Spiritual Awakening and Depression

Many people talk about experiencing a deep and oppressive depression, either just prior to or after spiritual awakening. Are enlightenment and depression connected?

I’ve read many accounts of spiritual awakening over the past decade, and noticed a common thread of severe depression, even to the point of being suicidal.  Quite a few people have asked me about depression and sudden spiritual awakening, so much so that I’ll be writing several articles about it.  Let’s investigate the kinds of depression a person might experience prior to awakening.

Existential depression

If you suddenly fall off the treadmill of so-called normal life, people may label you as depressed.  There are so many cracks in this flimsy, false reality that it’s easy to fall through one if you’re not careful. Suddenly you can’t find meaning or value in the life you’ve created for yourself.  It may be that the life you’re living truly sucks, but you can just as easily have everything you ever wanted and find that it has absolutely no meaning.  You may feel tidal waves of sadness, emptiness, meaninglessness, alienation and terror.  You might look around and wonder what you’re doing here.  You suddenly don’t feel a connection to anything.  Nothing gives you pleasure.  There is nothing to strive for, nothing you can get or experience to fix it. The pointlessness of it all is crushing, inescapable.

People spend a great deal of effort maintaining the illusion of their lives.  They work very hard to make it as solid as possible and never venture too close to the rough edges.  Otherwise they would fall right through one of those gaping holes and find themselves looking into the illusion from the outside.

Everyone around you will work very hard to pull you back into investing in the illusion.  They will get you counseling, feed you medications, take you to the movies, whisk you away on an exciting holiday, take you shopping.  Everyone will do all they can to help you return to being well-adjusted.  As you know, in an insane world of people sleep walking through an illusory life, being well-adjusted means you have to be insane.  You have to go back to being hypnotized.

This is a really painful and confusing place to be.  What happens if you don’t patch it up?  What happens if you can’t return to normal programming?

Severe depression caused by brain chemistry

If you’ve read my post on how pervasive mental illness is, you know I’m not impressed with the “mental illness” labels we use today.  However, I have observed a kind of depression that is definitely caused by brain chemistry and is entirely different from the existential kind.  For instance, bipolar depression is awesome to witness.  First of all, it’s cyclical and seasonal.  By that I mean that many people suffer from this in the summer.  It creeps up on them in the spring and then takes them down in the summer.  You can set your clock by it.  If they haven’t killed themselves by autumn, they are out of the woods, at least, until next summer.

Another characteristic is incessant looping thoughts.  The thoughts are very simple in nature, and very mechanical, but also totally overwhelming. One person I know spent pretty much her entire summer with a single looping thought of killing herself.  If she was holding a spoon, she would immediately imagine killing herself with it.  When she got in the car, she would imagine using it to kill herself. If she was taking a shower, she would imagine how she might use that environment to kill herself. Every object or situation was brought into this looping pattern of suicide. There wasn’t even any feeling behind it, she was emotionally pretty flat.  It’s simply amazing, and very fortunate, that she is somehow able to get through the summer at all.

There were summers when she wasn’t so lucky, of course. There were failed suicide attempts. And there was that one time when she took Depakote, and was absolutely stunned to have the thoughts simply vanish the next morning without a trace.  While taking the Depakote, she couldn’t even imagine having those thoughts, that’s how foreign they were.  If you ask her in July how many times a day she thinks of killing herself, she would say it was constant, too many to count.  If asked the same question in December, she would tell you she never thinks about killing herself.

I’ve known several people who exhibit a similar pattern. Some are suicidal, some spend their summers nearly paralyzed, barely able to to move through the thick fog of despair and hopelessness to take care of necessary things. The way this pattern is expressed varies, but the pattern itself is the same.

Everyone has a different take on medication, and that’s a good thing.  It’s a very personal decision.

