Can depression lead to a richer spiritual life?

Our tears so blind our eyes that we cannot see our mercies.
               -- John Flavel (1627-1691)

The thoughts by Dr. Parker Palmer below are beautifully expressed and echo my experience with clinical depression.  If you’ve never suffered, it may enlighten or expand your notions and ability to empathize.  Reading it was a comfort to me and perhaps it will be to you, as well, if you have suffered.

I also have a poem I wrote a while back about being in the middle of clinical depression titled “Sink Hole.”

How could depression lead to a richer spiritual life?

“I can answer this question only after the fact, because in the midst of severe clinical depression I have never felt anything redeeming about it, spiritually or otherwise. But when I emerge back into life, several things become clear.

* One is that the darkness did not kill me, which makes all darknesses more bearable—and since darkness is an inevitable part of the cycle of spiritual life (as it is in the cycle of natural life) this is valuable knowledge.

* Two, depression has taught me that there is something in me far deeper and stronger and truer than my ego, my emotions, my intellect, or my will. All of these faculties have failed me in depression, and if they were all I had, I do not believe I would still be here to talk about the experience. Deeper down there is a soul, or true self, or “that of God in every person” that helps explain (for me, at least) where the real power of life resides.

* Three, the experience of emerging from a living hell makes the rest of one’s life more precious, no matter how “ordinary” it may be. To know that life is a gift, and to be grateful for that gift, are keys to a spiritual life, keys that one is handed as depression yields to new life.


the woman thought to herself,
what’s really important?

[some days I wake up so lost I can’t remember
why I got up the day before;
what mattered enough to make
me want to get up?]

the woman told herself
breathe, just breathe in.
exhale, do it because you can.

[I haven’t had a day like this in a long time.
such a long time that it almost hurts worse
than before when the bad days
were constant.]

the woman laid down, her skin hurt
she gave in, just for a moment, an hour.
thinking perhaps if I sleep
this feeling will flee, and it will almost be
as if it never happened.

[I know from experience
you can NEVER give in to it.
depression is like a Sink Hole.
FIGHT,  get up.  Don’t let it win.]

the woman thought to herself
and took a breath.
and another, and accepted
that this was a fight, but it was her fight.
and one that she wanted to win.

One thought on “Can depression lead to a richer spiritual life?

  1. A very affirming insight into depression. I suffer from agitated depression and have for years been encouraged to use it as a tool to discover deeper spiritual aspects. But as written here spiritually is not ‘in’ depression. Having the patience to see it through. On the other side out of the depression you see the deeper spiritual aspects of yourself. Helpful, thank you.


Thanks so much for reading and sharing.

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