The Dark Inner Struggles That Can Connect Us

Dark Night of the Soul.jpg

I write about animals. About sustainability. About how we can know the truth to use that understanding to make conscious and compassionate choices. 

 I do this in daily choices. Not only with how it relates to those and the environment around me but also myself. 

The Compassionate Road encompasses all. No one far greater than you. 

Me. 

Ourselves. 

Not in the way that social media has made it; that we are so important we need to document everything and share our stories etc. No, I am talking about the deep delving into the soul and honouring reverently the compassion for the self. 

In a month’s period two people I know have taken their lives. Both successful incredible woman who battled with depression on and off. This is not a blog where I claim to know the solution… but to not talk about it, to not keep raising the difficult conversations onto the table - well, that’s when we fail to help build environments that support us through the struggles…that lift us as vulnerable humans and connect us to move through together.

Mental illness. It can take hold as violently as a virus and/or can linger in the shadows. It can knock all ability to see straight. 

Depression. Anxiety. Post Natal. 

Just down right suffering. 

Sometimes it may not be a medical condition. Sometimes we can feel down right lost and without hope... just because. Sometimes we can just feel so sad because something extremely upsetting has occurred. Sometimes, and this is important we grasp, mental illness is as life threatening as cancer. It is serious and must be treated so, with urgency and long-term priority.

After 36 years on this planet I have experienced a couple of good bouts of what I would call the dark night of the soul. As a teenager (but perhaps that is a rite of passage?) which led me to finding yoga – and changed the trajectory of my life. I was a lucky one.

And after my second child. 

That one was downright scary because I witnessed my mind playing tricks on me. All the more nerve racking when you consider yourself an adult and you should have “shit-together”.  

I thought -believed -I was a terrible mother (I am not) and that my kids and husband would be better off without me (they wouldn’t). 

I was lucky enough to have had a decade of yoga and meditation practise plus being a naturopath under my belt – not enough to stop my mind fucking with me, mind you, but enough experience for me to be able to be brave/vulnerable/scared enough to tell my husband the shit that I was feeling and the hard core thoughts I was having. 

We got support. For me, it was in the form of a night nurse once a week so that I could sleep, well, sleep 1 out of 7 nights. I was that exhausted and that one night a week was enough to keep me from tipping over. Just. I stored her as “my Saviour” in my phone…I also saw a psychotherapist for a couple of years once I was sleeping again to work through some more core issues that that wobbly period raised for me.

I came out of that time, with such blood and bone understanding of what living with a mental illness could do to you. I came out with a new comprehension and sense for the strength of my mother, who had gone through her demons on a much tougher and longer road than many. It had been hard for me to understand before that experience.

 I also came out knowing how important finding my centre and returning to that place – that core connection – again and again and again, is to me. To all of us. Not only my “mental’ health; but my “soul” health.

Not long after I started The Compassionate Road as a place I could voice, create share my knowledge – because I had to. I was called to. It felt right, needed, expressive. If all that information sat in me, I felt it stagnant and once I write a blog or create a book etc I feel a lightness. My focus was on a cause that I feel a beacon towards, but alongside it, every step of the way is a more centred, perhaps selfish, but so necessary cause – the compassionate road for the self.

To stay connected. This is especially important to the ones, like myself, who are of sensitive constitutions and can feel the injustices of the world.

Some years/months/days are effortless and others more challenging… ultimately, I believe it is in those tougher times I am being called to get me back ‘home’ to the basics. 

To know MY deep truth is that home is right HERE. 

That everything is OK. 

To breathe. 

To use the tools I have gathered and earnt through surviving the battles. I’m not saying it is always easy.

In the moments as a teen when I went through despair and a self-loathing so strong I couldn’t comprehend what was going on, I was alone. Surrounded by wonderful friends and family, yet with no tools. No one spoke of inner struggles then – or certainly not openly or in my world. The only inner struggle I had to identify with was the severe nervous breakdown my beautiful mama bear had gone through – that was downright unapproachable to a teenager. 

