Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue Turns 5!


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.

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  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Leonora Pawelak

    Wonderful story that brings back many memories. I “purchased” porcelin roses 40 years ago for my niece and myself. I still have mine!

    Thanks for sharing your story.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Shelly

    I ‘found’ you (or God put your blog in my path), one year ago. I have faithfully read your blog every single day. You have helped my to come to terms with my own bipolar diagnosis and through your humor have taught me how to not take myself so seriously! I adopted your SEF idea and had several friends and family members write about me. I look at the file when I’m feeling lower than a worm’s belly. Thankfully those times are getting further apart as I continue my recovery.
    I so appreciate your complete honesty and your willingness to share glimpses of your life with us. Keep on writing Therese…as long as God puts it on your heart!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Viv

    Therese, your words are definitely “flowers”. Thank you for sharing your humor with us. You’ve taught me that it’s good to laugh at ourselves when we’d rather cry. God bless you and Merry Christmas.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Elizabeth

    Hugs to you!

    Happy Birthday, Beyond Blue! I think I’ve been reading it for at least 4 of the 5 years!

    Thanks for accepting my friendship request on Facebook last night.


  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Nancy

    Congratulations on five years and thank you!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Madeline

    Your words, and the experiences, you relate in this column hit the mark with me. I, too, suffer with depression along with various anxiety conditions, and feel that the wonderful man in my life deserves better. It’s so very hard for me to realize that so many friends and family members think I am special.

    Reading today’s blog is a great reminder that I might really be special, and that I am not alone with the depressive feelings that creep in and try to distract me in my attempts at getting better.

    Thank you! I look forward to reading your blog every day.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mary Anne Thompson

    Did you get the last pkg of lavender Rose petals? I ask because this morning I walked out front to feed the birds and I have 3 Lavender Roses in FULL bloom and I thought of you first thing. Then you post about a flower, ok a Poinsetta but still…a flower. I hope you are having a easy Holiday season this yr. I had my Klonopin for anxiety increased so I am more sedated but calm. I am trying to just let the days pass. I do not get out amongst the craziness of the shoppers. I learned a musician friend of mine from NYC is going to be here performing on Yule/Dec 21st so I am going to try to go see him. Other than that I am spending my time at home, in front of my happy light, journaling, and something came to me the other day that I wrote down as a positive affirmation that I wanted to share with you and the readers:

    That which does NOT honor my passion and my love, LET IT GO!

    love you my friend, Mary Anne

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jami

    OK, I’m a newcomer, so am extra excited to know that Beyond Blue is 5 years old!
    I really enjoy Therese’s blend of science, spirituality, and humanity. Beyond Blue is about opening doors and putting stigma in its place….you go girl!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Avi

    Happy Christmas, Therese.

    Many thanks for your blog\\\

    Blessings for you and all of you


  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Vicki

    Thank you for your honesty and warmth. I enjoy your column every morning. It is so refreshing to read some of the things you say and know I am not the only grown woman with self-eteem issues from time to time. It would be good to nurture myself more and worry what others think less. I just try to be myself. Sometimes it can be difficult to find those things that make me unique, but I know they are there mostly. I hope you have a wonderful Holiday!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment veronica

    Such a beautiful story and such a wonderful
    spirit lifting thought, that our love can really change weeds into flowers. Very difficult time for me right now, just old regular run of the mill depressed…working hard trying to take care of family and grandchildren and work and pay bills and it is all much very much, and I feel isolated and deserted by those who I have always been there for every day and still get calls they need encouragement….no one knows. no one knows how sad someone can be if we hid it well. God Bless love love love reading you every day. thank you.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Paula

    I always read your blog and get something from all of them. Your are a great help to me. I’ve promised a friend that checked in on me the other day to start a SEF for myself. I’ve been having some bad days. Thank you for your writing and for promoting the SEF idea.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Heidi

    Thank you for five years of honesty. Your words are refreshing and inspiring. You touch more people with your writing than you’ll ever know. I’m just one of them.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jan

    Happy Birthday, indeed! I don’t know how I was so fortunate to wander into this website one day, but I thank God I did! You are such a sensitive writer, and I am so thankful for your efforts everyday, even those days when I sense you are not feeling your best. Thank you, thank you, Therese! You so brighten my days!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Razz2

    Beyond Blue – the name itself says there is hope, that there is more to life beyond the “blue” feelings we have and struggle with.