From my perspective, which is not an opinion so much as what I am able to see with expanded awareness, is that people suffering from this pattern have mental antennae that get entrained to a certain frequency, a certain channel, if you will. There is an entity complex that uses this frequency to basically enter a person’s consciousness and take over to some degree.  It’s similar to a parasitic possession.  Taking the medication seems to lessen the strength of the frequency transmission by blocking a person’s ability to pick up that frequency.  The medication doesn’t block it 100%, but it blocks enough to give a person the upper hand.  If they choose to then watch for prodromal symptoms, modify their diet and personal habits, they can keep themselves from full blown parasitic possession.

Yeah, that sounds far out, doesn’t it? But it’s what I see and hear when dealing with people who are fully possessed.

Is it darkest just before the dawn?

Plenty of people say they were in the grips of a horrible dark depression when they awakened.

These are just a few awakened people whose narratives fit this pattern:

The Deepest Acceptance: Radical Awakening in Ordinary Life

How to Find God in Everything: An Invitation to Awaken to Your True Nature and Transform Your World

My system isn’t inclined to depression, so it was not part of my experience. You don’t have to be in existential despair in order to awaken. But it seems that this condition is not uncommon in people who have suddenly popped out of the dream.


Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America

Psychiatric Drug Withdrawal: A Guide for Prescribers, Therapists, Patients and their Families

Your Drug May Be Your Problem, Revised Edition: How and Why to Stop Taking Psychiatric Medications


READ

Depression after spiritual enlightenment

Coping with a pointless life

Losing your trajectory

Losing your motivation

Mastering your perspective

Here is an interesting article that talks about psychological impairment due to meditation.

image: Annie Spratt

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23 comments

  1. “As you know, in an insane world of people sleep walking through an illusory life, being well-adjusted means you have to be insane. You have to go back to being hypnotized.” I love how you worded it, and how true that is! It’s funny how some of the common feelings that occur after an awakening, such as loss of motivation and loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable, are often considered signs of depression. In my experience of awakening, I don’t exactly feel depressed, but it’s been disorienting and painful sometimes. I feel like I’m shedding myself of old beliefs, thoughts, interests, habits, etc., which leaves me feeling very lost and confused a lot of the time. Last year, a handful of people began suggesting that I was dealing with depression, but I don’t think they understand this process at all.

    • 21st Century Bodhi says:

      One thing that is helpful is to accept that most people, and I mean really almost no one, will understand you. People around you may love you and want to understand you, or they may feel afraid for you or even threatened by what you are going through. But they can only try to make sense of what they see via their own set of experiences and knowledge. They are seeing you from their own level, how can they do otherwise? It’s so easy to talk about the bliss, peace and freedom…but to talk about the challenging parts of the experience with people who don’t understand can actually make you feel more alienated, not less.

    • Andrew says:

      hope your doing better. thank you all for the posts.

  2. chris says:

    thank you for this post. ugh, i feel so run down, i feel as though i have lost my me, and i used to joke about how it is a good thing, but the me i feel ive lost recently is the light, god, emptiness. about a year ago, i went through an intense spiritual awakening, all the bells and whistles. i found a deep loving compassion in myself and others, in all things, i did well for a few months, so calm, collected, insightful. a grace of person, but like all matter, so too did the light pass, and ive been deeply depressed, agitated with myself, made many spiritual mistakes lately. i wonder how and if the light will reawaken in me, and bring me back to god. everything now just feels baron, and i try to find ways to bring joy back into me, but absolutly everything i try to find my way back feels fleeting. meditating, prayer, reading scriptures, i feel broken deeper than ever. its not a mater of wanting to obtain anything but the light, to let go again, to be able to speak of the wisdom of god, dharma, what have you, to be able to help others spiritually. idk if i am selfish in wanting this or if i can be allowed to be this love again. it is difficult because i had already let go of the world before, so how do i let go again? i find myself in more of a spiritual fear now. i find myself stuck in sin, error, fettered. have i any right now as i did then to still be here, and find love of god, or am i recrucifying jesus again and putting him to open shame? or would it be putting him to shame to think salvation is lost? this is extremely difficult to figure out. in the light the mind finds all possibility to the light, but in this dark, it cant find any. i wonder if i should just let myself die and wait for the next life to reincarnate to the light, or if i am actually already in the next life and it is possible to reincarnate. when i was in the light, i found myself being reincarnated infinate times over, but then i had come to darkness, back to conditions of the world. it is more difficult though. am i just wishfully thinking, or are all things still possible to overcome? any impute would help, thank you.

