Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue


Mindful Monday: What Advent Means to a Depressive

posted by Beyond Blue

advent wreath 2.jpg

On Mindful Monday, my readers and I practice the art of pausing, TRYING to be still, or considering, ever so briefly, the big picture. We’re hoping this soul time will provide enough peace of mind to get us through the week!

I think I know why I love the Advent season. It has nothing to do with the wreaths or the poinsettias, or the unexpected chocolates that arrive in the mail. Advent, which means “arrival” is the time of waiting, of expectancy, of becoming alert. Jesuit Father Alfred Delp described Advent as a time of being “deeply shaken” so that we will wake up to ourselves. He writes:

The shaking is what sets up the secret blessedness of this season and enkindles the inner light in our hearts, so Advent will be blessed with the promises of the Lord. … It is precisely in the severity of this awakening, in the helplessness of coming to consciousness, in the wretchedness of experiencing our limitations that the golden threads running between heaven and earth during this season reach us; the threads that give the world a hint of the abundance to which it is called, the abundance of which it is capable.

Man is that true: in the helplessness of coming to consciousness, in the wretchedness of experiencing our limitations that the golden threads running between heaven and earth during this season reach us.

That’s why I love advent: because we are told to live like we have depression–to be alert and careful and awake and shaken up–to not fall asleep on the job, and to let our anxiety work for us. It’s a season that’s difficult for the depressive: all the joy we are supposed to be feeling, all the parties we are supped to be enjoying, all the extra responsibilities that are supposed to be fun.

But if you think hard about what the season of Advent really means, we depressives are naturals at Advent, because we live every day of the year in Code Orange and Code Red–paying attention to absolutely everything that could potentially bring us down, and into a dangerous state.

I don’t know about you, but I get a little sick of having to be so alert all the time. And yet, when people make comments like “I wish I were as disciplined about my exercise like you,” or “How have you been able to not drink for 20 years?” I somewhat appreciate the fact that, unlike my friends who can be lazy if they want to, I don’t have a choice. I have to work at my mental health program. Every hour. Every day. Every season. Or else everything in me will wither.

For me, it’s always Advent. A suspense in the air: Yikes, what’s coming next? Forever expecting the unexpected, and pleasantly surprised with no surprise. And yet it’s that suspense, that permanent awareness–the wretchedness of my limitations, as Delp describes–that does hold “the golden threads running between heaven and earth.”

Why? The German Benedictine Sister Aemiliana Lohr says this:

[Advent] turns one to face the unknown, the coming, bringing him out of himself and his usual way on to a higher level of being, nearer to the fulfillment of his human essence … when God appears….This is what makes it terrifying and the source of happiness; God’s coming is what man most fears and most seeks: it is the death of selfhood, the entrance of new life in God.

My translation: The depressive, and those who struggle with any chronic illness, especially chronic pain, have four bars of reception on the God phone, instead of two. Because in their sacrifice–even if they don’t want to sacrifice, as I don’t almost everyday–something is made holy … they are better able to turn away from themselves–or at least see that they don’t hold all the answers–and can better recognize God’s presence in their life. Some days, they can even walk toward it in joy.


To read more Beyond Blue, go to http://blog.beliefnet.com/beyondblue, and to get to Group Beyond Blue, a support group at Beliefnet Community, click here.



  • Renata

    Therese, that was a really beautiful essay! Thank you so much.
    You’ve inspired me not to take my nondepressed/nonanxious times for granted but to constantly work on my mental health program — like you do.
    I have not been able to accept that I have major depressive disorder and because of that, I have made many serious mistakes, including tapering off and quitting my medication over the years, taking my mental health for granted, not working towards goals, and more and more, only to get a major reality hit, i.e., a terrible long-lasting episode. FIRST, one must ACCEPT, then one can HEAL.
    I certainly know my limitations and to gracefully accept them, well, that will be mostly God’s doing because of both my pride and my own shame. But He IS faithful. And I have been reading an incredible book by Sarah Young called “Jesus Calling” and it’s all about finding the Presence of Jesus, and yesterday I was able to sleep more soundly than I had in months because while in bed I actively changed the focus of my anxious thoughts to “thanksgiving and gratitude” so I can Trust Him to help me during this terribly dark and frightening time I find myself in.
    Happy Advent to you and your readers. Let’s remember our limitations are the golden threads reaching us between heaven and earth!

  • pinegrove

    Therese your essay has helped me look more softly upon my limitations and has eased resentment I was feeling today about not being well. Thanks for your beautiful thoughts. Happy advent to you and you readers.

  • joanna

    Paster taled about Advent yesterday. About anticipating God birthing something in us. Your essay just put the icing on the cake for me. Thank you.

  • Your Name

    I’m in a manic phase right now, but I fully expect to soon be in a depressive state soon because that is the way I usually cycle. I will remember what you said about Advent when my depression comes because I think Advent can be applied to any place or point in our lives. This is usually when I’m depressed so I’m not sure what is going on with me, but I am sure that I’m cycling. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and January 14th which is my birthday are usually low months for me. I have been diagnosed bipolar mixed. I have had the illness since 1981 which is 27 years, and I had two kids at home that were in kindergarten and the fourth grade. The kids are now 33 and 37 years. My 33 year old daughter is married and has a handicapped child. Marcie is expecting her second child March 1st. My son, Rob is not married, but he seems to be happy with his life.He has 4 cats- a 15 year old male and 3 year old kittens to take care of He aso loves to cook! My husband is 63 years old and is very supportive. He went to my shrink appointment with me today. I am 62 years and a housewife. I spend alot of time visiting doctors, going to Curves, and playing Mah Jongg. as you can see I stay busy. On December 28th we are flying to Hudson,Ohio to visit Marcie, Doug, and our little granddaughter, Lucy. Lucy will be 2 years old on the 28th of December. So long for now. I’ll write back when I get depressed!

  • Your Name

    Yes, I too have to work on my mental health everyday. In the midst of that, I have a bipolar son and an unfaithful husband. God is with me in the midst of the storms; however the eye of the storm is lonely and often isolates us from others. I keep looking up from where my strength comes from or I couldn’t get through another day. Melie

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