[…] latest piece is over at The Catholic Gentleman, wherein I try to actually use my depression for some modicum of good. I have a lot of gratitude […]
A blog for Catholic men that seeks to encourage virtue, the pursuit of holiness and the art of true masculinity.
The following is a guest post by Michael J. Lichens.
Recently, I’ve been going through what the great Winston Churchill called “black dog days.” These days are defined by an overall low mood, inability to cope with basic things like getting out of bed, or finding enjoyment in my usual passions. Do not fear, reader, this is actually normal for me.
You see, I have something called Major Depressive Disorder, which was in previous times called clinical depression. In the ancient world, the Greek physician Hippocrates labeled it melancholia. It is something I’ve dealt with for some time now, and my family has a long history of it. My family tree is full of folks who either ended up in the mental ward or at the bottom of a bottle due to this condition. A few, sadly, found more permanent ways of dealing with it.
My faith, though, has given me the hope I need to continue on. When I say Catholicism and the love of Christ have saved my life, it is not mere hyperbole.
While my condition is as much physical as it is mental, I have learned that I am not the only one who has had these low moods. The catch-all word depression can describe the condition of many men. When you factor in things like underemployment and increasing debt, it should be no surprise that so many are struggling with overwhelming sadness.
While I’d make a lousy therapist, I do want to share some methods that have helped me deal with depression. Perhaps they can help you as well.
No, I’m not saying “others have had it worse” or any of those other cheap and unhelpful things you’ve heard. What can be a great help, however, is knowing that you are not alone in this struggle.
The Catholic Church has dealt with mental illness for quite some time. Long before our modern system of mental health, the hospital at Geel, Belgium was established under the patronage of Saint Dymphna, the patron saint of those suffering from mental illness. A good seven centuries before psychiatrists opened offices, the good nuns in Geel introduced a system to take care of the mentally ill, and some of these patients even found healing through treatment and prayer.
As a convert, this information was quite helpful. While my Evangelical church denied mental illness and only told me to pray against it, I found that medieval nuns had the foresight to start treating those tortured by the mind. Our Catholic Church is still learning, and she offers many great resources.
Some of our finest saints, such as Venerable Francis Mary Paul Libermann and Bl. Teresa of Calcutta, suffered great bouts of depression. While they would be struck to the heart with grief, they still found comfort in their faith. Ven Francis Libermann once wrote,
“I never cross a bridge without the thought of throwing myself over the parapet, to put an end to these afflictions. But the sight of my Jesus sustains me and gives me patience.”
The Jesuit poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote moving words about his afflictions in the “Terrible Sonnets,” and was especially heartbroken by what seemed like the silence of God in the face of his suffering. One cannot read his poetry and not be moved to compassion for him.
I bring these figures up to show that you are not abnormal; you have intercessors in heaven and on Earth who do know that the mind has many mountains and cliffs. Perhaps it is not always enough, but I know that the loneliness can be the worst part of depression. Knowing that I am indeed among friends in my suffering has been enough for me to keep going and to find hope.
I find great comfort in the Incarnation. We as Catholics believe in a God whose love for us is so powerful that he took on our lowly nature in order to redeem it. Christ didn’t become human just to teach us some new lessons; He shows us a whole new way to be human and, ultimately, how to share in His divinity.
In my darkest moments, when I truly was giving in to despair, I found that saying the Jesus Prayer and meditating on the Nativity of Our Lord was enough to let me go on another day and pursue help. In those moments, knowing that Christ was and is among us enabled me to find just enough light and comfort to believe that life was sweeter than death.
Prayer is very hard when you are depressed. I, for one, have nagging doubts when I go through my black dog days. God seems silent and I wonder where He is and what He’s doing. All the same, I do pray, and peace eventually comes. In one case, it took me two years of praying, but peace did come. Mother Teresa’s dark night of the soul lasted several years, but she endured. You can find strength in the same faith.
If you are praying and meditating and the words do not come, then sit in silence. Find an icon or an adoration chapel and utter the words, “You are God, I am not. Please help.” If nothing else, your mind will slow down and will shift its focus to God, who sustains all life and is the source of our strength.
I know this is hard, and sometimes you will want to give up. If you can do nothing else, try to take comfort in knowing that Christ didn’t die and rise again just to leave you alone. Find the saints who did suffer from grief and depression and ask them for help. They, more than any other, are eager to come to your aid.
