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Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Jonathan 4/18/20 5:55 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Chris Marti 4/18/20 8:05 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Anna L 4/19/20 5:19 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Olof 5/28/20 1:11 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 4/18/20 8:14 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Anna L 4/19/20 5:35 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Ward Law 4/18/20 10:40 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Chris Marti 4/18/20 10:58 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Papa Che Dusko 4/18/20 11:10 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 4/18/20 11:27 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Chris Marti 4/18/20 11:57 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Papa Che Dusko 4/18/20 1:42 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Chris Marti 4/18/20 1:51 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Papa Che Dusko 4/18/20 2:16 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 4/18/20 2:18 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 4/18/20 2:07 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Papa Che Dusko 4/18/20 2:18 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 4/18/20 2:21 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication A. DIetrich Ringle 4/19/20 6:53 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication agnostic 4/18/20 11:44 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Jonathan 4/18/20 3:16 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö 4/18/20 3:58 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Chris Marti 4/19/20 8:14 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Chris Marti 4/19/20 8:20 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Jonathan 4/22/20 3:38 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication David Matte 4/18/20 5:59 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Chris Marti 4/18/20 7:05 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Jonathan 4/19/20 1:45 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication David Matte 4/19/20 7:16 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Jonathan 4/22/20 3:29 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Noah D 4/18/20 10:12 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Chris Marti 4/19/20 8:24 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Mike Smirnoff 4/19/20 9:01 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication agnostic 4/19/20 12:33 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Noah D 4/19/20 11:26 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Mike Smirnoff 4/20/20 12:36 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Nicky2 4/18/20 10:42 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Jonathan 4/19/20 1:53 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication agnostic 4/19/20 6:58 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Jason Massie 4/19/20 12:31 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Travis McKinstry 4/19/20 11:03 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Jonathan 4/22/20 3:45 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Tim Farrington 4/22/20 4:00 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Anna L 4/22/20 4:52 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Sam Gentile 5/29/20 12:12 PM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Tim Farrington 5/29/20 2:31 AM
RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication Tim Farrington 5/29/20 3:09 AM
TL;DR:
I am going through a difficult and exhausting time. Also, I intensified my meditation practice. Now I am having symptoms of both dark night AND depression/burnout. A doctor now prescribed antidepressants. Is it a good idea to take them? Could I be trapped in the dark night this way?

Longer version
Recently, I intensified my meditation practice (2 >7 days retreats, first one purely concentration and the second one insight focused). During and after that, dark night symptoms appeared. (Concentration deteriorated, meditation in general became very hard, a lot of difficult content came up, disorientedness a la “who am I?” and a generally darker and “distanced” view arose among other things)
At the same time, I was (and am) going through a difficult time in my life: problems in marriage, unsure work situation, moving to another city, kindergarden closed due to corona and so on (most of this was already the case before I intensified the practice).
During meditation, I was noticing a lot of energy moving around in my body (I do a lot of body scanning), it mostly felt like fear. A lot of worries crossed my mind and then with every moment a little thunderbolt hit my body.
Now, in the last few weeks there have been days when I just couldn’t “function” anymore, ie that I found I harder and harder to cope and ultimately couldn’t think straight due to some kind of blocking in my mind. It is as if my mind was building up a protection shield against negative thoughts and emotions (the thunderbolts), bascially sedating me.
I then talked to a psychiatrist (bascially because my worried wife forced me to do so), who in the end diagnosed depression and prescribed a (light) antidepresssant. (personally I think I’m more in burnout territory, if I was to label it with a medical diagnosis).

So now my questions are:
Does anybody else have had “medical issues” like depression/burnout AND was going through the dark night at the same time?
Is it a good idea to take the medication in this situation? (this post sounds relevant but it's not dark-night-specific)

Or could it be that the (potential) depression is in fact just a part of the dark night, as Daniel Ingram writes in "The Progress of Insight" chapter of MCTB, and that taking meds now would interfere with this progress (just like intentionally walking into a swamp to cross it and then calling for a helicopter rescue to bring you back to the side where you left off, this way never getting to the other side)

My primary fear is that by taking the meds I might kill the depressive symptoms but get stuck in the dark night -- or, that I might get stuck in depression not taking the meds.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 8:05 AM as a reply to Jonathan.
A doctor now prescribed antidepressants. Is it a good idea to take them? Could I be trapped in the dark night this way?

I'm answering this as someone who has been in exactly your situation -- take the medication. Brain chemistry trumps meditation practice, every time.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 8:14 AM as a reply to Jonathan.
I agree with Chris. I'm on antidepressants and it hasn't in any way prevented me from getting through and learning from the dukkha nanas. On the contrary, it has made it possible. 

