Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue Turns Three! The Miracle of the Poinsettia


Every year for Christmas I send poinsettias to a few special people in my life, and I buy a few for our home (which die quickly because I forget to water them). I always think about the legend of this Christmas flower because, when I was the children’s book editor for Paulist Press, I worked on a beautiful book by Brian Cavanaugh (illustrated by Dennis Rockhill) called “Miracle of the Poinsettia.”


It goes like this: a young girl named Maria wanted to make a special gift to present to the Baby Jesus (part of the creche) with the other children at the church celebration on Christmas Eve. She tried to weave a blanket, but her yarns became entangled. Christmas Eve came and she had nothing to give.

“I tried and tried to make something beautiful,” she cried, “but instead I ruined it.”

“Maria,” a voice said, “the Baby Jesus will love whatever you give because it comes from your heart.”

She decided to fill her arms with weeds from the tall grass outside the church and offer those. When she arrived at the church and saw all the other lavish gifts, she became embarrassed of her offertory. She tried to hide behind a pillar, but the priest saw her and invited her forward.


When Maria reached the Christmas crèche, she bowed her head in prayer and let the weeds fall out of her manto.

“Look at those glorious flowers!” cried the crowd. Now each weed was topped with a vibrant red star. Even the ones outside.

Maria’s love had created a miracle.

I tell the story of the poinsettia because it describes what has happened to me with Beyond Blue.

At the low point of my depression, I was convinced that I had absolutely nothing to offer the world: that my husband deserved a wife who could load the dishwasher in under an hour and drive herself (and the kids) to the grocery store–one that carried half the weight, not added more weight–and that my kids needed a mom who could cheer them on from the sidelines of their soccer games, not one who rushed to hide behind a tree because she couldn’t stop sobbing and shaking like a person with severe Parkinson’s.


Like Maria in the story, everything I attempted flopped, in my professional as well as personal life. I would compose a sentence on the computer, read it, and delete it. After a few months of this torture, I stopped writing altogether. I canceled my column on young adult spirituality (Catholic News Service), declined invitations to speak, and rejected opportunities to write for magazines I had been trying to break into for years.

One day, my therapist assigned me the task of listing ten positive qualities about myself. I came up with two: I had a well-proportioned nose and thick fingernails. Because I was incapable of finding anything of value in my DNA, she told me to ask four friends to make a list of my strengths.

Thankfully they identified more attributes than my nose and fingernails.


I printed out those e-mails, and filed them a manila folder I labeled as my “Self-Esteem File.” Every time a person complimented me or said anything remotely positive (“You don’t smell today”), I added it my SEF.

Dear readers, your comments are in my SEF now. They inspire me to put myself out there another day and see what comes back. Because, believe it or not, I still struggle with admitting to the world (or at least to Beliefnet’s many readers) that I am a certified whackjob–albeit a holy one.

When I first started recording my experience with depression, I considered my words to be a bunch of weeds that should be yanked out and disposed of with the other recyclables on Tuesday mornings. But your notes of encouragement make me believe that those words might be flowers to some people, as your words are to me.


Thank you so very much.

Click here to subscribe to Beyond Blue and click here to follow Therese on Twitter and click here to join Group Beyond Blue, a depression support group. Now stop clicking.

  • jch

    I am so thankful for you. I have been following you for the last 2 years and am so thankful that I found you when I did! Your honesty about your own struggles helps me not to feel ashamed of my own. I have never found another resource for those of us who have depression and who are Christians and want to talk about/ read about how to integrate our faith into our lives when there are days that feel black and hopeless.
    Whenever I read your column, I feel like I just had a great conversation with a friend- a friend who would be able to say “I know how you feel” and REALLY mean it, not just say that because they think they remember having a bad day once in a while.
    So thank you. Thank you for your honesty, your transparency, your faith, your humor, your heart to serve those of us who share mental health struggles. You are a blessing to so many and especially to me!

  • melzoom

    Congratulations, Therese. You and your blog and Group BB have been such a huge part of my recovery and current stability. Love to you and your family during this wonderful season.

  • Terry

    Right now, I feel that I am a burden to my husband and I’m hoping he can hang in there for me. I’m hoping this bipolar, mostly depressive time will pass with time and the relationship can be more equal instead of lopsided.
    I’m waiting for a miracle and this may not be before Christmas or at Christmas but I’m still praying that I will get better.

  • Your Name

    Having had depression as far back as I could remember, I welcome any insights & info I could get my hands on. I haven’t given up trying and I suppose you can call me a survivor. I see how stress effects my body and it becomes a vicious cycle..stress, depression, meds, weight gain, depression, stress.. any doesn’t matter. What I DID see is that the more depressed I was getting, the more stressed I was and vice-versa until someone turned me on to an in-home simple test called the StressTest which gave me a window into my body on how I was actually handling the stress, what was REALLY going on..No med can ever cover up what that stress/depression is doing to us inside.. I got very revealing answers and now I am empowered to do something about it! Check out this test and see if it’s for you.
    you can email me any time at

  • Suzi

    Sorry..I didn’t enter my name in the comment above.
    I also just want to say that I have eliminated alot of stress and depression by taking my financial future into my own hands..I have been an “under-earner” all my life…accepting crumbs..working so hard, certainly not smart.
    That has all changed. I am looking for people who have the same desire to change the direction of their life.
    Get the info and see if this is for you or someone else who is not opposed to turning their life around as well as helping others.