    I discovered your blog while doing a google search on obsessive thinking and not only was what you wrote so wonderful and very helpful I immediately book-marked your blog. Why? Because in the face of so much mental warfare you kept your delightful sense of humor.

    Happy Anniversary Beyond Blue and thank you Therese for not giving up on yourself so that we can all share in your wisdom.

    Thank you for the poinsettia and the beautiful story that goes with it.


  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment spareparts

    Congratulations on 5 years of Beyond Blue, Therese.

    I was reading what fellow readers wrote, as most of the time, it adds to the substance of your blog. They pretty much say how I feel and then some.

    Thank you.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Mimi Owensby

    Paulist Press? Did you know Fr. Matt Desiderio?

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jamie

    I want to thank you so much for your column. I am not sure how I stumbled upon it, but your courage, honesty, humor and wit give me that needed pick me up at just the right times. You are an inspiration. Thanks for using your talents and challenges to service those you don’t even know, we truly do benefit from it. Happy Holidays.

  • michal

    Suffering from depression? I am looking for you, pleas show me your pain…

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Jennifer A. Jenson (jennyj)

    Your beautiful words and thoughts are indeed flowers to me as I too strugle out from under depression’s cloud one thought at a time! Please keep on sharing the beauty! Love to you!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kathy

    So much of life is not what it appears, many
    times we lose people we love, lose precious
    things to us, lose our youth. It is great
    to see how you cope, how funny you are,
    how realistic you are. It is absolutely
    incredible and courageous and real and
    fabulous for me personally. You have a gift
    that benefits so many. All I can say is a
    thank you from my heart and soul.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Margaret

    Your words come from God, through you, to help us.

    You continue to be a Blessing to me and many others.

    Blessings to you and yours, as we Celebrate the birth of Baby Jesus.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Dee

    Thank you so much for being you, being brave, sharing yourself with us and for letting us know we are not alone.

    Blessings to you and yours this Holiday Season. Please add this to your SEF and know every post connects with me in some if not all ways.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Joyce

    Congratulations, Therese, and please, keep up the good work. Your blog means a lot to me, and I’m so glad I found it.

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment tutelstar

    Congratulations :)

  • NOch Noch

    i also find it much encouragement when i’ in the down days… and gives me hope that depression can be healed…
    Noch Noch

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Pat

    You are a blessing from God to me. You make me laugh, cry, and I rejoice every time I open your site.
    I am right there with you in this struggle every single day.
    You are so very special because you are not afraid to expose your innermost feelings to us who share this “special” character of depression/bi-polar/craziness/whatever you want to call it.
    God created us and he created you for a purpose.
    But I know this! You are doing what God would want you to do with the talents that He gave you. You have helped so many people.
    I have been reading your blogs for so long that I feel that I know you personally.
    Don’t ever stop! Have a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Catherine Imbasciati

    Dearest Therese –
    Your words are always like flowers to me, blooming brilliantly in the darkness of my illness. I have bipolar disorder and often feel alone. Your words always bring me encouragement and are like sunshine through the storm of depression or anxiety. Thank you so very much for continuing your work. Merry Xmas!! May God bless you and your family. Cath

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kitty Wolfsong

    Your beauty and gifts are obvious to the rest of the world, but when they are not obvious to you, remember, God DOES NOT make junk! God and I wish you love and Joy!

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Bev Y

    I am seriously considering moving to CA from
    the mid-west. I do have family there for visits sometimes. Mostly I want social life with other retirees. I will be leaving 3 birth children, man friend and 5 grand kids.
    I have tried to have a close relationship with all……I still get hurt by them.
    I once thought, “Expectations lead to disappointment.” Well, I barely gave any
    expectations and they still shot me down.
    I love my family but they have their own family and I am not a part of that. Sad.
    Times have changed.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Lynne Blakeslee


  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Julia

    Thanks for your words of encouragement and inspiration, Therese. Your column is part of my “maintaining spiritual and emotional fitness routine”! I send warm thoughts of a Christmas for you where “all is calm, all is bright”.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Sam Gyura

    Thank God for you and your blog Therese. This year has been a really difficult one for me and reading your column has been so comforting and inspiring. I know I’m not alone in this crazy mental hell. Thank you and may you and your family have a wonderful Christmas xx

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