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 10:40 AM as a reply to Jonathan.
I was on a mild SSRI (Lexapro) for ten years. It is difficult to say whether it was worthwhile or not. Although it did help with mood and anxiety, in some ways I acted as if I was "not in my right mind." I am fortunate that I was informed about the need to withdraw from the meds by tapering the dosage over many months. A sudden withdrawal after long-term usage can be worse than any dark night.

My advice is to treat antidepressants as risky and consider them a last resort. The chemical imbalance theory of depression should be treated with skepticism. See this video. Also seek out antidepressant "survivor" forums and listen to their stories.

I am not telling you not to take the pill; that would be medical advice. Just don't do it because someone says it's a good idea.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 10:58 AM as a reply to Ward Law.
Lexipro -- that's the SSRI medication I was prescribed. I never had a problem with it, it was very helpful, and it did not cause any bumps or changes to my mediation practice. I was checked in person by the doc every three months. When it was time to get off of it I took lesser doses in 50% increments for many weeks.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 11:10 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Same here! DN caused all sorts of turnmoil in my mind and wife begged me to go and seek for help. I did and I've got SSRI Sertralin (in Europe) for PTSD (I had this condition for decades just never realised it until DN rocked me really hard).

Yes, it helps to level out the motions and is in a way kind of like Equanimity (read; kind of), all is status quo in way so one will need a bit of extra effort to keep practice going as mind stuck in EQ doesnt care if one ispracticing or not emoticon 

But yes, use the meds if you feel you are dropping too deep into depression. 

BTW, medicine like SSRI will not get you out of DN. Only practice will do that. Meds will just help you dont dip too low and dont get too high up in the over excited state. Its kind of a leveler. 

Also to mention I refuced to go over the 50mg of Sertralin which is 30mg of Citalopram (both SSRI in Europe). This low dose help enough in my case. 

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 11:27 AM as a reply to Jonathan.
If you were to find that you feel worse from the medication, or anything like what Ward Law describes, report that to you doctor and ask for a different treatment. There are many different medicines, and different people respond differently to them. I'm very picky with regard to medicines. I don't just accept side effects if there are better alternatives. Therapy could also be an option. I have found that medicines and therapy together can work miracles. Not everyone manages to go through therapy without medication, but for some, that is sufficient.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 11:44 AM as a reply to Jonathan.
Hi Jonathan,

I'm sorry to hear about your suffering. I was in a similar situation, had three 2+ year quite deep depressions over a ten year period. Therapy, medication (prozac) and lifestyle changes all appeared to help for a while at least, but only meditation really put an end to it. Medication always felt like a bit of a band-aid to me and I didn't like the feeling of relying on it too long, but in the deepest lows it numbed me out when I felt like I couldn't handle things. I was much more sensitive to the medication than normal so I would recommend starting in low doses and building up if necessary, assuming it's not a life-threatening emergency.

I used to worry about some of the scare-mongering about medication and supposed long-term damage. While I think medications tend to be over overprescribed and maybe unnecessary in many cases, they didn't seem to have any long-term effects after the withdrawal, which can be unpleasant. Meditation is by far the most powerful brain-altering substance I ever engaged in!

And don't forget that we are all going through a difficult and exhausting time at the moment in our relationships and work!

Best wishes
agnostic

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 11:57 AM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
There are many different medicines, and different people respond differently to them. 

Yes, that's absolutely correct. I changed medications at one point for some reason that I now can't recall, but the new medication actually made things much worse. Anxiety went off the charts. I called my doc immediately and was told to stop using the new meds and switched back.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 8:14 AM as a reply to Jonathan.
Jonathan. please read the attached PDF file. I think it very much addresses your question. It's from a book I recently purchased called "A Hell of Mercy."

Attachments:


RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 1:42 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
If SSRI fork for me then I can feel better. If I start feeling after a longer while preassure in my head and hence feel edgy , it was my sign for stopping with the SSRI for a while but keep on a lookout for the deep dip into depression and get back to using them. 
SSRI meds are not to be used constantly for very long periods, I've been told by Danish doctors. 

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 1:51 PM as a reply to Papa Che Dusko.
SSRI meds are not to be used constantly for very long periods...

Interesting. I've had several doctors tell me the opposite. I was always suspicious of long term side effects but when I's ask that question I was told there really aren't any. People stay on the medication for years and years. I also used to ask about the medications having less effect the longer they're used. I was told that's not a problem, either.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 2:07 PM as a reply to Papa Che Dusko.
When I was on SSRI last time, I had to adjust the dosage to my period cycle. Otherwise I would either get that high pressure in the head half the time or fall into an abyss half the time. Now I'm on something different, that resembles SSRI but isn't one, I've been told. I combine that with 5-htp (organically bound tryptophan); that's not recommended, but my psychiatrist is aware and it seems to be what works best for me now that I also take ADHD medication. 

