Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

This I Believe: A World of Vibrant Colors

NPR features a collection of inspiring essays in a series called “This I Believe.” On the plane ride to my college alma mater, Saint Mary’s College (across from Notre Dame), for my 15-year reunion, I read through some of the older essays now compiled in a book.
As I ran around the lakes of Notre Dame like I did when I was 20 and prayed at the same quiet corners of Saint Mary’s College campus where I hid out almost two decades ago, I wondered what I believed now and how my essay would read.
One afternoon during the reunion, I had coffee with one of my Religious Studies professors: an insightful, wise, and intuitive woman who taught me in a course called “Women and Sexuality.” She scribbled this sentence on the bottom of the paper in which I argued that all persons having premarital sex will burn in hell: “Try to tackle this topic and others with a little more nuance.”
In other words: The zebra-like thinking that you’re using to shield you from life’s hard blows can cause their own problems and will overnight your fragile heart to the very painful place you were trying to escape.
At the time I blew off her words, of course, because I wanted so badly to believe that if I lived according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, suffering would pass over me like the night the Hebrews stained their doors with the blood of a lamb.
Two years later, having lost my father to a bronchial pneumonia and spending a chunk of my day talking to attorneys in order to defend myself (and my sisters) in an ugly family law suit we didn’t see coming, I realized there was no safety in clean lines, and that no matter how hard I tried to apply an equation to the situation, I ended up walking in circles filled with endless questions. I thought about her wise words–the importance of a nuanced approach to life’s frustrations and joys–and the wisdom in learning how to appreciate the questions, even if we never figure out the answers.
So, here is the essay I came up with: about a world of colors … I suspect all of you who suffer from mood disorders have had to do the same exercise in your mind because illness–and especially mental illness–makes zebra thinking almost impossible (if you want to stay alive and happy).


I believe in a world of colors. A Crayola box full. A life of hues that exists between the continents of Black and White. I believe in nuanced theories rather than dogmatic statements, in thoughtful queries over simplistic answers. I believe in confusion and wonder as a path to clarity.
I believe in questions. And the presence of God in mystery.
I believe in conversations. Lots of them. In different languages. Between contrasting cultures. Among incompatible people. I believe in difficult and awkward dialog between mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, siblings, neighbors, and friends. I believe in challenging negotiations between countries, families, and people.
I believe in uncertainty and fuzzy lines, and in forgiveness.
I believe in optimism. In believing the best about a person even when his behavior says otherwise. I believe that in all evil there exists a chance for goodness, and that in all darkness is found a speck of light. And I believe that pure virtue isn’t immune to corruption, that truth and light can emerge from darkness.
I believe in stripes. Not solids.
I believe that a person can change her opinions as many times as she wishes throughout her life. That the woman who lived by every rule in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in college is allowed to recognize the wisdom in the four noble truths of Buddhism after her graduation, that one philosophy need not define her forever.
I believe in the beauty of evolution. Of the mind and spirit and body. And in different seasons.
I believe that a diagnosis doesn’t have to predict someone’s future. That in every recovery there exists the possibility of a miracle. I believe less in symptoms than I do in strategies for healthy living that treat every functioning organ within the human body and the soul that encapsulates all of them. I believe in all kinds of medicine and every type of treatment that better connect a person’s mind, body, and soul to each other.
I believe in healing and wholeness.
I believe in a world of communities, not individuals, and that a person cannot thrive independently, outside of his relationships. I believe the actions of one human being always affects his brother, sister, neighbor, and friend, which makes him accountable to all those persons. I believe no one gets sick by himself, and seldom can a person recover all alone.
I believe in the sacredness of relationships. And in world in which we are responsible for one another.
I believe in a God who likes to paint in colors, who created a world of vibrant hues. I believe that life is about a journey, not just a destination, and that our existence is more about becoming comfortable with our questions than at arriving at the answers.

To read more Beyond Blue, go to, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.

