your strengths and your faults.  Cry.  Journal.  Let it out.  Take as long as you need, and then come back renewed after this process.

I went from crying as I tried to walk across the kitchen floor, to becoming yoga teacher certified after 200 hours of training.  I went from being bloated with my back bending in pain from stomach issues to learning to control my diet and becoming sports nutrition certified.

I later went from being the most in debt I ever was, to taking my tax return money and starting a business with the faith that I could teach others << what my process was and see them through this experience so that they can come out on the other side with support.

I believe in you.  You can get through this.

“Suddenly you’re ripped into being alive. And life is pain, and life is suffering, and life is horror, but my god you’re alive and it’s spectacular.” ~ Joseph Campbell

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