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 2:16 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I've also had doctors in Sweden and in Denmark telling me it's no issue just keep using them. Then I've got a new doctor a younger lad, very nice and gentle personality telling me otherwise. He even said in a bit disappointed voice "I know they say that but they really shouldn't". This same info I've got from my last psychologist whom I like a lot , and he disclosed to me that many doctors get paid vacations from pharmacy companies (up to 3 weeks of paid vacation in Mallorca and similar places). Wonder what these doctors need to do in return. And you sir live in the hard core of all capitalist countries emoticon Of course you should be on SSRIs all your life! emoticon 

One can really feel if one is feeling better and one can also feel if there is a bit too much Serotonin in the body (head preassure , agitation are some example, also hard to sleep at night). 

SSRI help to rewire some neurons in the brain. As soon one is really feeling rather under control it's good to lower slow and even stop for a while. I'm not talking about few days but rather a few months at least. I usually waited for that unpleasant head preassure as a sign to stop. Took me 5 years to figure this out. No doctor ever told me this. 

Im the captain of my ship! I'm the master of my soul! emoticon Power to the people! emoticonemoticon 

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 2:18 PM as a reply to Papa Che Dusko.
How do you go about to stop with SSRI for a few days? For me it takes months to stop with it. The withdrawal symptoms are awful. If I forgot to take the medz in the morning, I was hyperventilating in the afternoon.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 2:18 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
When I was asked to increase Sertralin from 50 to 75mg my dear hemhoroids bled like crazy. So I went back to 50mg and that was my daily dose ever since. I was never on very high doses. 

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 2:21 PM as a reply to Papa Che Dusko.
Okay, I guess that makes it easier to stop. I needed a higher dosage. However, when I tried taking a very small dosage only during pms (I have PMDD), I'd have withdrawal symptoms when I stopped too. 

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 3:16 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Thanks @agnostic and everyone else for your feedback! This really is very valuable feedback for me.

If I get those of you right who have experience with (light) SSRIs, there is no significant interference with meditation in general and with dark night episodes in particular.
As @Linda stated, the meds even made it possible to get through the DN. That's very helpful information, I really was afraid that it could prevent that.
And don't forget that we are all going through a difficult and exhausting time at the moment in our relationships and work!
Yeah, definitely.
I send you all a lot of power and energy to get through this!

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 3:58 PM as a reply to Jonathan.
Reflecting power and energy and metta back to you. If we share it, it gets stronger. Very best wishes for your wellbeing and practice!

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 5:59 PM as a reply to Jonathan.
It could be that your symptoms are just from the dark night and not from any clinical depression. Do you have a history of depression?

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 7:05 PM as a reply to David Matte.
David, I suggest you re-read the original post - Jonathan has a history with depression.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 10:12 PM as a reply to Jonathan.
I have found that medications, psychotherapy, lifestyle changes, meditation all work synergistically together.  Although I am no longer on medications, I utilized them for years to help treat mood disorder.  I think of the path of healing as a pyramid, with medications at the base, alongside things like sleep, exercise, social contact, etc.  However, medications are sometimes actually the layer below even those basic adjustments, because some folks (like me in the past) need medication just to be able to do those things.  

So this is the key - 

Go on the meds (perscribed by a good shrink hopefully)
Stay on the meds, even after you start feeling better
Don't mess with the dose - follow instructions
Keep going!

If you feel inclined, you could peruse my practice log, where I write about my intersection of mood disorder & practice:

https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/5873597

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/18/20 10:42 PM as a reply to Jonathan.
Hello Jonathan

I think counselling should be an intermediate step.

Have you considered receiving some counselling (which is essentially just talking about your issues/getting them off your chest)?

Regards

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 12:31 AM as a reply to Jonathan.
You might want to check out this book: Anatomy of an Epidemic 

It is kind of dry because they present the scientific research of the time. TL;DR - psych meds have benefits in the short term when other treatments fail. Long term use shows little benefits over placebo in double blind placebo controlled studies and have real side effects.

I have personally experienced the side effects. They can be be rough. Some have taken their own lives. The blackbox label was not added because of an over abundance of caution but actual deaths.

I would eat well, exercise, deal with stress, emotional baggage, practice good mortality, and find ways to be of service. I would talk about my problems with friends. I would apologize to those that deserved one. I would let old grudges go. I would go to therapy. If I did that and was still having issues or it was a mental health emergency, I would use meds.

That is just for me though. I have no idea what you should do.


You will have to weigh the risks and benefits. I hope your decision is informed.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 1:45 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Jonathan has a history with depression
Actually I don't think my original post was too clear about that, sorry for that!
As a matter of fact, I did have a depression about 8 years ago, and I also took the same mild SSRIs that I was prescribed now. Took them for some time, got better, then slowly tapered them without any problems.