    • 21st Century Bodhi says:

      Chris, you poor darling…I hear you! It’s a very painful place you are in, and it’s easy for many people to make light of it and just tell you to come back to the light or whatever. Try to fix the problem. And as painful as it is, perhaps there is no problem to fix. Perhaps this is a stage you must simply move through with as much grace and compassion for yourself as you can. It’s so wonderful when you are in the light and shining that light into the world. It feels like the darkness can never touch you again, the world can never impose itself on you or soil you. And you are here to help people. Weee! And yet…

      You find yourself feeling abandoned by what you call god, or the universal love or however you want to label it. Abandoned. Lost. Bereft. I know the feeling. But you can’t run away from it or dig yourself out of it or meditate yourself out of it or pray your way out of it. I am not a Christian, but I can tell you that you need not worry about recrucifying or shaming Jesus. If Jesus is part of your paradigm, he is shining in perfection, always holding a space of love and perfection for you, no matter where you find yourself in the moment. Don’t worry about losing the love of god, because you cannot. You can feel that you have, but that is only perception. You cannot lose what you are. You are love. Your very appearance on this stage of consciousness and being is the movement of love.

      When this flower of awakening bursts into bloom in your life, you share the radiance and glory with all. But then the flower fades and drops away. If you have created an attachment to that one phase, or to being the person who heals or enlightens others, then the transition will be very hard indeed. You may have let go of the world, but only the world as you knew it then. Now you have built another world, a world in which you are filled with radiance and teaching and sharing. Can you let that go as well? Can you let go of thinking that it is your purpose, rather than just one phase of many in an ongoing process?

      I know it’s a dark, cold and painful place. I know. But in this space, can you watch your mind? See how it wants to compare how it was to how it is, how it wants to figure out how to overcome the problem, how it wants to spin out and become dramatic? Isn’t it enough to just feel whatever you are feeling at the moment without all that? What if this is part of the natural process, and what if you are making it a thousand times worse by thrashing around in it, throwing yourself against the rocks, as it were?

      Be still. Let go. Feel the fear without letting the mind add to it. Feel the pain without trying to remedy it. You can hinder the process, but you can’t speed it up. And it is a process. This is the exhale. This is the ebb. That doesn’t make it less painful, but be a good friend to yourself and just sit with it and find a way to calm yourself. What needs to break will break. What needs to fall away will do so. And what needs to arise after that will be born anew. So try to keep the flailing and gnashing of teeth to a minimum, and know that there is no place that god is not. Even in the dark, even when you misperceive yourself as being separate or abandoned. The sun in its noonday glory is an expression of god and the night in it’s deepest darkness is also an expression of god. Mastery is moving through these cycles, knowing that they are always moving and changing, not clinging to any of them and knowing that even as you sit in terror, god is also there.

      • you have no idea how much you have helped me, reading what you wrote. i am going through so much pain I want to give up….and i am giving up all my possessions…to leave where I live….i can’t handle the pain…i have so much hate for god and humans.
        and IS it true, that the conversations I’m having with everyone are empty, vacuous and really just me ‘talking to myself’? I mean, my god, talk about lonely.
        I had an experience last Sunday wherein I realized who I am…lasted about 15 seconds and I fell to the floor and screamed, blood curdling scream. I grabbed the side counter and fell to the floor. I am having a hard time grasping what happened…and realizing that the things some people are saying, that I am God, is meant to be taken literal…I found that out and it was a harrowingly scary experience. Words will NEVER describe it.
        but reading what you write, 21st Century, is so helpful. If there is anyone out there willing to talk, I would like to talk to someone. It just doesn’t work with the crisis line…they do not get it.