I stand now as a strong perfectly imperfect woman, a mother, a Naturopath, and everything in between, and I know both such strength and weakness, such success and failure, so much love and so much deep sorrow. I understand how wonderful people can’t see their light sometimes, so much so that they take their own lives. And yet I also understand how every breath we take is a precious gift, and the quest to be moved by this bigger force through all sorts of spaces to be able to really be with the bliss of life – well, it is our human calling. 

I am very close to a “tweenager” who has been though her own trauma, and for her journey she is having to face these inner demons younger than many. And I cannot fix her. No matter how much I want to. For we cannot band-aid these processes nor can we heal someone else’s pain. I can only pass on the learnings I have had and love her with my whole heart...continueing to learn with her.  

To her ( and anyone who may be struggling too) I say, 

Firstly, lots of people feel what you are feeling baby. You are not alone. 

They may not talk about it, but I promise you they do. You are normal. 

 When you feel like this, what does it feel like in your body? 

Can you identify when the feeling comes on? 

Honour how you feel sweetheart. Tell me ( or someone you love) about it and create what you need. 

Always know you have support and that you will feel better… that these feelings that don’t feel nice, will pass. I promise.

I always get her to look me in the eye in those moments (a trick my hubby does for me when I start going into my old bullshit stories), because I find it so much harder for us to stay in our “head” when we make connection with others who truly know us. 

Sometimes when she goes into this space, I give her what she may be craving. The dark inside quiet room. No school. A book to escape to. Cuddles – or not – space for herself, while being just there for her… 

She emerges when she is ready. 

Other times I make her do something physical. Even if she doesn’t want to… not making her go into crowds or put on the mask we have to when being social, but something that she can travel from her head into her body. 

A big bike ride. A long swim. Tennis. Nature.

She hates it at the time. I don’t try to make her like it. I have to use my intuition on what is best for her at the time. I give her space. She emerges…. 

There is part of me – the mother, the nurturer – that wants to just MAKE IT BETTER. NOW. 

Snap out of it babe. Be happy. Life is good. Your mind is being a shit, tell it to shut up. 

But I know better than that.
It isn’t that easy.
To think of any mental illness or inner struggle like this, will not help the one who is suffering at the time. I promise.

I don’t know the solution because there is no one solution. 

I know some ways. Some tools. From myself. From my friends, support groups, professional training, spiritual guidance… 

I know we have to identify a feeling to be conscious of it. So my little friend, she has this now. She can name clearly when she is feeling “it”. She respects herself enough to know she has to remove herself from what she “normally” does to give herself time to heal it – come out of it, … I liken it to the fog lifting off… 

She knows she has a support group she can talk about it with and whom love her whole heartedly despite of feeling down sometimes. 

She is learning tools to be able to self soothe and help herself – in my hope to one day to not even need to come out of these moments because there will be so much self-love and appreciation she won’t dip into those dark murky waters. 

 I can hope. 

But some of us sensitive ones, we dip in now and then. 

My husband never does. He is one of the people who is just able to reframe EVERYTHING to work out to support him in his mind. To feel good. He resets his button to make it reload with no errors… to the point that when we did some psychotherapy together, she was saying he is “too positive”... He is a rare one. I take lots of learning from him - and him from me. Yet I am also not so naive to think he may never experience that rollercoaster for himself - because it can happen to anyone.

In my 36 years, now much older than the teen self who struggled; I know, apart from my husband, ALL of my friends have had moments of darkness, of deep hard soul rocking down times.

Some got medication. Some got professional support. Some changed their lifestyles. Some just popped out of it. Some are still wading through it. 

All of them are more awesome for it. There is something raw, real and tender that you can only get when you experience those soul-rocking, earth moving spaces for yourself that strip you bare..