My MDD is a lifetime condition that is not likely to be cured except by a miracle. While there may be some forces contributing to your depression that are beyond your control, such as growing up in a troubled home or experiencing a difficult period of your life, there are other things that you can control, and it can be helpful to focus on them.
It’s perfectly normal to want to find an outlet for your depression. In my own and my family history, that has included a cocktail of food, sex and booze. I don’t need to tell you why those are bad ideas.
Instead of harmful behavior, seek to find constructive outlets for depression. I know that a walk can be helpful, and exercise has a profound effect on your mood. It not only takes your mind off of things outside of your control, but it elevates your mood and gives you something to work towards. I personally love reading and writing. Perhaps you have a passion and your depression has made you lose interest in it. But I assure you, you will find the fire of passion coming back if you work at it for even an hour. Even if you do something as simple as clean your house or, if your depression quite sever, get up and dress yourself well, it’s a small accomplishment you can take pride in.
As you probably know, your situation has the ability to give you understanding and greater empathy. Reach out to folks to talk about it, especially if they seem to be going through similar frustrations. You will relieve loneliness, a great problem of our isolated age, and also help to build a support network for you and others.
The point of all my suggestions is to not let your grief and depression rule over all your life but to find the small things you can control and do good with them. Believe me, it’s much harder than I’m making it sound, but it can be done.
To go back to prayer, I do firmly believe that offering up your sufferings for the conversion of the world and the souls in purgatory can do great things. You are turning your mind to charity, and doing so will teach your heart to love people in the midst of grief. Christ will use your prayers and tears to bring more souls to Him.
I may have experience with depression, but I am not a doctor or priest. I’m simply a working man who likes to smoke and read. Sometimes, you need much better advice than what a man from New Hampshire can offer you over the internet.
While mental illness has a stigma in our society, there is no shame in seeking help. Not everyone needs medicine or therapy, but it is there for those who do. A resource I found helpful are the articles of Dr. Gregory Popcak who offers telecounseling at 740-266-6461. In many cases, your priest is not unfamiliar with mental illness and can be a great help. Not all priests can give you full counseling, but they can be men who you can talk to and pray with and who can offer resources for further help. Likewise, I have met many fine nuns whose wisdom has helped through many trials, and there are few weapons as powerful as a nun’s intercession.
In all things, your victory is in perseverance. As I said above, I often can’t even leave my house on particularly bad days and I have no doubt some of you are right there with me. But if we can claim small victories like seeking help and taking steps to finding comfort, then we are on the path to a greater victory.
Finally, let’s pray to the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and the Joy of all Who Sorrow. Ask her to help you and all who are plagued by grief and depression.
Michael J. Lichens is the Editor of Catholic Exchange and blog editor of St. Austin Review. When he’s not revising and editing, he is often found studying and writing about GK Chesterton, Religion and Literature, or random points of local history. He holds an A.M. from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a BA from The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts. To hear some of his musings, find him on Twitter @mjordanlichens
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[…] latest piece is over at The Catholic Gentleman, wherein I try to actually use my depression for some modicum of good. I have a lot of gratitude […]
[…] Mind – RJ Staudt PhD John C Murray, Juridical State, Catholic Theory of Religious. . . – KGL Black Dog Days: How to Deal with Depression – Michael J. Lichens I’m a Criminal, a Bigot & My Rosary Is On Your Ovaries – […]
[…] they demonstrated love, charity, and kindness to all who encountered them. When I was going through a rough patch, they even took time to write encouraging messages to me. Seeing their strength amidst their […]
[…] left him several years ago and just a week ago another close friend attempted to take his own life. I’ve recently been public about my own struggles with MDD and how many times I stared down that abyss where death seemed […]
[…] him several years ago, and just a week ago another close friend attempted to take his own life. I’ve recently been public about my own struggles with MDD and how many times I stared down that abyss where death seemed […]
[…] him several years ago, and just a week ago another close friend attempted to take his own life. I’ve recently been public about my own struggles with MDD and how many times I stared down that abyss where death seemed […]
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[…] Black Dog Days: How to Deal with Depression. A post on how to deal with major depressive disorder as a Catholic. Sensitively written from the perspective of someone who has gone through MDD. […]
[…] -from an article by Michael J. Lichens, a convert from Evangelical Protestantism to Roman Catholicism, featured in the Catholic Gentleman […]
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St. Dymphna, a great and holy intercessor, ask for her help. God’s will.
