It was a cold, rainy and dreary day in San Francisco. The weather outside matched exactly how I felt on the inside, miserable. I was at an emotional, physical and spiritual rock bottom and I saw no end to this state of being in sight. I was hopeless and seemingly powerless to the life I was living at the age of 26 years old.
This dark state of dread was nothing new to me, it started at the age of 18 years old when I fell into a major depression but had no clue what was going on due to my lack of education and awareness regarding mental health. This despair and sadness were things that I felt from the moment I woke up until I went to sleep at night.
I had no words to articulate what was going on with me. I couldn’t reach out for help because I had no idea what to say. The pain sat in my heart and I felt an indescribable sense of doom to a life of depression and sorrow.
As I made my way around Union Square in the pouring rain, I saw a Borders bookstore that I felt compelled to walk into. I was hoping to seek some answers, solace, anything to show me what was going on inside of me.
Instead of heading for the ‘Self Help’ section that I normally went to, I saw the word ‘Spirituality’ and headed in that direction instead with a fierce determination and an almost universal pull.
My hand went straight to a small book of daily meditations called, The Soul’s Companion- Connecting with the Soul Through Daily Meditations by Tian Dayton, PH.D.
I opened the book to April 16, my birthday and the passage gave me chills because it spoke directly to my soul:
Tolerating the Pain of Emptiness
I will tolerate the pain of emptiness when it enters my soul or my life. When I am not willing to do this, I cannot get to the other side of the river, to a true soul experience. Instead, I have more children, make more money, and take on more work, all in a vain attempt to fill a void that cannot be filled. That hole within me that I fear falling into has to be felt, not filled. This is my own, private spiritual struggle; my own inner battle. No one thing can solve my life or make it so that I will never feel empty inside. Really feeling empty is the first step toward spiritual fullness. It is a dangerous society that tells us that it is wrong to feel empty, that it is a sign of failure. My emptiness is my teacher and my friend
I can tolerate my own emptiness.
My eyes filled up with tears. I felt like I had just received a message from the Universe after all these years of confusion, pain and darkness. The passage stated I was making my way to the other side of the river, to a true soul experience. It mentioned struggle and emptiness and spoke of the void I felt that I had not been able to fill by drinking, using,dating, shopping or any other self-destructive method I could find. That hole within me that I fell into so many years ago. That was it! I did fall into a hole that I could only describe as a sort of hell with pain and despair. It said I had to feel it, all of it, the bad, the scary, the fear, the endless worry that I would be stuck in this place forever.
All this darkness had a name; it was my own private spiritual struggle, my own inner battle. There was even a first step mentioned that stated I had been doing that all along an that was to experience really feeling empty because that would lead me to spiritual fullness. Hope. All these things gave me hope for the first time in a very long time. I was not alone. All of these things that had been going on inside of me had a purpose with names and promises, things I thought would never be true because of the severity of the desperation I felt. There was an affirmation, which was my first time seeing something like this at the bottom of the passage that stated, ‘I can tolerate my own emptiness.’ I was blown away. My feelings were acknowledged for the first time and there was a sense of freedom and peace I was able to have.
I wish I could say that after that rainy night in the bookstore where I found out I was having a soul experience my life was struck 100% happy and there was no more pain, but that’s not my story. It was the beginning of my journey inside, back to the place of love that had been missing for so long, back to me. There is a name for that process as well and that is healing. In order to heal all those dark and fearful places inside of us, we need to reveal them to the light, to our consciousness.
This healing process has been the means of me becoming a stronger person, a wiser and more compassionate human being. Back when I was 18 years old and first fell into the dark hole I was told I needed to ‘befriend my pain’, which at the time made no sense to me but this passage still speaks to me 20+ years later when it says ‘my emptiness is my teacher and my friend’. My pain and emptiness have been both of those things and more and I am forever grateful to this passage that sent me on my way back to the light.
Wow, Courtney- It’s amazing you survived. How are you doing now? Are the holidays a difficult time? ❤️Sarah
Sent from my iPhone
Hi, after writing that piece I realize how far away I am from that night and how much better I am. The holidays for me actually cheer me up with the lights and the feelings of hope and magic. Helping others has been the bright light for me with depression and if I can help someone know they are not alone, that makes me so so grateful because that is what helped me so much. Love to you always Sarah xoxoxox
Hi! I saw your many “footprints” on my blog and came to say hello and “explore”.
This post really spoke to me also as (very many lol) years ago I went through something similar in my late teens and early twenties. I think a C S Lewis quote summed it up in my case. He said the emptiness we seek to fill cannot be filled with carnal things. It is a sign we are spiritual beings and seek things which can only be satisfied on a spiritual plain. (He said it much better lol!) As you said the empty ache one feels is a good sign. In my case I’d explain it as a hunger for our creator. I’m not religious in the “church” sense – my church is the forest, the lakes, in the hearts of others, but I’ve found the joy of filling that empty hole with God exceeds any other joy I’ve known. In other words my emptiness gave me a great capacity for joy.
I’d like to explore your blog more but no time now. I’ll follow so I can do so at my leisure (feet up and cup of tea rather than running out the door!).
Thank you for reading Claire! I love CS Lewis!! All my best, Courtney
ah you too!