David:
It could be that your symptoms are just from the dark night
And yes, one my concerns definitely is that the depressive symptoms could be DN-induced, as I wrote near the bottom of the initial post. In this case, taking the meds probably is not the best idea.

What you are suggesting (and what sounds very reasonable to me) is that having a history of depression makes it more likely for the depressive symptoms to be not DN-related.
I guess I will never find out what was the primary trigger... My gut feeling is that there was a predisposition, which in combination with the difficulties in life and the DN triggered the symptoms. In that case, the meds could help to take off the edge, and then I could 1) function and 2) get through the DN hopefully. Does that make sense?

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 1:53 AM as a reply to Nicky2.

Have you considered receiving some counselling?

Yes, I will definitely do that, thank you.

Unfortunately, it is hard to find a therapist who also knows about meditation AND also knows about the concept of dark night. This would be extremely helpful but you can't have it all, I guess.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 6:58 AM as a reply to Jonathan.
You will get through this Jonathan and find the right balance of therapy, meds and practice that works for you. It sounds like you have a young kid as well, which is stressful and puts pressure on the changing dynamic with your spouse. This too passes.

FWIW I used to go through 2 year depressions with therapy/meds and when I was eventually able to let go of that and start meditating they went down to 2 week blues and I recognized it as the same DN phenomenon just with much more awareness and less identification.  Then it was 2 days, 2 hours and now if I feel down then 10 mins on the cushion usually fixes it (though haven't had any major life stressors recently like more kids lol). At a certain point I realized that depression for me was a learned response and a choice on some level, although it certainly didn't feel that way at the time. Still I remember I used to wake up and for the first instant it was OK before I had the thought "am I still depressed, oh yeah" and put on the heavy jacket.

YMMV though,
Good Luck!

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 7:16 AM as a reply to Jonathan.
Jonathan:
Jonathan has a history with depression
Actually I don't think my original post was too clear about that, sorry for that!
As a matter of fact, I did have a depression about 8 years ago, and I also took the same mild SSRIs that I was prescribed now. Took them for some time, got better, then slowly tapered them without any problems.

David:
It could be that your symptoms are just from the dark night
And yes, one my concerns definitely is that the depressive symptoms could be DN-induced, as I wrote near the bottom of the initial post. In this case, taking the meds probably is not the best idea.

What you are suggesting (and what sounds very reasonable to me) is that having a history of depression makes it more likely for the depressive symptoms to be not DN-related.
I guess I will never find out what was the primary trigger... My gut feeling is that there was a predisposition, which in combination with the difficulties in life and the DN triggered the symptoms. In that case, the meds could help to take off the edge, and then I could 1) function and 2) get through the DN hopefully. Does that make sense?
That does make sense. If you developed clinical depression 8 years ago, it makes it more likely that your not just experiencing side effects of the dukkha nanas. It's good that the antidepressants were successful for you last time; it's likely they will have the same effect this time around too. Personally I would start taking your prescription and see how it goes. 

This video by Shinzen Young is relevant and may also be helpful. 

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 8:20 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Jonathan. please read the attached PDF file. I think it very much addresses your question. It's from a book I recently purchased called "A Hell of Mercy."

Reposting for clarity.

Attachments:


RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 8:24 AM as a reply to Noah D.
Noah_D --

So this is the key - 

Go on the meds (perscribed by a good shrink hopefully)
Stay on the meds, even after you start feeling better
Don't mess with the dose - follow instructions
Keep going!

Beautiful!

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 9:01 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I'll add two additional words:

Find, if possible, psychiatrist/psychotherapist, who are aware of spiritual paths. This is not easy. And if not possible, then go with who exists.

Further, try to find one who is not just a pop-psychologist/psychotherapist. There are too many around. Hopefully, there will be one who will get you to the root of the depression  rather than put more band-aids over it/the only goal of whose are to make you "well adjusted" but sink the depression deeper -- of course, if they make you well adjusted and get you to the root of the depression, great! And again, if not possible, go with whoever exists.

Mike.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 11:03 AM as a reply to Jonathan.
There's so much wisdom and information in this post, so I don't think I can contribute much in that realm.

Just wanted to reach out and say I've been through what you were describing. I've had various success with antidepressants. But like Chris (and others) have already mentioned; antidepressants (along with counseling) definitely helped my practice.

I hope you have a good support system and are doing better now.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 12:33 PM as a reply to Mike Smirnoff.
I'm going to add one more point here which is probably a little controversial. I appeared to benefit a lot intitially from my first therapist, but it was generally diminishing returns after that (I saw 5 more on and off over a 15 year period). Eventually I took a step back and got a better view of the therapeutic relationship in its context - i.e. this is the professional who is healthy and you are the one who is sick or needs help and you are paying a lot for this so it must always be a very valuable product. There's an inbuilt structural bias towards you staying in therapy longer than you might need. Let's face it, most people like to talk about themselves and it feels good to have someone giving you their full attention and hanging on your every word like your parents never did, even (or especially) if you are depressed.