I have had bipolar disorder for 67 years which does not respond to any treatment. I have prayed to St. Dymphna, St. Jude, and just about everyone else. It’s all I can do to keep alive every day. I know my only release will be when I die. So don’t give false hope to others by saying prayers to the saints and God Himself will help. I accept my suffering, but it is very hard living every day so close to despair.
Do not let your suffering go to waste ! Offer it as redemptive suffering for others … Including me!
Kathy, you have carried a very heavy cross for so long. I know this reply comes years after your initial comment, but I just wanted to let you know that my heart goes out to you, and I am praying for you.
I agree saints do not help with mental disorders. Just false hope and lost nerves. Real psycheic disorders, not the ones that pass quickly, are very faithful. If I hadn’t been sick, I would have been able to pray, real depression doesn’t allow it. It does not allow you to leave the house or bed, let alone concentrate on faith. Fasting is about mild depression, which is helped by walking and meeting friends. The experience of clinical depression that cannot be cured with drugs and that lasts for years is completely different.
Thank you for sharing this.
You posted this at a great time. Thank you.
Thank you for this post, and God bless you.
Michael Walker says
Thank you for writing this resonating article, Mr. Lichens, and thank you for posting it, Mr. Guzman. Whenever I feel abandoned, I pray the prayer of Saint Bernadette Soubirous of Lourdes, “Jesus, Mary, the Cross – I want no other friends but these.”
Thank you letting us know about that great prayer.
Thank you so much for this. God bless you.
Rick Becker says
Well said, and so true. Thanks!
Thanks, Mikey. You make a considerable difference in all you do.
Really great article, thanks Michael. When I’m going through it, I tend to pick up a guitar and hash it out through songs. Believe me when I say that I’m no fan of self-promotion, so that is not my intent here, but I thought I’d offer what I have to offer if any would find it helpful…I recorded a CD titled Act of Hope which in great part is my dealing with the Black Dog Days and the apparent silence of the Father…anyway if you find the songs helpful great… http://noisetrade.com/erikcmusic/act-of-hope
Thanks for sharing this, Erik. Really good music you’ve got here.
Great article, great advice, and thank you from a fellow smoker who likes to read.
Oh yea, Also – Salvifici Doloris, John Paul II’s Encyclical ‘On the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering’ was very helpful in giving meaning to ones suffering which doesn’t lessen it, but meaning can be the difference between a murderous crucifixion and a sacrificial one… I wouldn’t suffer depression willingly, but the meaning I assign to it can be the difference between “woe is me” and “woe to me and whatever else God must do for others to join God’s glory”…
dennis neylon says
Thank you for sharing. I fought my own battles with depression a few years ago. I was away from the Church at the time, which did not help. I was brought out of it by the love of a good woamn who is now my wife. Through my faith and her love, the difficult struggles of the last year or so kept the black dog away.
As so many others have said, Thank you! @Norman — thank you, also, for the tip about JPII’s Encyclical, that is my next stop on the ‘net.
Oremus Pro Invicem!
Kellie Murphy says
Thank you for this commentary. When it’s bad, it seems like we can’t see clearly to fight our way out of a paper bag, much less realize we are not alone. For those of us whose circumstance makes this a permanent cross to bear, it is hard to hear from well-meaning others that “it will pass”, or we’re “just blue”. This is often a physical condition which results in mental and emotional symptoms. Not to mention the dragging fatigue and apathy that weigh like chains. When I am plagued by cycling negative thoughts, I focus on ONE for the day, ignore the rest, and pray about that ONE thing. I offer it up, and remind myself I am made in the image of God, and God can’t possibly be the screw up I consider myself to be! Thank you for your honesty.
Thank you. I”ve been dealing with this for decades and always appreciate new ways to defeat it. Several of my ancestors dealt with the problem the same way yours did, so I tell my now-grown children to get help if they need it although I hope they will not.
Russ Rentler says
As a convert/ revert from evangelicalism, I can attest to the fact that mental illness is often ignored or the sufferer is told to pray more and just trust The Lord. The more charismatic the church is, the worse the melancholic feels as he doesn’t understand why everyone expects him to just lift his arms and shout hallelujah . Thank God for the Cstholic Church which allows us to fully participate in the Liturgy and receive the body and blood of our Lord, regardless of how we feel!!
That being said, when melancholia becomes disabling, there is a role for medications along with prayer, counseling, deliverance, etc.
thanks for the great article!