Some of my friends, you would never guess it in a million years. I don’t think the majority of people in my life knew how hard I was struggling in the times I was… but those close to me did, and they were life lines.

The woman circle’s I have done over the last ten years have opened me up to that. That even the most successful and strong woman (and men) deal with demons too. 

Knowing this is changing the game. 

The more we talk about it, the more it will change and the stigma will be removed - which will help bond connection between us. We now are getting to the point we can talk about it and not be shamed. Although it is of my belief that we must talk about it with those, we feel honoured by, so they can hold our space when we are tender.  

If we speak it on social media but don’t have a ROCK of a mate, then it means NADA. 

We also now have this spreading awareness - I think we can thank the yoga movement for – that our mind is not us. That we are so much more than the mind. Our mind is a tool, we can use, but if we let it get out of control it can trip us … and with knowing this we can use “tools” to find how to control the steering, perhaps change what device is steering us AND understand WE ARE SO MUCH MORE complex than just autopilot thought patterns, SO MUCH DEEPER.

Yet on the other side we now contend with this fast-paced life and the added pressure that social media has placed on us (my husband does not have any) – that extra sense of comparison that even our teenagers contend with (like they need more of that when they are going through that period.) If we are going to do deep meaningful work; creative work – the type that fills our soul, that makes us purr, then we must spend long periods of time working on those projects. Social media thrives and pumps from fast constant content, most often shallow and the added screen time, that reaching out addiction for our phones to fill in spare moments with stimulation keeps us OUT of our bodies and IN our minds and unable to follow these callings of the deeper work our souls are craving – it is the opposite of what grounds us. So I query it…

I play the game of social media but I play it with rules to protect myself. Perhaps not everyone needs those boundaries with social media, and I don’t claim that dark times are only associated with this new part of our life, but in my journey of self-understanding, I have learnt what my triggers are. I respect them because I know the darkness and I don’t really feel like going there if I can help it. 

Because I still wobble now and then… and knowing that about myself means I am more likely to help myself. So I do what I can. To make my “soul-health” a priority - because as I already mentioned, it affects every aspect of my life.

 The little things I do – 

I respect the basics of good whole-based foods, a clean diet, low in sugar and stimulants; of a good solid sleep of 7-8 hours (this one is hard to respect if you have a new born who hasn’t learnt to yet) and support myself with herbs and vitamins.

I am committed to my practise of yoga and pranayama because they keep me grounded and stable

I know I need home nights to read, to potter, to chill. So I don’t over book my social time. 

I PRACTISE being gentle on myself. This doesn’t always come easy because damn I am hard on myself as a automatic response, but I am committed to being compassionate to myself and changing that old pattern. I work every year on some aspect on self “growth” - which really for me comes down to knowing and loving myself, because this affects every other aspect of my life.

 If I can feel I am starting to feel shit, I do one of three things

1.    I go into my divine bed – my sacred space and take a nap, read a book or just have some quiet time.

2.    I dance. Salsa. I know it sounds counter intuitive but for me 60 percent of the time it does the trick to get me out of my head and back into my body. Yoga can do the same but there is something about moving to music for me that shakes it up.

3.    I go drink a wine with a bloody good friend and talk about it. 

 Know thy self. 

It’s a game changer. 

What works for me won’t work for you.  

But remember our suffering can connects us rather than divide us. 

This is what I have learnt from many angles of our journeys into the dark and what I pass on with the hope those I love, myself included, will use to find the way back to the light in the moments it is hard. They, I, will know that we are not alone, that we have support and that there is a deeper calling to us when we are in the struggle. A shake up to perhaps change our life, or perhaps change something with in us…In the moments we feel like there will be no light again. Swallowed by the dark.

When someone we love dies, we understand that it is not what they did in their life that made us love them. Not their achievements, not their waist size, not their bank account or any of that. 

We love the ones we love just because we love them. 

If we can love ourselves for the same reason, well… that is my journey always.

On the Compassionate Road…

gemma davis