How to Survive Your Dark Night of the Soul

By Michelle Manning-Kogler

Evening meditation

Have you ever had one of those pivotal moments where your life changes in the blink of an eye?  I think most of us have had at least one.  I know I have had several.

For me, one of the big ones was the day my doctor told me that I had rheumatoid arthritis.  I even felt the reverberation in the air when he made the proclamation! And I remember getting chills all over my body.

What I didn’t know is that that pronouncement was the gift that just kept on giving.  It was the beginning of years
of pain and suffering that, for most people, is unimaginable.

What I didn’t know at the time was that it was also going to be my biggest gift – but we’ll get to that in a few minutes.

Within a few years after that diagnosis, I found myself in such a state of disability that I was basically bed ridden.
I was in my early 30’s and my children were still quite young.  At the time I weighed about 100 pounds dripping
wet (I am 5’ 9” tall), and looked like a holocaust survivor.

Friends would lower their voices and ask me in whispers if I had cancer or AIDS.  I had neither.  I was in such excruciating pain that it was taking every calorie I consumed just to deal with it.  And the disease process was eating away at every joint and connective tissue in my body.

It was during this dark night of the soul time that I would lie in bed every morning as my daughters came in to tell me goodbye before going to school.  My youngest would always look me in the eye and ask, “Mom will you be here when I get back home?”

I knew she wasn’t asking if I had plans for the day.  She was asking.

But the second that door closed, I would turn into my pillow and start to sob with grief.  I believed that I had no control over what I was experiencing.  I was terrified that I wasn’t going to see my daughters grow up.  I was in so much pain that I could barely pull the covers up over myself, and cried because I felt sorry for myself and didn’t know how to change anything.

I cried because I hadn’t achieved any of the goals and dreams that I had had growing up.  I cried because I hadn’t visited the places I’d dreamed of visiting.  I was in anguish because I felt I hadn’t contributed anything to the world, and was unsure that I ever would.

I think that was the darkest time of my life.

And then a miracle occurred.  My little nephew, Daniel, was born.  But he was born with a heart that hadn’t fully developed.  The doctors called it hypo-plastic left heart syndrome.

My sister was absolutely devastated.  I just knew I had to be there for her, no matter what, so I dragged myself out of bed and flew to Las Vegas to be with her, never dreaming what was to come.

The entire story of that miraculous event is content for a whole book, but the shortest possible version was that with sheer determination, refusing to give up, and calling on God for a miracle, a way was shown to get little Daniel the life-saving surgery he needed to survive.  And I was so blessed to be a part of that process.

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On that miraculous day, state, local and federal agencies, along with two hospitals and a private air ambulance company, came together to get Daniel from Las Vegas, Nevada to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (about 2500 miles!).  And it happened in less than five hours!

It was as if normal time stopped, and we stepped into an alternate reality slipstream where time and everything in it was different.  To this day, I can still feel that energy when I think about how the events of that day unfolded. It still gives me chills!

But the bigger message from that extraordinary, miraculous event was for me:  I was not helpless.

I realized that if I had the ability to help change the course of someone’s life and literally make a difference as to whether they lived or died, I could do the same for myself.  I didn’t have to be a victim any longer.

I came back home and started searching for my own answers in an even bigger way than I had previously.  I got into counseling to help me with the extreme depression I was experiencing.  I found a surgeon that was so genuine and caring about me personally, and treated me with grace and respect.  He performed a life-saving operation that gave me my life back.

As my body began to recover, I realized that some western medicine intervention was beneficial, and had my knees scoped so that I could walk again without excruciating pain.

I went back to school.  Got retrained.  Built up some self-confidence that I could actually hold a job and make enough to support myself and my children.  And I learned to love myself and trust myself and my own intuition to do the right things for me.

It didn’t happen overnight and it certainly wasn’t easy!  But it has been worth it.

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