I am young woman suffering from depression. I also happen to be an artist and Catholic.
Depression if it is mild or moderate feels like an earthly experience of purgatory. And if it severe it is like experiencing the first levels of hell.
People often romanticize illnesses like cancer, but it is hard to tell a story about depression, because it is depressing by default. The only way to tell story about depression that isn’t soul crushing is by inserting humor and God. Sometimes humor is the best a person can do, but I am so very grateful for God.
Now that the pain of my illness is moderate, mostly thanks to meds, I can go about my day without constantly thinking about my moods and saying, “oh my goodness, how can I possible live another day like this?” Now I can say to myself, “It may or may not pass, but it can- oooh look a squirrel!”
It’s hard to describe what I’m going through to people that have never felt this. It is like a demon ran away with my soul or at least part of it, and the ever pressing weight that I may never feel like myself again. And then of course there is the fatigue, pain in my lower arms and head. That isn’t pleasant either.
Then there is God, who can make darkness into light. The wallpaper on my work computer displays this prayer that I read every morning and every time I begin to get scared that this will never go away:
“I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.” - John Henry Cardinal Newman
I wish the stigma of mental illness wasn’t so rampant. I think people like to believe that they are in full control of their minds, and so they mentally outcast those who are not, because nothing is more terrifying than your mind running away from you… indefinitely. That’s where all the well-meaning sugary mantras come from. “Just try harder”, “Just pray harder”, “Just take up sports”, “Just count your blessings”, etc. “If you only try hard enough, you can do anything!”
Only God can to anything, well all good anythings, but we want to believe that we are gods and that we have control. If illnesses teach you anything it is that you are not God and not in control.
I am an incredibly gifted artist. Drawing comes naturally to me. I can be having a crap day and still illustrate a children’s book that gets translated into four languages. If I were to ask my mom to make a copy of Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, it wouldn’t be very good. If I told her to try a harder it might be a little better but not much. Maybe with years and years of training she could become as good as me, but probably not. She’d need a miracle. Luckily, her earthly wellness and happiness don’t depend on her drawings skills. But the healing of my mind does. I do need a miracle of sorts. God might work through the right doctors or people or food or pixie dust, but I know that if I ever wake up excited for the day and with a respectable level of confidence, it will be an act of the Almighty. I have fought tooth and nail to not be depressed, and although I am better I am not healed. But because there is a God I know that it is possible, and so there is hope, and if there is hope, well all is not yet lost.
Much love, your sister in Christ,
(F, so sorry it took me so long to respond! I didn’t see your comment right away – if my computer hadn’t been broke, I guarantee I’d have published it the very next day! Thank you so much for your vulnerability in sharing your thoughts. I am sure many people will benefit from your words. Know that you are in my prayers as you continue your daily struggle. I am rooting for you. Please feel free to write anytime!)