I'm NOT saying you shouldn't do therapy, I'm just saying it makes sense to keep the larger picture in mind and realize that therapy is just a step not the end-goal. The best book about therapy I ever read was a book by Janet Malcom called The Impossibe Profession which was like a confession of a top therapist who said that the best possible long-term outcome for a patient was something like a 15 degree change in course (and this was in the days when it was 2 hours a day 5 times a week). It also exposes a lot of the politics/business behind therapy. (If you ever get the chance, there's nothing like hearing a group of therapists gossiping about their patients for you to realize how much you really mean to them. Ok, that's a bit unfair, my first therapist and I did have a special relationship but maybe a bit too special if you know what I mean.) Therapy appeared to get me a 180 degree change initially, which reverted back to 0 or even negative, then maybe touched 90 degrees again before settling eventually somewhere around 10 degrees I would say. Meditaiton on the other hand, once I was done with therapy, took the dial pretty much straight around 360 degrees, asuming I'm not deluded which I probably am. Just my 2c, YMMV.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 5:19 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
A doctor now prescribed antidepressants. Is it a good idea to take them? Could I be trapped in the dark night this way?

I'm answering this as someone who has been in exactly your situation -- take the medication. Brain chemistry trumps meditation practice, every time.

I am 100% with Chris on this. Meditation is not a magic cure for organic disease/illness that can be more easily and effectively treated by biomedicine. In fact, clinical depression can be a massive hindrance to practice. 

How you decide to treat depression is ultimately up to you (exercise, healthy diet, supplements, antidepressants, etc.) but meditation was not designed to be an antidepressant in the clinical sense. 

Take care of yourself! 

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 5:35 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
I agree with Chris. I'm on antidepressants and it hasn't in any way prevented me from getting through and learning from the dukkha nanas. On the contrary, it has made it possible. 

I am not on SSRIs right now, but have used them in the past with success and they definitely did not have a negative impact on my meditation practice. Like Linda, I feel like the impact on practice was positive. 

If anything, I would be more worried about the potential neuronal damage from leaving depression untreated for many years and how this might impact meditation (not to mention the rest of your life!).

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 6:53 PM as a reply to Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö.
Linda ”Polly Ester” Ö:
If you were to find that you feel worse from the medication, or anything like what Ward Law describes, report that to you doctor and ask for a different treatment. There are many different medicines, and different people respond differently to them. I'm very picky with regard to medicines. I don't just accept side effects if there are better alternatives. Therapy could also be an option. I have found that medicines and therapy together can work miracles. Not everyone manages to go through therapy without medication, but for some, that is sufficient.


I would add that this is helpful when psychosis is not an issue. Reviewing my practice in the context of prescription drugs is a usual trigger for me psychologically speaking. Oh well!

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/19/20 11:26 PM as a reply to agnostic.
Also different types of therapy work on different ages of self structure. 

CBT/REBT works on adult self
Attachment/EMDR works on really early child
Psychodynamic works with middle child

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/20/20 12:36 AM as a reply to agnostic.
Yes, I'd tend to agree.
One of the definitions of therapy is: Gets you "well adjusted" where you are. Now, not necessarily a bad thing, but it depends on what the cause of the depression is.
Therapists are part of the broader social system and one needs to remember that. 

That said, I'm not dissuading therapy. It's good to have some understanding, though, of what one is getting into. 

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/22/20 3:29 AM as a reply to David Matte.
David Matte:

This video by Shinzen Young is relevant and may also be helpful. 
That was indeed very relevant and helpful.

Thank you!

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/22/20 3:38 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Chris Marti:
Jonathan. please read the attached PDF file. I think it very much addresses your question. It's from a book I recently purchased called "A Hell of Mercy."

Reposting for clarity.
Thank you so much, Chris! This feels extremely relevant. (indeed, I overlooked it at first)

I'm thinking of getting and reading the entire book, though reading (especially longer texts like a book) is kind of hard ATM -- as is writing (which is why I take so long to reply) but that's besides the point.

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/22/20 3:45 AM as a reply to Jonathan.
I just wanted to say thanks to all of you for your help, for sharing your experiences and knowledge (including the warnings),  for your time and for the good wishes.
This felt very supportive and by itself already made me better ;-) !

As for the meds -- the road now seems pretty clear to me. I will take the meds (again) as long (and not longer) as necessary in accordance with a competent doctor, reporting to him if anything is "strange" or unexpected (side effects/worsening of siutation etc) occurs. And of course, I'll try and keep with my practice.

I'm going to post here how it worked out for me after some time, so that others in the same situation might benefit from that information (although you guys already provided heaps of it!).