Having read all the comments, I wish to add that I have been living with depression all my life. I know there are physical elements. I have been blessed to be able to understand and work with the spiritual dimension of depression from the aspect of oppressive spirits. This does not mean a person is possessed, but to understand how these spirits work in us. I have been able to gain help and understanding through the ministry of Doctor Henry Wright,and his Be In Health approach. He uses Holy Scripture to answer all the lies that come in our minds that cause one to be depressed. His ministry will help you to find the spiritual root to disease. I am experiencing more relief and, hopefully, total healing now than I have with what I have been doing thus far. I know that we will need to take up our cross and follow Jesus but He also says that we are victorious through His Blood and His Word. Amen.
Every day I offer my sufferings for the salvation of souls and unite my sufferings with Jesus on the cross. However, that does not make my suffering any easier to bear on a day-to-day basis. All I’m saying is that all the prayer in the world will not help if God decides that a person must suffer. So do not give false hope to anyone.
You can pray this Life Offering to the Sacred Heart through the Immaculate Heart. By doing this, you actively partake in the work of redemption through your sufferings.
My dear Jesus, before the Trinity, our Heavenly Mother, and the whole heavenly Court, united with your most precious Holy Blood and your sacrifice on Calvary, hereby I offer my whole life to the intention of your Holy Heart and to the Holy Heart of Mary.
Together with my life, I place at your disposal all Holy Masses, all my Holy Communions, all my good deeds, all my sacrifices, and the sufferings of my entire life for the adoration and supplication of the Holy Trinity, for unity in our Holy Mother Church, for the Holy Father and the priests, for good priestly vocations, and for all souls until the end of the world.
O my Jesus, please accept my life sacrifice and my offerings and give me your grace that I may persevere obediently until my death. Amen.
The 5 Promises of Our Lady to those who offer their lives to Her:
1. Their names will be written in the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, inflamed by love.
2. Their life offerings, together with the infinite merits of Jesus, can save many souls from damnation. All souls who will live until the end of the world will benefit from their life offerings.
3. None of their family members will go to hell, even if it seems otherwise, because they will receive in the depths of their souls the graces of sincere contrition before the soul departs from their bodies.
4. On the day they offer their lives, their loved ones suffering in Purgatory will be released.
5. I will be with them in the hour of their deaths. They will not know Purgatory. I will carry their souls straight to the presence of the Glorious Trinity, where they will live with me in a special place created by God, and will rejoice forever.
Here is the Act of Contrition that you pray daily when you offer your life.
O my Jesus, I love you over and above everything! For the love of you I am sorry for all my sins. O merciful love, I ask pardon for the sins of the whole world.
United with the Immaculate Heart of Our Heavenly Mother, I ask pardon for all my sins, and for all the sins of my brothers and sisters that have been and will be committed until the end of the world.
My dear Jesus, united with your Holy Wounds, I offer my life to the Eternal Father according to the intention of the Sorrowful Mother
Virgin Mary, Queen of the World, Mediatrix of Humanity, our only refuge and hope, pray for us! Amen.
For more information on this, you can buy the book from Divine Mercy Publishers. Also, there is a website called Devotions and Promises where you can get more information on the seer who propagated the Life Offering and Double Great Novena.
We all suffer, but we can use our sufferings, united with Christ’s, to purchase the souls of sinners. By making the offering of life you become a victim united with the supreme Victim, Christ Jesus. That’s why you won’t go to purgatory if you choose to do this. Victim souls don’t see Purgatory. They will see Heaven. Please contemplate this. “Greater love hath no man than this; that he lay down his life for his friends”. Your depression that you struggle with can be the means by which hardened sinners are bought. Please contemplate this.
Its 22 Feb 2017 and just connected to this site. An answer to prayer here. Literally. Thank you for the hope for this day and a commitment to keep on and increase in prayer. Am having surgical procedure Monday 27th February. Please pray for me and that God for you all. Will keep you in my prayers as well.
I can fully sympathize with all this. I’ve been struggling with MDD my whole life, and my late mother was bipolar, so we’ve both balanced our minds with our spirits as Catholics. What you say about the RCC’s acceptance of mental health issues as real is true. Nowhere else have I found such a balance of both the personal needs and the clinical needs being met for me — while doctors often treat you as a specimen and friends want to ignore the weird brain wiring for fear of what IT is, those in my parish who know what I’ve been going through have been my closest confidants in so many ways. Two previous priests have been respectively a psychologist and a psychiatrist at my parish, which were the best possible people to talk to about EVERYTHING, and some of my closest co-religious are fellow worshippers who are involved in social work or medical fields (who I don’t see professionally, but I talk with as fellow Catholics from a pastoral perspective — but who understand scientifically what I’m going through as well).