  • Deconstructing Circe

    Thank you for sharing that lovely essay. I am humbled to witness how God’s grace and love can alchemize even the dark, confusing miasma of depression into something worthwhile.

  • Wendi

    Very nice. :)

  • Larry Parker

    Waving to you from a place with an awful lot of red, yellow and orange in it …
    It’s awfully warm, too ;-P

  • MJ

    You know, this is really why a lot of people dislike organized religion (the panacea/warm blanket factor). It is the opiate of the masses.

  • linda

    Don’t feel bad theresa, my biomedical ethics teacher wrote the same thing on my paper: He (being one of my fav teachers and so loving) he said: not every one believes the same way you do. Try to find a way to argue your topic in a way that everyone can relate to and understand-Case in point-his friend Dr. K wrote the 10 non religious reasons why assisted Suicide is Wrong for religion and medicine class I was like you in that respect, all guns and no glory/mercy when it comes to passion things sometimes–I can be very loving but i think we don’t want other to be hurt so we rant and rave about stuff in order to help them avoid the pain but that is not always what happens.

  • linda

    oh yeah, when you hear hoof prints think horses not zebras…

  • marilyn

    therese so true if more people would reach out and see the world in all of the colors god made there would be more peace and understanding to this journey called life.

  • Susan

    looking for some good muslim brothers and sisters to conversate about Islam with
    (((++++Seekmuslim.c om+++)))) will help you find exactly what, and who, you’re looking for.
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  • prabha

    I too believe ‘n all that u v mentioned.Thank God, for showing up a person of my personality-traits.And nice to meet u.

  • una

    Your writing piece on color really connected with me. Funny, I guess it’s human nature to run and hide in the safety of black and white but if we open up to the colors and comprehensiveness of life we will be better able to manage life. I read your blog from time to time and I respect your honesty. Openness takes courage but it is the only way to intiate movement in the fight against the devastating impact of behavioral brain diseases. Careful, clear articulation of the experience is paramount. In a search for understanding, I found it curious that my focus would turn to color. As a result of a five year journey of questioning I now view life through color. I utilize a simple visual that encompasses life and death. It has a very stabilizing force and helps me balance my life. In part, this visual came out of a reaction to a very traumatic event. I would like to share it with you and your readers in the hopes that it would be yet another tool that may be helpful. Theresa if you are open to it, please let me know. May you embrace the full circle of a rainbow. Bask in the warmth of the light and the brillance of the colors.

  • Anonymous

    this might just have to replace the recitation of the postolic creed at my funeral!(Far from the present, hopefully. Once again, T, you rock my world!

  • J. Rock

    Tx! I think I better understand why the zebra design is now so much in design vogue; but now it comes in colors, transforming itself into hope/change. ~jr

  • Melzoom

    I’ve told you this one already, but it still rings true
    ‘What about your supplies, Frederick?’ they ask…..
    ‘Close your eyes’
    ‘now i send you the rays of the sun… you feel their golden glow?’
    as Frederick speaks of the sun the little mice begin to feel warmer……
    was it Fredericks voice, was it magic?
    then he tells them of the blue periwinkles, and the red poppies in the yellow wheat, and the green leaves of the berry bush…and they all saw the colours as clearly as if they had been painted in their minds.

  • Linda Appleman Shapiro

    Though our age and backgrounds couldn’t be more dissimilar, I totally appreciate and admire your open heart and ability to write so fluidly and intelligently about matters that affect us all. Funny, but so many of the exact words you choose and the themes you write about are reflected in my blog, A PSYCHOTHERAPIST’S JOURNEY and my memoir, FOUR ROOMS, UPSTAIRS: A Psychotherapist’s Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother’s Mental Illness.
    Wonderful to know that there are those of us who think alike and are able to appreciate the world’s vibrant colors, even amid the chaos that surrounds us!
    Linda Appleman Shapiro

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