Again: Thank you! - sending out strength, love and metta to all of you!
We will survive emoticon

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/22/20 4:00 AM as a reply to Jonathan.
We will indeed survive, my brother in meditation related difficulties! Vaya con dios, and don't be a stranger here.

love, tim

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
4/22/20 4:52 AM as a reply to Jonathan.
Jonathan:
I just wanted to say thanks to all of you for your help, for sharing your experiences and knowledge (including the warnings),  for your time and for the good wishes.
This felt very supportive and by itself already made me better ;-) !

As for the meds -- the road now seems pretty clear to me. I will take the meds (again) as long (and not longer) as necessary in accordance with a competent doctor, reporting to him if anything is "strange" or unexpected (side effects/worsening of siutation etc) occurs. And of course, I'll try and keep with my practice.

I'm going to post here how it worked out for me after some time, so that others in the same situation might benefit from that information (although you guys already provided heaps of it!).

Again: Thank you! - sending out strength, love and metta to all of you!
We will survive emoticon

So happy to hear you are feeling more optimistic and that you have a plan! Hang in there, we are all in this together! emoticon

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
5/28/20 1:11 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Hey! 

I'm hoping my story might be of some guidance for you. Back in the summer of 2019, the Dark Night hit me very, very hard. It was roughy two weeks after an A&P-experience. I had at the time been meditating mostly at home using different apps etc, but I was and am pretty serious about it. 

I tried everything to get out of the Dark Night, which truly was the most horrible experience I have ever encountered. Excercising intense cardio more than 3 times per week (clinicly proven to reduce mild and moderate depression I believe), long walks in nature ever day, rest, vacation time off work, healthy food, professional therapy, etc. Ultimately, it got to the point where I had to face the fact. I had tried everything for several weeks but I was not functioning properly at work or at home as a father. I reluctantly surrendered to SSRI, presribed by my doctor. For me this was a big deal, I really did not want to and I firmly believed that it would somehow inhibid my spiritual progress / path etc. Now, one year later, I know in my case that SSRI was the right choice for me, because 2 months later (fall of 2019) I began functioning normally again. I have also continued my progress I believe - although it's impossible to say how long I would have progressed without SSRI. There are side effects to anti-depressive meds such as SSRI (and since you are depressed when you start taking them, you are almost sure to amplify those side effects in the beginning). 

I am no expert - this is just my personal story. Generally speaking, if your doctor firmly believes you need medication, follow his/her advice. 

Good luck and take care. 

RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
5/29/20 2:31 AM as a reply to Jonathan.
Jonathan:
TL;DR:
I am going through a difficult and exhausting time. Also, I intensified my meditation practice. Now I am having symptoms of both dark night AND depression/burnout. A doctor now prescribed antidepressants. Is it a good idea to take them? Could I be trapped in the dark night this way?

Longer version
Recently, I intensified my meditation practice (2 >7 days retreats, first one purely concentration and the second one insight focused). During and after that, dark night symptoms appeared. (Concentration deteriorated, meditation in general became very hard, a lot of difficult content came up, disorientedness a la “who am I?” and a generally darker and “distanced” view arose among other things)
At the same time, I was (and am) going through a difficult time in my life: problems in marriage, unsure work situation, moving to another city, kindergarden closed due to corona and so on (most of this was already the case before I intensified the practice).
During meditation, I was noticing a lot of energy moving around in my body (I do a lot of body scanning), it mostly felt like fear. A lot of worries crossed my mind and then with every moment a little thunderbolt hit my body.
Now, in the last few weeks there have been days when I just couldn’t “function” anymore, ie that I found I harder and harder to cope and ultimately couldn’t think straight due to some kind of blocking in my mind. It is as if my mind was building up a protection shield against negative thoughts and emotions (the thunderbolts), bascially sedating me.
I then talked to a psychiatrist (bascially because my worried wife forced me to do so), who in the end diagnosed depression and prescribed a (light) antidepresssant. (personally I think I’m more in burnout territory, if I was to label it with a medical diagnosis).

So now my questions are:
Does anybody else have had “medical issues” like depression/burnout AND was going through the dark night at the same time?
Is it a good idea to take the medication in this situation? (this post sounds relevant but it's not dark-night-specific)

Or could it be that the (potential) depression is in fact just a part of the dark night, as Daniel Ingram writes in "The Progress of Insight" chapter of MCTB, and that taking meds now would interfere with this progress (just like intentionally walking into a swamp to cross it and then calling for a helicopter rescue to bring you back to the side where you left off, this way never getting to the other side)

My primary fear is that by taking the meds I might kill the depressive symptoms but get stuck in the dark night -- or, that I might get stuck in depression not taking the meds.
https://www.dharmaoverground.org/discussion/-/message_boards/message/359820


RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
5/29/20 3:09 AM as a reply to Tim Farrington.
emoticon


hey Jonathan, I think Chris posted this in this thread, from https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B010EUYZG0/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_bibl_vppi_i8

 but i think it bears repeating:

I

t's terrible to think that all I've suffered, and all the suffering I've caused, might have arisen from the lack of a little salt in my brain.