Nevertheless, you’ve hit right on the issue of prayer and such. Feeling worthy of love — even Christ’s love — is HARD for a depressed person. You can talk it over, but there’s that nagging feeling in the back of you head that tells you that you’re worthless. And, despite all the wonderful things and graces of Catholicism here, we’re also a faith famous for guilt, shame, despair, and concepts of sin — ideas that fill a depressed man’s mind and spirit. It’s taken me until recently, when I found one antidepressant that actually worked (an MAOI of all things — I should have known as a Catholic to go back to the old ways!) and started with a new really good therapist (an existential-humanist who understands my connection to my faith and celebrates spirituality as an avenue for personal meaning and healing, versus a lot of the previous cognitive therapists in the past who’ve rolled their eyes at it) to get back to really praying and getting back to devotionals instead of just doing ministry work for the sake of service (I had always had that guilty “I had better make sure that others are able to celebrate” idea and so did all the ushering and such that was needed so that others in church could pray).
Thank you for putting into beautiful words what so many of us have gone through. Especially those parts about the church’s realization about the reality of mental illness and it’s pastoral take on healing beyond prayer — aiding the depressed must be a corporal act of mercy of aiding the sick, not just a spiritual act of mercy of praying…
You are lucky that you have the support of your parish and other priests and therapists. In my parish, if you have any problem, our priest says he doesn’t have the time to counsel people and refers them elsewhere. My problem is that I live alone and have no transportation and live on a fixed income. I am bipolar and have suffered from this all my life. I cannot take medication and have no where to go for help. My spiritual life has suffered most of all. I am getting older, and it is getting so that I am losing my faith in the Catholic Church because unless you have money or someone to help you, you are left alone with a mentally-ill mind and no way to fix it. I watch Mass every day on TV but when Communion time comes around since I cannot be there to receive it (and am afraid of anyone coming to my home), I despair. What really bothers me is after having suffered my whole life, I will probably end up in Hell and will have to suffer forever since I can only go to Confession and Communion once a year, and even that is difficult for me. So I see no help, especially no help from the Catholic Church.
Kathy pray to God that you find the help you need. Concentrate on that in your prayer life. I know God will answer your prayers.
Are you the same Kathy who posted today on Msgr’s site? Please don’t say you’re going to hell. God’s Mercy is greater than any affliction, keep a contrite heart. You deserve better than this. If you’re on a fixed income there must be assistance for you, social services in your area. A social worker could get things moving quickly, counseling, etc. Why can’t you take medications? If you’re afraid of someone coming to your house, ask a priest to come anyway and see that it is Jesus. Let Jesus in and know that He can ease your burden, maybe not in a flash, but believe Him who has Compassion beyond understanding! If I can help please email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayers, of course. Peace of Christ to you.
I pray to God for help all day long, and I keep getting worse with no help in sight. I am beginning to lose faith in prayer. I have sent in prayer requests everywhere I know of, and others are praying for me, but as I said, my mental illness just keeps getting worse.
Hello Kathy, I just wanted to say after reading all your comments that everyone who prays for you would vouch for your suffering being fellow humans. I sometimes feel that despite God having chosen to dwell among us in the flesh He doesn’t fully appreciate how excruciatingly difficult it is for us to live as He expects of us. I want to say to you that a good part of your struggle is attempting to reconcile with His ways
Ann Conaway says
Not about your depression, but about your priest and parish…remember that priests are only human- they are not the Catholic Faith. Remain firm in your faith, if not in the people who currently occupy your parish. I speak to our priest in confession. I assume he hears confession? Try that way, but don’t spend too long. Ask one thing at a time. Also, read on the depression of the saints. Many, many depressed saints. I think the key is perseverance. I just found out that Mother Teresa experienced a depression or desolation. Sometimes just knowing you are not alone in your struggle can give you strength. I heard a radio broadcast once from Mother Angelica. She was speaking about flaws of the saints, one in particular whose name escapes me…but, this saint suffered great bouts of depression. He despaired of going to heaven for whatever reason. Then it came to him (I don’t remember how…an angel in a dream maybe?) This has helped me with my own despair (and I don’t remember it exactly)…. I cannot change the sins of my past, but what I can do is to love and serve God and others to the best of my ability today, and each day following, for the rest of my life. I leave to God what happens after that…. I can also say that if you focus on others, it might distract you a bit from your own pain. If you are housebound, spend time in prayer for other people, and for the souls in purgatory. God Bless you.
