D: Dark – Capacity for Changedarkness

We’ve sat in those dark places. S’truth, they’re the pits. In the inferno, casting their impenetrable infernal shadows –

Depression – a killer. Too vast a topic for this post. I know of it 2nd hand up close and personal; a family member has it and I live in dread of ‘the phone call’ – and unless a miracle happens I cannot see him or his circumstances changing. I cannot judge. I have only a sense of the darkness of his depression, but I do not know it wholly. If only something in him would change – if only those who I know who have taken their lives had had that small spark of change alight upon them –

There’ve been many times that I’ve been very dark indeed, believe it or not. And it’s absolutely awful sitting in and with it. Any thoughts of ‘getting through’ it do not enter my mind at those times. I do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s absolutely the last thing I think about.

I try to sit with it. It’s hard. I’m inclined to distract myself by heading to the kitchen to find something to stuff those feelings down – and hate myself even more for that destructive behaviour. It is usually only retrospectively when I’m on my way out of the tunnel that I can consciously reflect on what it’s all been about – 

I’m reminded of the lotus that emerges from the slime and mud, always in process of change, beauteous as she bursts forth upon the clear water. And in this picture the north star – and perhaps those are two serpents at the bottom enclosed in the circle, all against a background of dense black –dreams lotus_n

How long it takes to emerge from darkness! The dark days of apartheid here in South Africa – dark days indeed – and 22 years on we’re still trying to emerge from that darkness. I gain inspiration from people like Mr. Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King and others who had faith that change is possible – and that the darkness can become less dim as we struggle through this thing called life – and that the demons can be changed into daemons –

We have deep and dangerous divisions and shadows in our country. We’re hoping that the President will see that is possible to emerge from this depressing time and for our country to reach its full potential. Even if it means his stepping down … let his fall be the rise to change we wish to see …

59 Comments on D: Dark: Capacity for Change

  1. I’ve always had a tendency for what I’ll call manageable depression, Just a touch of the blues. None of this was much in terms of intensity or duration compared to two dark periods in my life, both associated with grief. One after my father’s death and the second after my husband’s death. Grief (a g word) and depression aren’t exactly the same but sometimes feel so close.

    • That’s an apt descriptive term Elaine, one I relate to. Sometimes the blues darker than other times, but the blues or a melancholy or whatever it is .. Grief’s origins – eg after the death of a loved one would be different I imagine, one which could plunge one into a depression if the grief is not acknowledged and worked through? No matter how long it takes? Thanks for coming by Elaine ..

  2. Depression is a silent killer, and its a painful to see loved ones suffering, with no awareness, those suffering feel caught in the dark tunnel, no way to escape.. I feel sad when ever I meet a student with depression, I immediately refer them to the doctor…. this post made me feel sad and with a heavy heart, I pray that peace and light prevail in your place..

    • I’m sorry that you felt sad Genevive – but it is so … deep sadness when we see anyone irrespective of age in the clutches of depression. Thank you for your prayers xx

  3. I read “E” and somehow missed this “D.”
    So sorry, Susan, that you’ve gone through darkness. I can’t imagine what that must be like to suffer with true depression.

    As for our nations, they’ve both had dark times, and there are definitely dark forces at work now. We will both–and others of like mind–have to work to bring lightness.

    • Thanks Merril for coming by. I also can’t imagine what it is like to suffer with full blown depression .. being witness is hard but not as hard as those with it …

      May our nations come out of their shadows – soon. And we as individuals do our bit.

  4. I sincerely sympathize when a relative of a deeply depressed person is in agony over not being able to help. Professional therapy to get the patient to find less destructive methods of getting to sleep has often been offered. When things drag, in limbo, it is especially hard on the family. One solace, worth recognizing, is that family members have done their best , and that human effort can not possibly be 100% certain to control a desired outcome.

    • Thank you Joseph, and this is so true and wise – i.e. the solace in knowing that one has done one’s absolute best and that human effort cannot possibly be certain to control a desired outcome ..

      That is all that we have left to think really – and there is solace in this … and always hope. Thank you Joseph.

  5. I’ve had those dark days, many of them. And sometimes when you’re in the midst of the dark, it’s hard to realize that it’s always darkest before the dawn…it’s hard to believe that sunlight will soon shine.
    On the other hand, sometimes I think Depression is God’s way of saying, “Stop. and Listen.” Sometimes we have to go deep inside to grow. In that case, I welcome the dark…

    Great post!

    Michele at Angels Bark

    • Thanks for coming by Michele and for saying about those dark dark days. I don’t think people realise how crippling it is.

      I love what you say about that it can be or is God’s way of saying, Stop. Listen. But going into the depths is the way to grow.

    • You’re right Andrea once in it, impossible to imagine that it’s not forever – and that’s the hardest part. Thank you for coming by, I appreciate it.