Robert Lowell

At the first-order level of experiential description, " Denys Turner notes in The Darkness of God, "John of the Cross's accounts of the sufferings of the 'dark nights of the soul' are uncannily similar to what a person will give from the inside of depression." The truth of this is indisputable. The American Psychological Association lists nine diagnostic criteria for a major depressive episode, at least five of which must be present during the same twoweek period, representing "a change from previous functioning. " These range from "depressed mood, most of the day, nearly every day" through anhedonia to fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, and suicidal ideation. Even a cursory glance through John's vivid symptomatology of dryness, devastation, and despair will confirm that we are in the same country here,

The congruity may seem potentially devastating in our reductionistic age. It is terrible enough to fall into the hands of a living God without the torment of trying to decide whether one is in a "true" dark night or whether it is "just depression. " To a vulnerable self suffering a crisis of such depth, the thought that all the agony is just the wasted motion of biochemical atoms may itself be enough to bring on thoughts of suicide. It is pointlessness that we fear most.

Yet there is no way around the mortifying consideration. Humility dictates that we not ignore psychological and biological factors, and simple realism may require that we seek professional help. That said, it must also be noted that there is as much danger in relying too much on socially sanctioned psychiatry as there is in erring on side of the biochemically naked soul risking the world undrügged. Having stumbled through the halls of the medical psychiatric system myself, I've seen too clearly how easy it is to let "patient" and "pill taker" become the consuming whole of one's working identity. Nothing will screw you up more than a team of professionals determined to help you.Except, perhaps, believing that therapy and medicine can offer us no help at all. The fact that you're depressed doesn't necessarily mean that you're not going through a dark night, but it is just as true, and as crucial to know, that seeking therapy, or taking medication for a biochemical affliction, doesn't necessarily mean you have subverted your spiritual process or numbed your reality sense with muffling anesthetics. It is unrealistic to believe that any honest consideration of the night in our day and age can blink away the tares-and-wheat nature of the two conditions growing side by side in the field of many souls.

In any case, if we are not prepared to consider the possibility that what we are suffering is "just" inadequate serotonin reuptake, an Oedipal knot or attachrnent disorder, or a simple failure to buck up properly and see the glass as half full, we can be sure that those who love us will raise the issues for us.

One of the comforters who were among Job's greatest torments was Zophar the Namathite, who advised Job to examine his soul and root out his iniquities and "put them far away": "Then surely you could lift up your face without spot; yes, you could be steadfast, and not fear. . . . And your life would be brighter than noonday. "

It is worth noting that the humanistic solution to existential distress has not changed much in three thousand years. Zophar was recommending an attitude adjustment, essentially, a return to right thinking: Get your head on straight, man, for God's sake. He probably had some selfhelp books on his shelf, and all manner of ancient Hebrew techniques to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and don't mess with Mr. In-Between.

Zophar is also, perhaps, the one who would tell Job now, in the general eclipse of our sense of coming to terms with Yahweh's conditions: Get professional help. A little therapy can work wonders.

It is a pretty sure thing that almost anyone could profit by the self-examination and analysis of psychotherapy, recognizing and releasing unconscious compulsions, touching old wounds and experiencing the healing of conscious suffering and forgiveness, and becoming more decent and authentic human beings in the process.

It is also true that the process of stripping away the self's unreal image of itself cannot properly take place in the absence of a viable, working ego in the first place. We have to be somebody before we can begin to be nobody. One of the major fallacies of the overeager spiritual seeker is the notion that since it is our ego that causes our suffermg, we must destroy our ego. But even the attempted destruction of the ego is the ego's work, and there is nothing more obnoxious than some guy passing himself off as God's latest hollow reed.

At the same time, there are real and distinct limits to what psychotherapy can accomplish. Freud put it beautifully: the aim of psychoanalysis is to help the patient let go of the delusional suffering of his neuroses and experi• ence the misery of actual reality. The best we can hope for under our own steam is to be modest and realistic in our ordinary sinfulness as we try our ordinary human best to be decent.

But the dark night is not a higher order of psychotherapy; it is not some final and supereffective fixing of the ego. We need not be free of neurosis or even simple wrongheadedness to experience the dark night: the contorted life paths of any number of warped saints and twisted holy people testify eloquently enough to this. The recognition of the emptiness of the self and its projects without God's sustaining grace is a different order of experience entirely. The fruit of therapy is at best a realistic sense of one's true, irreducible value among other selves and in oneself, and a realistic uncondemnatory awareness of one's limits as an ego among egos, based on compassionate selfknowledge; but the fruit of the dark night is the surrender of the realistic self's ultimately mysterious meaning to God's unfathomable direction. We embrace this surrender, in the end, not because it is the right thing to do, not to become better people, and certainly not to become "brighter than noonday," but because we have realized through prolonged and often bitter experience that is the only thing to do.