Francis George says
What might help, Gentleman Catholic, is either one of high strength vitamin D or Omega 3. The former sorted out my sister in law (10,000 IUs a day, safely used in pregnant ladies in a recent study)), and the latter my previous landlady. S.A.D sufferers in two studies saw far greater benefit from high strength vitamin D than from daylight lamps.
As for Omega 3: there is a strong connection between Omega 6 (ie, most vegetable oils) and mental health issues in those sensitive to it. See the Wikpedia Omega 6 page, to quote “Many of the anti-mania medications used to treat bipolar disorder work by targeting the arachidonic acid cascade in the brain.”. But it’s not just bipolar. I’ve seen it linked to ADHD, depression generally, post-natal depression and anecdotally to OCD and OCD related conditions such as anorexia. It can be countered by the use of Omega 3 which is a ‘competitor’ and which is probably the cause of the Omega 3 craze. Edibilised vegetable oils are seen as normal food by the medical world and nutritionists, but consuming them in quantity is recent and due to the industrialisation of farming. My previous landlady had bipolar and her community has recognised Omega 3 for a while. She is pretty much normal now. However, at least in the UK health practitioners still don’t alert people to Omega 6 or treat it with Omega 3. Anecdotally I gave a high DHA/EPA strength Omega 3 to a friend who was depressed possibly due to eating too many nuts (very high in Omega 6). She recovered within 30 minutes. I’ve heard this from another friend prone to depression who said that this also happens when he eats fish (presumably oily fish). The important thing is to get high DHA/EPA omega 3. Cheap flaxseed oil is omega 3 but doesn’t have the brain significant versions. Salmon is a good option.
Omega 6 is important to the brain (and brain development) but only small amounts are needed which is all we would get if things were more natural.
Absolutely, Francis George, right on the money and I am glad you brought it up. For everyone who suffers from bi-polar or uni-polar depression, get a good DHA supplement. I use Nordic Naturals DHA and a high potency vitamin D, supplemented with vitamin K2. You can find that combo together. It is very possible that for people who have depression running in the family that it is simply an Omega 3 fatty acid deficiency that afflicts the family and nothing more. For myself, I know my ancestors lived in an area in Ireland known as the salmon fishing capital of Europe. Then we migrated to NY and no longer had access to our natural diet. Add on now a modern diet of processed foods and sugars and an overabundance of Omega 6. A recipe for mental and physical disaster, I would think! Take the DHA, the vitamin D and purposely fill your mind with bright subjects and think about heaven and the love Our Lord and Our Lady have for us. Listen to great classical music. Look at the great masterpieces of art. Turn the TV off. Give it some time.
One little story that I have. I once visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art when they had a Murillo exhibition. The art was so beautiful and heavenly. There was also a string quartet and piano playing opera pieces on the upper level. I went up there to listen and had a glass of wine. Between the art, the music and the glass of wine, I felt like I had never felt before. Elated beyond words to describe it. The same would happen when I went to the opera to hear the late Luciano Pavarotti sing. Elated. So can beauty have a profound effect on your brain? Absolutely! Surround yourself with it, whenever possible.
Joe Paul Pelaez says
Thank you for this article and replies. Please pray for me. The worst part for me is knowing how many have been hurt over my whole life time. Prayer always helps, sometimes it’s more effective than others. I have such intense loneliness that I brought on by my own choices. Recently I went to Confession, received Holy Communion at Mass. That week I didn’t sense I was repented enough for my sins of omission especially, it’s difficult just to get out of bed. The only was I know I am ‘savable’ is the Grace of a kernel of hope. I offer up my joys and sorrows, ask for healing of the narcissism that exasperates the depression. Thank God calling on Jesus and the Saints and Angels keeps me going. I do go to Mass, but am waiting for more of a sense of doing my duties more, and with joy. I’ve returned to at least praying The Rosary daily fighting the idea that my prayers are not worth anything with a sense of cooperating with Grace.
Fr. Nick agreed to meet with me once a month for Spiritual direction but my car has severe transmission trouble, and due to finances I may have to take it off the road for some months to save for the cost of repairs. I haven’t even told Fr. Nick of my depression yet.
