Some wiser than I have come up with a more poetic way to describe The Pit. I have heard it called “The Dark Night of the Soul.” The thing of it is, the dark night of the soul sounds a bit too sanitized and spiritual for me.
Note: You can find part one of this post here.
My stay in The Pit felt raw, harsh, endless, and brutal. Not clean and certainly not spiritual.
Were my trip into the dark places spiritual events?
In hindsight, yes. Every. Time.
The Dark Night of the Soul
At the time, I did not feel in the least spiritual. If anything, I felt abandoned by God. I mean, in theory, God could have snatched me from the clutches of The Pit, right?
And yet, here I was neck deep in muck, treading muddy water, trying to stay afloat, and barely doing so.
I was in survival mode, no questions about it.
This was war…except I knew not the enemy.
Staying in The Pit
Some might say: “just make the choice to climb out of The Pit.” Easy peasy.
Years ago, I would have adhered to this view. Now, I have much more compassion. I don’t believe things are so black and white.
In my opinion, it takes more than choices to find our way back to the land of the living. Usually, our descent into the abyss is speedy and unexpected. We find ourselves there in the mire because something unforeseen and traumatic transported us there.
I would also venture to say, I believe with the right kind of support, our stay in the dark places can be shortened.
If some are willing to provide a sacred space in which we can experience the full spectrum of thoughts and feelings, and then, after experiencing them, proceed to integrate them while being fully heard and seen without judgments our stay can in the dark places can be brief. In this case, indeed, I trust the process and the journey can be hastened.
The Lone Journey
Those who travel alone, struggle much — harder and longer.
In my case, my struggle was not for lack of support. I had support. However, hubs did not possess the correct tools to help me. Nevertheless, he was willing to learn and he was also willing to provide the Space.
He loved me unconditionally through it all. This process was not about him, it was mine alone.
And, even though we both went through the same events, we did not process them the same way. The beauty and gift of his love for me was that he did not expect me to be like him. Nor did he shame me for being different.
The hardest part of this latest stay in The Pit was my profuse head knowledge. I understood what was happening, I had understanding but I was too paralyzed by my feelings to apply it.
I used to say: “I am not stupid. If I could just make a choice and by that choice, I could make these feelings go away and snap my life back to ‘normal’, don’t you think I would?”
I felt pushed around by forces stronger than my willpower and these facts added to my dismay.
By all account, I was a strong person. Up to that time, I had always been able — by sheer force of will — to get things done or to move through life’s hard events.
Yes, I was knocked on my knees but never for long.
My desire to survive and thrive always took over and showed me a way out. This is the reason why I though wellness was an act of the will alone.
Except, it was not. At least not fully.
Yes, by all accounts, wanting to be well is certainly the first step. However, it takes much more than grit.
I had plenty of that.
Getting well means being willing to experience all of our feelings. It means being willing to unearth ancient emotions we long ago buried because we believed “out of sight is not out of mind.”
That’s a lie.
Buried feelings don’t die, they lurk — forever.
Feelings must be felt and let go. Then, they can disperse and new ones can surface
New habits must be practiced and we must, must, MUST, listen to our bodies. We must honor our process and who we are in the midst of the process. Additionally, we must accept who we are and where we are.
Self-loathing does not help. Self-rejection is harmful.
Shame is crippling and destructive.
We must be able to say “I feel ‘this way’ and it is okay.”
I could not say these words “it’s okay.” My feelings did not feel okay. At. All.
Climbing Out of the Pit
I remember working so damn hard to get out of The Pit and finally, laying, panting on the side of the gaping hole with a tiny spark of hope in my heart.
“Maybe this is THE turning point.”
“Maybe, I finally conquered this beast.”
Most often than not — within a few days — I was back in the muck and each time it was harder to muster the wherewithal to even want to try climbing out again.
The Dark Night of the Soul: Answers
I was so distraught with my — lack of — relationship with Abe, that one night, at one AM, unable to sleep, I was scurring the internet for answers.
Gratefully, I finally found some.
I can’t describe the relief I felt upon hearing I was not alone. There were others parents in my shoes with my feelings. I was not insane — nor alone.
While getting counseling for Reactive Attachment Disorder – RAD – for Abe, I felt such relief upon hearing RAD is the only disorder which is diagnosed by looking at the family members rather than the person affected by the disorder. Those suffering from RAD can be extremely manipulative and most of the time they have their “for the public” persona. This means they are gentle, polite, kind and sweet in front of strangers. Their extreme behaviors are kept solely for the family.
This means that not only is home chaotic, outsiders also usually think you are the issue.
The shame runs deep. For these reasons, most of those struggling with such issues stay quiet and wear pasted smiles pretending all is well.
I went through four counselors. All of them knew each other. All of them wonderful, caring, and knowledgeable. However, only one of them was truly able to connect with me on a very deep level: Rebecca.
Rebecca “got” me. She heard me without judgment. Rebecca was able to honor where I was in my process. She was also willing to crawl into The Pit and sit with me.
She was not about fixing me or fixing the situation I was in. She was about allowing me to be where I was and find my answers.
Rebecca offered support and ideas when asked. But, she did not push. I had previously done things only because a counselor had asked and for me, this was a disaster, setting me back weeks if not more.
Rebecca did not treat me as if something was wrong with me. She was my oasis, my place to run to when life was overwhelming. My place away from The Pit.
The End of the Dark Night of the Soul
Little by little, I found my way back.
I can’t tell you when or how. It was a process and obviously an extremely slow one. I often had to remind myself that the turtle won the race. Moreover, there was no race. The whole race idea was a lie. I was not in competition with anyone.
It was just me, on a journey. A journey more like a really bad trip to some forsaken foreign country, trying to find my way out of the dark places.
But, very real.
I understand my path and The Pit belong solely to me. They may mean nothing to you. However, I would venture to say, you have had your own dark places. Maybe you are even there now.
Sadly, I do not have answers and I never did find that darn magic wand.
No magic wand.
No magic pill.
Just a path.
I don’t have amazing words of wisdom infused with supernatural powers.
I can’t fix this.
Strangely enough, neither can you.
There is nothing to “fix.” Not the events, Not the people. Most certainly not you.
There is nothing “normal” to go back to.
And please, don’t compare.
“How can I feel this way over losing my dog when kids are starving in Africa?”
Shame and Comparisons
Yes, there are indeed some in “worse” situations than you. However, and this is a BIG however, you still have your feelings and they are okay. Moreover, denying your feelings does not fix the situation in Africa — or next door.
Shame has never fixed anything. Ever.
You do have your feelings, whatever they may be and the only way to the other side is through. There is no “around.”
There is not one answer for all. There is no shortcut, no easy way out.
Nevertheless, there is light at the end of the tunnel even when the tunnel seems endless. There is a silver lining. Yes, this too shall pass and there is a path to a new normal.
Find a tribe, find somewhere where you can be seen and heard. And trust the process even if the process stinks. And, stink it will.
We all have our times with the dark night of the soul. We hate them, they stretch us to the limit, bring us to the brink. They also bring metamorphosis. Big word but very apropos.
Would the caterpillar want to become a butterfly if it knew the process?
The unknown scares us.
My Dark Night of the Soul
My dark night of the soul was not like hubs although he has had his.
Our Pits are tailor made.
Which, in truth, is no consolation.
All I can say is this….find someone who has your back and ride this out as best you can.
You are not alone…others have felt as you do and others also feel alone. Even in your wilderness, there is a tribe for you.