  6. Depression is such a terrible disease. I’ve lost too many friends from it. I wish more people realized how serious it is.

    My heart goes out to you, Susan. It’s not easy to see a loved one grapple with this.

    • I remember J.H. a post of yours about your deep sadness of friends of yours taking their lives. It’s a terrible killer.

      Thank you for your empathy … Not only am I worrying about him but also about my feelings of powerlessness about it all –

    • Absolutely right AJ .. a meaningful cause of depression … can different dreams be resurrected? eg by taking an inward path?

  7. Jung’s phrase, “…making the darkness conscious,” is what I believe often happens during the transformation after sleep.

  8. One more sentence:- After a refreshing sleep, have you noticed a better quality of transformation in yourself, when you can more comfortably and creatively deal with your deepest problems of life?

  9. I like the Carl Jung quote, and, of course, the lotus, Susan. Deeply thoughtful and truthful post, thought provoking.

    I often think of your South Africa, and am saddened by the situation. I pray things take a change for the better, and soon.

    • Thank you Samantha …and for your good wishes re S.A. Parliament ruled against impeachment by getting their 2/3 rd majority as of yesterday … we will see what will happen or, rather, how we will act henceforth. Civil society has plans –

  10. I had severe depression on my life’s journey. I’d like to help with a few comments. For me, depression is colored by genetic and other biological factors. My spiritual depression is helped by socially induced support (friends, therapy) and by my meditative skills. The fastest way I get out of the DUMPS is by my self-taught skills of getting to sleep within 5 minutes. Then, my serotonin neurotransmitters do their good work. In a recent publication I wrote that “Persons medicate themselves by sleeping.” This is extremely worthwhile exploring.

    • Thanks Joseph for coming by and for saying about your severe depression. It is so true that socially induced support plays a huge role and it is wonderful that you had and have it.

      Re: sleep – good sound untroubled sleep is the best medicine – as is laughter 🙂 – but many severely depressed people medicate themselves to sleep, during the night and day, sad to say.

  11. A most excellent post, Susan. I’ve suffered moments of terrible sadness – felt like depression and maybe it was. Then short-lived full-blown depression, and no, there is no light at the end of the tunnel. I thank my lucky stars it was temporary. External depression is of such internal pain … looking around, seeing no end in sight… why many people lose hope and leave. I hope things resolve somewhat in SA, and that your suffering family member finds peace, maybe a bit of that needed change.

    • Thank you very much Silvia for saying about your bouts of depression. Those bouts can come out of the blue it seems – a changed mood, unsure why, even change of seasons, or lack of sunlight on the physiological level. I also look back when I’ve been down and thank the stars that is has passed. Thank you for your wishes about my brother – peace of mind is what it really is all about. Something I’ve been thinking about – peace of mind.

  12. Depression is indeed a dark killer which takes so many in its grip. Nobody should ever be in this state of mind. May peace and happiness and light prevail in your country Susan.

    • I guess it is as it is Shilpa … lovely if no-one was caught in it’s grip but for many depression can be a way of accessing the depths ..so long as it doesn’t become totally crippling, or rendering one non-functioning or suicidal..

      Thank you for your good wishes re our country – this is a long hard road indeed …

  13. Depression is dark indeed… I also know of its clinical version only second-hand, but—like you—I’ve been through dark places myself. Yes, we emerge better human beings (I like the lotus analogy). And yes, we need the dark… how else could light exist? We need the opposites, the yin-yang… (I’m so enjoying reading your book Susan.)

    Thanks for the visit over at Life In Dogs … It makes me happy to know you’ve enjoyed the posts so far 🙂

    • Thank you Guilie for coming by – so appreciated! And for saying about my book – always lovely to hear! I’m so looking forward to reading yours: The Miracle of Small Things and I hope it’s selling like hot cakes 🙂

      Am about to pop over to Life in Dogs in a minute – such a worthwhile education, so much enjoying!

  14. I’ve lived through many dark days. It’s hard to sit with even memories, and I certainly have no clue how I have survived.
    The darker is your dark
    The brighter is your light
    To illuminate
    Who you truly are.
    I once wrote… Maybe my light was stronger than I realised.
    Thank you, Susan.

  15. Comparing what is going on in South Africa with depression shows the darkness that has hit your wonderful country. We are all people struggling to see the light. I hope that in your country’s struggle they find true light.

    Patricia @ EverythingMustChange

    • That’s true Pat, we’re all struggling to see the light. Hopefully the dawn will break when it absolutely has to .. when it is at its darkest I guess.
      Shalom, Susan.

  16. Boy Susan, I so can feel the depression clear over here on my side of the world. Depression is dark! I’m so sorry that your brother suffers from it. I wish he would work at changing his mindset. Plus, I hope he doesn’t hurt you in the process. I know you love your brother… I have been in your shoes with my brother, years ago.