Typing this here has given me a sense of a little relief, thank you.
Michael Walker says
Keep fighting the good fight! Many days I feel “a disturbance in the Force,” if you will. I’m praying for you and for all on this forum. As you may know, today is the feast of Saint John of the Cross, a patron of depression, considering he coined the term “Dark Night of the Soul.”
This is one of the kindest and best helps for depression that I’ve read. Thank you for sharing yourself in such an honest way. I don’t feel as misunderstood, incapable, done-with, or alone. –
a woman trying to cope with a new bout of depression
I’m relieved to have found this today, as it’s been a sign of hope for me. The article and comments are greatly appreciated. Thank you and God bless all of you.
(The last comment got posted accidentally.) I meant to say I firmly believe that God understands your pain and your desire to be good for Him. He sees them above your human frailties and tendencies; through the pain, the bitterness and even your anguish at His “silence”. Regardless of your ability to believe this for yourself, He knows you long for Him; that you long to follow His instruction and the example of His Son.
What we suffer is a terrible – even evil – affliction, and so powerful is its hold on us that we feel His hand of grace is removed from over our heads, and no mortal can convince us otherwise. But I AM convinced that the practical reason why He said, “Judge not and you shall not be judged,” is because He does not judge everyone by the same measure. Your inability to receive Communion as often as you want to may not be a matter of your will. You may not have had a positive, life-affirming and redeeming experience in a very long time and your ability to hope – possibly even to move – has all but died. If I can attempt to understand this about you, how much more would He from whom all goodness comes!
I hope knowing this will ease your torment – even just a bit. And no matter how much the hurt gnaws at you and how much the despair overwhelms you, please keep this powerful kernel of love and hope within you that you are loved and vouched for – by all of us who understand your anguish and pray for you to be relieved of your torment. I’m compelled to think of the woman who wished to touch the hem of His garment. (Kathy, how much more you have done than that!)
I pray for Our Holy Mother to be with you. (I think of her in the image of the Pieta, her anguished heart bleeding for you.) I think of St. Therese of Lisieux too. And I especially recommend you to my dearest and beloved St. John Bosco. It is to entirely to his credit that I identify our Faith as one of sheer love and compassion – and how I think of it is unshakeable, no matter what I have seen or read or experienced. (That Don Bosco was inspired by the same Faith to be the way he was all his life is evidence enough for me that it is a Heavenly thing.)
Much love to you – and to all who happen to read this, John
Ben Dytor says
Bless you for writing this article. I was in tears reading it. Thank you. I suffer from depression and anxiety, really horrible things. In the very end though I think that they will turn out to be a blessing if accepted graciously like Christ.
Thanks for this writing, you’ve described exactly what I’m feeling. It’s the little things that will get me through the day. God bless!
I am convinced that not even death will be a release from the nightmare of this life, I am sure God wants nothing to do with me. I am such a failure at everything I try to do and everyone I try to help. I don’t deserve His mercy. I’ve made one big mistake after another, it’s now all one big inescapable mess with no change or relief it will only get worse. Not surprised that no one wants to be with me, I can’t stand me either. I laugh at all these people, saints included, who say God has spoken to them or communicates in dreams. It’s got to be a hoax, since all my dreams are either nightmares or a big jumble of nonsense that confuses me for the rest of the day, even if I try to not think about it. God is silent even in adoration. When I go, all I want to do is collapse in sleep, there must be no oxygen in those rooms. They’re all the same, too many people for the square footage and no windows. I don’t have any priests I really trust or can go to for help. They make a bad situation worse by not having private confessionals, they insist on open confessionals. That’s if they bother to hear confessions at all. They are fine with abortion, homosexuality and all the other filth of the modern age anyway. They have no respect for God and shove His tabernacle “offstage.” Mass is all about them and their stand up routine and being the center of attention. If they don’t believe what they’re supposed to be selling, why should anyone? I see all these people online go on about holy priests and joy of faith, but isn’t it funny how they always seem to be somewhere other than where I’m stuck living. There ain’t no one like that around here. One priest referred me to yet another shyster psychologist, aka phony doctor who drains your bank account and insurance on useless prescriptions. This “Catholic” “doctor” insisted that it was not an improvement of my life when I decided to stop going to rock concerts, (which I frequented when I was younger and dumber). That’s right, didn’t you know, skipping a typical, stupid, waste of money, near occasion of multiple sins rock concert is a sure sign of depression! Isn’t it funny, I fell away at a very secular college and lived a sinful life away from the church and family, and was incredibly lonely and depressed and directionless. Now I thought I’d straightened up my life, come back to church, (which was a mess when I left and still is, and completely unresponsive to any effort to clean up its act) I have a spouse and child I didn’t have before, and its lonelier more depressing, and more sinful than ever before, because now I’m responsible for two other people I can’t seem to serve properly much less get to heaven. No matter how full I cram the day trying to doing good things for them, it apparently means nothing. When they are not ignoring or avoiding me they talk nasty to me. I try to be patient and not give it back but there’s only so long so much one can take before cracking, but even that is pointless, everything is always my fault and never anyone else’s. I read about saints who had it worse than me, but it’s no help, I find no helpful tips or advice. I just feel like a bigger failure for not making it because I’m in far less dreadful circumstances than they ever were. Plus isn’t it funny, they all seem to have a good spiritual advisor or confessor,
Or an amazing apparition. Meanwhile God remains as silent and remote as ever before. I was never a Protestant, but I’m really starting to believe in their concept of the elect ….of which it’s obvious I’m not one. I’m also starting to agree with the bigmouths on twitter too, that prayer is useless. Either that, or else I’m just too blamed stupid to do it right.