  • Bev Y

    First to Terry: while you are waiting for the miracle to happen for you………IT MAY JUST COME IN THE BACK DOOR. God answers prayers, but in His way and time. I will say a prayer for you, as I certainly know JUST HOW YOU FEEL, or don’t feel.
    Holidays are always tough on us depressives. Just with this knowledge, we can counter with more positive thoughts. It really does work with PRAYING AND MORE PRAYING.
    Therese, reading your posts have been a strong part of my recovery. Mind you, the recovery can last a month or a day. I am more prepared when the hopeless feelings come along.
    Thanks from the bottom of my heart.


    Thank you for all you do – I always am able to find a spark of hope in all your columns – hope is something I didn’t have for a very long time- again – thank you.

  • Caren

    Hey Therese! Thanks for this lovely and heartfelt post. Your SEF should be getting pretty fat by now, and not just with fingernail and nose comments. :) Your honesty and chutzpah are remarkable and I can think of few things more generous than the way you encourage others to be strong by demonstrating how you’ve taught yourself to choose strength yourself. Like the little girl who brought what she thought were weeds, and saw how the love in her heart could provide joy and beauty for an entire community, you, my dear, offer miracles every day!
    Thank you! And Happy Holidays. ~ Caren

  • Bill White

    Therese…congratulations on Beyond Blue’s three years. That’s incredibly special. And congratulations to you on your recovery and management of your circumstances. Coming from someone who’d know, that’s more than admirable. Bill

  • Peg

    Therese, has it only been 3 years? I feel like I’ve been reading your blog for a lot longer than that and ALWAYS getting something of value from it. Congratulations!! You speak to our hearts when it matters most. Peg

  • Renata

    Now is the time to say thank you for all the postings you write that have helped me to see that I am not alone, that others go through this, that you are a caring, wise and beautiful person who has certainly given so much of herself to her readers and friends.
    It’s also the time to wish you and your family a Blessed Christmas and Happy, Healthy New Year.
    I am grateful to have found you.

  • Chi Hair Straightener

    As for the design of hair straightener, the GHD straightener always comes at the top of the list of best hair straighteners. GHD Dark Maybe GHD straighteners are slightly higher in price than other congeneric products, but they are absolutely worth the price.However, buying a hair straightener is definitely much cheaper than going to high-grade barber shop.If you want to use GHD straigheners to bend your hair, it sounds a little unreasonable because hair straighteners are originally used to straighten hair

  • Steve

    Thanks for providing this wonderful service. I can’t tell you how comforting it often is to read your posts and realize that there are others out there who share the same bipolar challenges I do. Not only to commiserate but also to see that life does go on. That there is always a ray of sunshine in the cloudy turbulent skies that are too often troubling the skies.

  • Your Name

    I’ve been reading your articles and been getting your emails a little bit over 4 months now, and I find them very inspirational and so helpful. I thank you! for being such a strong warrior and a mentor to all lost souls in this life time. Please continue to enlightens us with your strenght and courage, you bring us hope and educate us as well.

  • Lori

    I read your words every time they pop up in my inbox. You have created so many beautiful flowers in the world – that you don’t even know of. You have helped me feel a little bit more sane and not so alone with my nuttiness. I don’t ever comment, so your SEF is so much larger than you will ever realize. THANK YOU.

  • VickiB.

    Therese — your blog is a precious gift to me and I am sure countless others. God Bless you and keep you throughout the year — *hugs* VickiB.

  • Leeannd

    Dear Therese,
    You have helped me through some of the roughest times of my life and continue to. I look so forward to your stories and all your experts that you have on your blog. Most days when I click onto your emails, sadly for me but good for you, I feel like you are talking to me and that I was meant to open that email that day (I often get behind on reading my emails). SO you see you ARE IMPORTANT TO ALL OF US AND AN INSPIRATION. Many of times I have just felt like giving up from this illness and thoughts of ending my life to stop the pain and the pain I put my loved ones through with my Bipolar/Depression but it has been you and my team of dr.’s that has made me realize that my illness does not identify me, I have it but it is not who I am…I am a mother, wife, daughter, friend, ect.
    God Bless you and Happy 3rd year and many more to come.
    With Love
    Leeann D

  • Tripp Hanson- DNA Customized Nutrition

    Love your blog, and the insights you provide here- the post about mourning the death of a pet, something very close to my heart and experience since I lost my 17 year old pal Spanky back on June 2.
    Grief is big, and so very related to depression, yes?
    I’d love to hear your thoughts about depression and genetic influences. Certainly not in a reductive way, but as a way of understanding it. As a practicing acupuncturist in NYC, I’m all about getting to the ‘root’ of things. The more I see, the more conditions I treat, the more I put a patient’s family history next to their medical history, the more I believe that there are threads- sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle- connecting the two…which has led me to look more and more into genomics, and the genetic links between a person’s illness and the expression of that illness.
    And do you think that nutrition has any power over, or in the face of, depression? I’ve put some thoughts together concerning genomics and nutrition here- please comment, agree or disagree! I’d love to hear…

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