    • Maureen says:

      I have emptied almost every identity over the past two years… Lost/ Gave up toxic friends, children moved away, no intimacy, no longer a daughter, a liver , a sister. All I really have is my job to pay the bills. I literally own nothing but a car to get to work. I’m broke. Ive spent hours upon hours releasing and healing my past, my beliefs that no longer serve me. Then About two months ago, I turned 60 and it hit! The deepest despair I’ve ever experienced. Things that used to make me happy no longer do. Food has no taste. I can’t smell my food, even music makes me sad. It feels like life is over and there’s not one thing I can do about it. Writing these words with tears on my face. Feel abandoned by God, even though I know he never would. My heart is broken. I understand this must be part of the process but damn it hurts! Wishing you all a speedy awakening.❤️

    • Billy says:

      It sounds to me like you are craving for something you don’t have instead of accepting where you’re at. This is a recipe for suffering. This is perfectly normal because it’s how we have evolved to seek out the pleasure and push away the pain however as you can tell within your own life it is causing you a lot of misery.

      Can you very gently just allow yourself to be exactly where you are right now. How would you treat a child who felt sad and lost? Be that for yourself. There is nowhere to get to. Happiness is not over there or somewhere ahead on the road. There is only this moment. The more you just allow whatever is coming up to arise and pass without resistance the more room you will make for the joy you crave.

      This is part of your journey. Don’t reject it, learn from it. Spiritual awakening is not about being in a constant state of bliss. Nothing is constant. It all comes and goes. You cannot have bliss without the sadness and despair. However the paradox is that the more we let go and truly accept everything the more bliss will naturally occur.

      I hope this is helpful. I really understand where you’re at because I have been going through exactly the same but the last few days I have been having more insight into this.

  3. chris says:

    this experience is so difficult, idk what to make of reality. i mean, had experiences of myself dieing, leaving this physical world, going to heaven, seeing god, and feeling more alive there, than i do here. i just want to go back, but i just know i can’t go back unless i live in the way, but idk what the way is now. i keep falling every moment, stumbling over rocks. how could i taste the fruits of heaven again? i don’t just want to be in it for me, but for everyone, everything, but dont know how to find it again! i want to not feel crazy anymore! i want everyone to be able to get to heaven.

  4. Ankush says:

    Nice article. However the experience is not depression. You can come out of depression. But the dark before dawn is just an illusion.
    The thing which you are calling depression is actually a feeling of disconnected existence.
    When you merge into the great void, you release your individual energy. This is what you are referring to.

    Regards,
    Ankush

  5. Yuting says:

    Chris: Could relate to your feeling and I am going through similar experience after an awakening- I do not have an answer but want to send you and I some light in this darkness and to trust that this will also pass.

  6. Sharon says:

    I had my first round of spiritual awakening in May of 2013. It is levels to the awakening process but now I feel totally disconnected from everything and people. I am standing on the outside looking around at everyone and everything…even my family. I feel lost in it all and I think about death quite a bit. I feel that the only release from this incarceration of this physical plain is death of the physical body so the spirit can soar. I do not want to come back to earth again. I do not want to redo this. I want to go where my soul yearns to be. It just feels like my home is far away from here. My home doesn’t include slave labor, debt, disobedience, greed, hatred, people being murdered, governments, war etc. This world is ran by demonic forces. I am able to see the beauty in nature still. I see Mother Earth but my deep connect is foggy. I have had moments where I have been so consciously aware that as I sit outside I felt so deeply a part of creation. Now I just feel numb. I hope this passes and I find my joy even in knowing that we are all being targeted to be depopulated. I often wonder if I could go back to being a sleeper would i? IDK honestly. Life kinda sucked back then too but it was different. I didn’t see and hear what I see and hear now. I’m confused. I know I have been awakened to help people. I know what my duty is being a spirit living on this earth. But it’s sooooo hard 🙁 what is the meaning of life with so much hurt and pain going on in the world. People are bitter. I have kids. I would have killed myself a long time ago if it wasn’t for them. I don’t want to mess up their lives by giving up. I know everyone would be angry with me for leaving my responsibilities. So I just keep on fighting. But I don’t know. Today I will try to sit outside and connect with the source with hopes that a spark of peace will be awakened in me. It just feels like we are all sitting in a frying pan and THEY are turning up the heat.