I pray for you and hope you are in a better place than when you wrote this. I am not qualified to offer you advice but I can share that I was once so riddled with anxiety/depression I thought I couldn’t breathe (for months). Bad childhood/bad responses into adulthood. I found a therapist who was catholic that eventually helped me. Seek one and pray you find the right one. Also going to a church and just sitting there and asking for help at times other than mass was helpful too.
Theresa Ratelle says
I understand what you are saying about how it seems Saints end up having great insights and apparitions happen, and I think sometimes “wouldn’t that be nice over this silence.” I do believe the people who wrote those stories don’t understand these feelings of darkness.
But the point is supposed to be Hope.
They aren’t just “gifted”. They accept a LOT of pain, and go through a lot of darkness, to get to those points. People just don’t mention those parts.
Hope. It will not always be like this. It won’t. I can speak from experience that it will be okay.
That may not help now, but what you need to understand now is what you are going through is very difficult, and very heroic. Very painful–but the pain WILL end.
I think Depression is the hardest suffering than any other. Because there is nothing like living when dead.
I think I could go through anything in life as long as I have hope or will–but when that’s all taken away, and all you see is nothing–that’s when one’s HIGHEST strength comes through.
I think the strongest people go through the hardest times–and those are the ones God really loves.
And remember too: The GREATEST of all saints are always the ones who went through the most mistakes and hardships!!
(Sorry for posting as I am a girl, but I felt drawn to read your messages and post. That’s why I know God is speaking, not me.)
Toni Sheree Germinario says
I have suffered from MDD, anxiety and quasi-agoraphobia since 1990. I’m on medications, see a psychiatrist quarterly and a psychologist monthly, which is all I can afford. Nonetheless, I’m more fortunate than many who can’t afford treatment. I was hospitalized for a month in 1991. I was forced to retire early from a lucrative 42 year career due to this insidious disease. My 3 sisters and my son also suffer from this disease but most from anxiety and not depression. I had been doing well the past few weeks and was grateful. But o. Wednesday, 5 days ago, the monster returned with a vengeance. I stayed in my pajamas and didn’t leave my home for 4 days. I’ve cried endlessly and feel our of sorts with no motivation or incentive to do anything except lie in the fetal position all day and sleep. I sometimes lose my faith and get angry at God for this burden but then I remind myself there are billions of people dealing with far worse than me. Thank you for your article and suggested prayers.
Judith Okech says
It was so hard for me to believe my daughter will live on medication for life. She was first diagnosed with depression. After two years, it advanced to manic depression / bipolar. The last time she got admitted for a full month, the doctor discovered it was actually schizoaffective disorder. Although she got discharged, she was very unstable. The instability went on for 8 months. In short, I did nothing else in that whole year apart from taking care of her. With the help of one committed priest who continuously prayed for her, I remained hopeful. Suddenly, I thought of attending mass daily. Immediately I began to attend mass daily, my daughter stabilized within the first week. She was able to go back to college after 3 weeks from the date I began to attend daily mass. I have since come to terms with the fact that I need to present her case before the Lord’s altar every morning. It strengthens me. I hope this helps someone.