Friday, February 1, 2013

The Dilemma of the Depressed Catholic

{St. Remy's Catholic Church, Russia, Ohio}
It’s one thing to struggle with depression.  It’s another thing to be Catholic and struggle with depression.

Our culture itself has it's own stereotypes about people who struggle with depression.  We have come a long way in the last several decades.  But, even today the misunderstandings run amok.  Before I learned more about the disease, I personally thought that depression was just an excuse to be lazy.  I thought that if you tried hard enough, you could pull yourself up by your own boot straps.  I applied this theory to my own life and tried over and over and over again to cure myself.

If you are Catholic, you might have some additional stereotypes associated with the depression stigma.  A common response of a Catholic mentor is to "offer it up" or "pray it out".  This technique can be very helpful.  And I am not saying that it is bad advice whatsoever.  But for me, I translated this advice to mean that I could fix any and every problem with prayer and sacrifice.  I did not read this rule anywhere and I wasn’t told this specifically by anyone.
When it came to depression, I believed the problem was a result of an inadequate commitment to the Catholic faith.  When I became more seriously depressed, I thought that my symptoms were just a consequence of a lazy prayer life.

Throughout high school and college, I maintained a strenuous prayer routine.  I was vigilant and faithful and did everything I thought I should.  Even though I had countless sleepless nights spent in front of the tabernacle, I could not shake my feelings of despair.

Instead of getting help, I began to doubt the truths of the faith.

I couldn’t ask for help.  I thought that by admitting my struggles I would be admitting to failure.  And I thought that if I asked for guidance, the response would be to pray harder and offer it up.  Unfortunately, I had already made up my mind that I would NOT find my answers inside the church.

To make a long story short, I stopped practicing the faith and gave up on God.  Cold turkey.  One day I was at mass, the next day I was an atheist.

But I still didn’t get help.  I thought that my religious guilt was the cause of my depression.  So, I was under the impression that, maybe, my problems would just go away.

But my condition only got worse.

Hindsight is 20/20. And, right now, my FAVORITE phrase is: But for the Grace of God.
I don't know how it happened.  Suddenly, I found myself back in Ohio, in a confessional, and returning to a seat next to an amazingly holy man whom I was going with on a date.  To make another long story short, I came back to the Truths of the Catholic Church.
Ironically, I did end up finding help and healing for my depression through the church.  But not in the magical way I expected before.

Through the love of my husband, I was able to get glimpses of my value as a human being.
I am a child of God.  I am worthy and deserving of life.

I realized that because of this gift of life, I am worthy enough to get professional help for my mental health issues.

God did not fail me before; I just failed to look for the solutions that He put right in front of my nose.  I asked God to heal me and I cursed Him when He did not.  But, God did answer my prayers and put people on this earth to help me.  His plan was to work through other people as He does in so many other situations.  It was a different plan than I expected, but I am eternally grateful nonetheless.
I will not curse God anymore for my struggles with depression.  Because of this struggle, so many good things have come from it as a result.  Depression is my cross and I will do my best to embrace it.


    This song is a good song that can help you through the year.

  2. Just saw this post...I can very much relate! Thanks for being courageous and sharing...keep it up! :)

    1. Thank you for your encouragement! You are very kind!