    • Andrew says:

      wondering how things turned out.. i really connected to your comment and the whole part about you wonder if you could go back to being a “sleeper” would you? that really hit me and i hope you are back to the light so to speak.

  7. Gary says:

    Consider the possibility that our “essence” does have a purpose and that reincarnation/karma is a fact. It cannot be proven or disproven so just play along with the idea for a moment. If one was to commit suicide, what kind of wrath would karma inflict upon them in the next life? Would one be forced to repeat the same struggles in their next life? Since they obviously didn’t learn anything in their previous life (referring back to the idea of the soul/essence having a permanently sustained, individual existence)… If that thought alone doesn’t fully “awaken” a person, i don’t believe anything else will.

  8. Jaclyn Peters says:

    I would like to thank all of you who posted your comments….this is what I was meant to read. Thank you for your candidness, your honesty and trying your very best to put into words what it is you are going through. I am right there with you. Your words are my words….your thoughts and emotions are mine. I feel great gratitude to have been guided to read this one thread.

    21st Century Bodhi…thank you. It really is as simple as being able to check in when you feel at the end of one of your many ropes to see that you are not the only one experiencing the despair, fear, terror, etc., during this process. With great gratitude, I Am.

  9. Melita portsmouth says:

    Im suffering from depression and idk why im here anymore i have a feeling i dont belong in this world. This is a satanic world we live in and i hate it very much. Since ive awakened ive felt like this. Very confused…

  10. Maureen says:

    I see we all have the same exact symptoms. I think maybe this is good news. I appreciate being guided to this thread. If we all have the same symptoms it must be part of the process! That’s all. If you’re like me, you’re sick of being scared and lonely and angry and powerless.
    “Darkest before the Dawn” -those words comforted me today. To believe this too shall pass.
    To get to this point, I’m sure like me, you gone through unbelievable pains in the “letting go” part of the process. You must’ve completed that because here we are in the “I feel so empty with no end in sight, no hope in my heart” part. I believe we’re being asked to TRUST like never before. No more analyzing , no more forgiving the past and ourselves m. the work is done! Time to surrender!
    I’m Christian so I can only speak from this point of view and ask, after Christ hung on the cross and asked the Father, “why have you abandoned me”, what did he do? He proclaimed,” it is finished.” And surrendered! Talk about darkest before the dawn… This must be as the crucifixion where we completely give ourselves to God! Bless you all for your courage! May the light within you resurrect soon and may you find the strength to “Let go, Let God”?

  11. Rashad says:

    “Zombie” a word I never considered upon describing myself until now. My awakening was a lot like some of you guy’s, it practically knocked me smooth off the couch. It was as if I had never been fully present until that moment like I had been away for a really time. I remember tears of relief, memories that I had suppressed and let-go I can remember being able to feel everything! I had so much “Clarity ” in my touch and in my thoughts, even a certain clairvoyance had started to manifest.I thought I was going nuts all at the same time it felt like the truth. I could feel the presence love and the very idea of playing along with society video game The Matrix seemed idiotic.

    What happened??????????