In this light, Job's reply to Zophar's therapeutic advice is notable, both for the lovely, heedless lucidity of Job's exasperation and for the deeper awareness of the nature of the process he is suffering: "What you know, I also know; I am not inferior to you. . But your platitudes are proverbs of ashes, your defenses are defenses of clay": "Who among you does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this, in whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?"

And Job concludes, in a classic formulation of the surrender necessary in the abyss of the soul's helplessness, beyond all therapeutic avail: "Though God slay me, yet will I trust him. "Job's comforters are reasonable, upright, pious men, and there is much of truth and wisdom in what they offer their suffering friend. Where they fall short is in their need to believe in the comprehensibility of Job's suffering, in the smugness of their conceit that they can explain the ways of God to him and to themselves, and in their complacent sense that human efforts can suffice to end such suffering. In seeking comfort and security in a reasonable God and a tidy creation that can be comprehended, they must defend themselves against the glaring truth of Job's condition. It is Job alone, in the depths of his utterly disproportionate misery, who sees God truly: God stripped of all that human sense can make of him.We do no one any good by encouraging a schizophrenic, a serial killer, or someone with a brain tumor to see their affliction as a dark night of the soul. But most of us fall somewhere on the semifunctional side of the line that marks the purely medical condition or untreatable character disorder. Often, too, depression is symptomatic of a Gordian knot of social dysfunctionality, and the communal compulsion to treat the "identified patient" with drugs to "solve the problem" (and thus avoid examining the pathological •elements of the social matrix itself) is strong. At various times through my own years of depression I was strongly 

urged to take antidepressants, but the social dynamic at those points was such that to do so would have felt like capitulation, surrender to a form of coercion. You may simply be the canary in the coal mine, the first to succumb to a bad atmosphere. I once saw a wonderful Gary Larsen cartoon in which a cow was lying on a therapy couch, with a cow therapist attentively taking notes in the background. "I don't know, Doc, " the cow-patient was saying. "Sometimes I think it's not me, it's the herd."

The point is, life is complex. Doubt as to whether you are in a dark night or "just depressed" is probably a very good sign; it means you're alive and paying attention and that life has you baffled, which is the precondition for truth in my experience. It's uncomfortable, but the more we learn to live with that discomfort—to just breathe and be amid the terror of uncertainty—the more reality can sing us its subtler songs. You may well be helped through your brutal moods or your bogged-down lows by prescription drugs;  you probably need therapy (l attend my weekly sessions religiously); and your childhood was almost certainly a mess; but what Viktor Frankl says in his wonderful book The Doctor and the Soul is likely still true for you: "The 'symptom' of conscientious anxiety in the melancholiac is not the product of melancholia as a physical illness . represents an 'accomplishment' of the human being as a spiritual person. It is understandable only as the anxiety of a human being as such: as existential anxiety. "

In general, it is fruitless to treat such existential anxiety as an obstacle. It is more like the coastal fog of northern California, a natural product of prevailing conditions. The cold Humboldt current of the usual self meets the warm land mass of God—or reality, if you will—and the fog of anxiety arises. We cannot wait for the weather to change before we begin to live. The weather is beyond our control, and the climate of our lives is to be lived in, not changed. The journey to the bottom of the self is a risky one, whatever you call it, and while it may be true that ultimately the best course probably lies between the Scylla Of a reductionistic psychiatry and the Charybdis of an arrogant "spirituality," all we really have is a way of travel-


RE: Dark night vs. antidepressant medication
Answer
5/29/20 12:12 PM as a reply to Jonathan.
Jonathan:
I just wanted to say thanks to all of you for your help, for sharing your experiences and knowledge (including the warnings),  for your time and for the good wishes.
This felt very supportive and by itself already made me better ;-) !

As for the meds -- the road now seems pretty clear to me. I will take the meds (again) as long (and not longer) as necessary in accordance with a competent doctor, reporting to him if anything is "strange" or unexpected (side effects/worsening of siutation etc) occurs. And of course, I'll try and keep with my practice.

I'm going to post here how it worked out for me after some time, so that others in the same situation might benefit from that information (although you guys already provided heaps of it!).

Again: Thank you! - sending out strength, love and metta to all of you!
We will survive emoticon
Best of wishes to you Jonathan! I read this whole thread and felt such an outpouring of support for the idea of taking antidepressants when needed. This has enabled me to admit that, even though I am far from going through the Dark Night, some OCD stuff came up recently with meditation and I had to go back to 10 mg of my my SSRI Celexa. I have a history of OCD and depression and just 3 months ago came off it entirely from 50 mg. I am making the same aggreements Jonathan made.