    Take good care of YOU!! Don’t let your brother’s depression pull you down! I’m sending prayers your way!! HUGS!

    • Thank you for your sympathy Gwynn – I’d forgotten for the moment your own experience with your own brother so you know how hard it is to witness it. But, we are called to witness …

      Thank you for your lovely wishes, these I’m taking on board! Am lighter already 🙂

  17. Like many, I think of depression as death, albeit a living one. This is well written Susan and deeply felt, for all through your words there is a real sense of despair. I admire your brave exploration, and for revealing how depression, at times, has overwhelmed you. It seems strange, bizarre even, that when we are in the depths of those dark descents, we are told often, that they are even necessary ones … despite the fact that many depressions last for more than a decade.

    It has only been with my Jungian lens and by re-discovering ‘Alchemy’ seven years ago that I have found a little light at the end of my own dark tunnels. In particular, by learning about the ‘Magnus Opus’ and its four stages: the Nigredo, a blackening or melanosis, the Albedo, a whitening or leucosis, the Citrinitas, a yellowing or xanthosis and the Rubedo, a reddening, purpling, or iosis.

    For just the simple knowledge that in alchemy these stages exist has helped me greatly in dark times, when I too, felt lost, abandoned and utterly miserable. Now I say to myself, ‘Aha! I’m in the Nigredo, hmm, I wonder what needs washing, or whitening out … while I sit alone, often terrified, in that pregnant darkness … praying for a shepherd, a shaman, a guide to come along with a much-needed lighted lantern. Blessings always, Deborah.

    • Deborah thank you for your thoughtful response. I get touches of it from time to time not really as fully as others may experience it I am sure. But I too look at it psychologically, as a call to the depths, and being in the nigredo and all the alchemical stages. It is hugely helpful to see this as an alchemical and psychological process, one that is valuable and worthwhile …

      And of course our dreams no matter how frightful and disturbing can be the lantern in the darkness, if we switch it on and do the hard work required of us ..

      Blessings to you Deborah, thank you for yours 🙂

    • Thanks for coming by Lori, and saying about your depression and for how mindfulness has helped you. And about embracing it elsewise it consumes.. wise words indeed.
      Thank you for your good wishes about South Africa – we’ve just heard that Zuma’s appeal for impeachment by opposition parties has failed – so, another road to peer down from now on – 🙂

  18. “Making the darkness conscious”–that’s wonderful. I think astrologers would agree. Dark matter has pretty much re-organized all their thinking on space.

    • Thanks Jacqui for coming by – yes always an arrangement or re-organisation – out of chaos comes order, somehow 🙂

  19. Hi Susan
    The long dark night of the soul. Yes, we have all been there, finding the light within.
    Love your graphics.
    Best Wishes
    Jo-Ann Carson

    • Thanks so much Jo-Ann for coming by. I wonder if all have been there – we probably have but somehow maintain sunny side up …
      Best to you, Susan

  20. Susan, Dark is dark. We all face it, no matter what. Today is one of those days for me, and I have allowed my surrounding people to add to it with their own issues. I feel the burden. And I do trust it will all pass. Hopefully soon. The sun is out, melting the ice and snow that coated my driveway into slippery oblivion. See, there is hope.

    • I trust that it passes for you Beth – I don’t think those who are in that depressed state realise the effect – and affect -they have on others. Glad that the driveway is looking more visible! Glad for you for the sunshine!

  21. Thank you for this post. Depression is something often swept under the carpet and it deserves to see the light of day, which might just defeat it.

    • Thanks Stephanie, much more awareness of this silent killer (sometimes not so silent) would be beneficial I am sure. Mental illness affects so many more than we realise ..

  22. What has to fall in a depression is what most are not able or cannot or should not give up. The dark is a perverse or paradoxical protection from so very much…

    • I well remember an English analyst, when he was visiting and in one of his talks, saying that depression is a gift if we persevere and look at that depression eye ball to eye ball. It always helps to have a pilgrim on the path, but he cannot/will not even reach out … thank you for coming by Susan. Reminding us that we really can answer the invitation to check what it is that depresses us ..

  23. Very insightful, Susan. I can feel your misery during the dark times, even though you project such positivity and inspire change in others. We are a strange mix of emotions aren’t we?

    I feel envious of the person I used to be who had no contact with the darkness, but in fact I know deep down that I am a better person for the experience.

    • Thank you Lesley – I was just watering the garden and I was thinking that part of my ‘worry’ is because I feel so powerless about my family member to effect change. So I have to look at this as well. So yes, a strange mix of emotions!

      There is value in confronting our darkness so it is not an amorphous ambivalent mess – imagine doing this on a collective level as well!

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