    We are all on different journeys and not many will awaken in this life, but their is nothing more frustrating then loosing that feeling that you couldn’t really describe in the human vocabulary. idk what happen I’m simply numb at points. I’m not sleep, the matrix (society) doesn’t appeal to me at all nor would I want it too. I feel confused questioning if im even in the physical world anymore. Death has never presented its self as such a doorway, but reading you all comments reminds me that this is part of the journey and shedding our old selves seems to be apart of it so Surrendering and letting go!! whoever you identify as our creator God Bless you.

  12. Alan says:

    I’ve tried so many times to be “spiritually aware,” to feel connected with the universe and not just imagine myself as a biological robot that is plagued with depression, OCD, panic and anxiety that eventually dies and is nothing more. However the growing scientific data that I read regarding the paranormal, afterlife and spiritually makes me more depressed I than I already am. The scientific skeptical community broadcasts loud and clear that spiritual beliefs are pseudoscientific and have no merit whatsoever. I’m a by the books kind of person; I need to see proof by reputable scientists that can counter the views of the skeptics that there is some validity regarding spirituality. But where do I look? I savor to seek some positive spiritual reinforcement from a person with a genius level I.Q. that can persuade me to see a glimmer of light in this dark disappointing existence I dwell in.

  13. Fjeld says:

    The description of existential depression fits to me perfectly. The questions are what im battling with everyday, and have been for some months. I just want to get back to living a somewhat normal life. My spiritual awakening has given me a lot of insight, but unfortunately I do not appreciate it. I suffer from Generalized Anxiety and the anxiety has really gotten worse. And now i exprerience Panic attacks and existential anxiety aswell. Life is really painful right now, and I have such big problems taking care of myself. Even to go shopping for groceries is a big challenge right now. Well, anyways, do anyone have the answers to the questions ? Any experiences ? Will I ever be able to get some of my life back. I truly miss my friends, and being somewhat synchronized with society and the world around me. Thanks.

  14. Padster says:

    I have been going through a spiritual/Kundalini awakening since 2013. I am now in the process of trashing everything I used to love doing. I am a musician, but I find no interest whatsoever in my music or my instruments anymore. I feel that if I have to force myself to do something I am not going to get any enjoyment out of it. It just becomes routine. I have also lost interest in stuff I used to do on the computer. I used to build things using the train simulator program, but now I find it boring and childish. All these things are just distractions. On top of these things, I have been through a very rough time these past few months: the UK government dragged me through another disability review and have cut my benefits as a result. (I fully expect to be on the dole should they win the 2017 election).

    I now want to remain in the only true reality there is: nothingness. There’s no happiness for me and I don’t expect it or chase after it. Don’t let anyone tell you that ‘spiritual awakening’ is a wonderful thing. It isn’t, it is bloody awful. The anxiety and mental trauma I have experienced has been horrific.

  15. Gail says:

    What do any of you do when the overwhelming feeling that suicide will take you out of this and get you home? I don’t feel I can go on. This process has been going on for over 4 years. Now, I am at the point of no money for food or bills. Just want to leave here and find peace.

  16. Andrew N says:

    I had a massive spiritual awakening about a year ago, and it never let up. It is so unbelievably hard to function in what feels like a juvenile society with people around me who celebrate things that seem trivial to me. I always felt different, like a black sheep growing up, but now it is amplified 1,000,000% and it feels like I can’t ever go back to the semblance of a life I used to have.

    When I try to describe it to people I just give up because they don’t believe what I tell them and they can’t relate to it. I often think, I’m 41 now, how on earth am I going to ever make it through the rest of this life?

    When I tell people about my experiences in my spiritual communities that I belong to, they say, how wonderful! What a gift to go through that! But it’s not, it’s alienating and very depressing. My old life is gone, I’m now a hermit and I can’t find value in the things that society values. I used to be vibrant, now I just try to make it through my days and hold on to my job.

    I have no idea what’s going on, on this earth plane, and my purpose for being here, but I’m really tired of suffering as a human being here.

    Thanks for reading.
    Andrew

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