October 20th: Live each day as if it is your last
October 20, 2020
The Law of Love
October 20, 2020

Depression or the soul’s dark night?

By Jacqui-Theresa Leiba

It is a time when mental health issues are at the forefront in the discussions in society. It is also time that we need to be aware that being human is a mysterious and awesome gift that we may know little about despite our levels of education.

Depression for example may find most of us in a psychologist’s chair when what we really need is to address what is happening with the prayer of surrender to God’s actions in the soul.

Almost 24 years ago, I began to experience the soul’s dark night. I did not have the language or the knowledge to know what was happening.

It was by discussing it with Fr Henry Charles that made me realise that this was no ordinary ‘depression’, and I was advised by him to surrender to what God was doing.

We live in a time when many are questioning their faith, religious beliefs and yes, God too.  Plans, hopes, and dreams for the future may have been flatlined for many by COVID-19; but God is waiting at the other end of that flatline with hope and the promise of a future.

These times are rife for episodes of the dark night. It is imperative that we understand that medical ‘experts’ may not be familiar with or able to discern this kind of experience and antidepressant drugs are not the answer to what might affect the soul.

Though the dark night and depression may overlap, they are markedly different. The dark night is a spiritual crisis.  Depression is a mental health issue. Knowing the difference can give a person the right kind of help they need.

In the dark night of the soul, someone may experience a deep, cavernous emptiness inside in relation to God who seems non-existent, though He is in fact close. Typical modes of prayer and adoration make no sense whatsoever and seem dry, empty, and meaningless. There might also be some very subtle mystical experiences as well.

In my own case, I experienced being underwater and unable to breathe while attempting daily activity. The lesson here is “Drop everything. Make room for Me”, but the person does not know that.

Despite the emotional pain, the person would not typically have suicidal or morbid thoughts of hurting themselves, which are more typical of depression. Sleep and eating disturbances are not common with the dark night. Physical problems like weight fluctuations, headaches and digestive issues are more commonly found in depression.

I am not a clinician or theologian, but I do have my experiences to go by. We need to be more educated in these times about the effects of all kinds of pain; physical, psychological as well as spiritual.

If a person is in doubt about what may be happening, along with consulting a psychologist, it may be helpful to consult a member of the clergy familiar with the dark night or mystical theology and the writings of St John of the Cross and St Teresa of Avila.

A contemplative lay or religious community can also be quite helpful. It may mean the difference between trusting God in the dark times or being stuck on pills for a lifetime.

If this resonates for you in anyway and you need someone with a listening ear, I can be contacted at the.inner.room.life@gmail.com -Jacqui-Theresa Leiba.