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 three million 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.
Here are a few of those warm fuzzies you’ve been kind enough to post on this blog. Let’s keep sharing with each other:
Some days I feel there is no hope for me. But then I read your article and a little of me hopes spring will come again for me. Thank you.
Some journeys are more painful than others. But the victories are every day. Gingerbread houses, friends and family who love and support us through the battles, unexpected signs like a spectacular sunrise or sunset, and those little moments, like your child running up to hug and kiss you enthusiastically for no reason at all, like coming across the blog of a complete stranger and realizing that, wow, there are others out there who are also battling the darkness of depression and mental illness. It kinda makes you catch your second wind, square your shoulders, and get ready to take that next step forward that you didn’t think you were going to be able to manage. Hugs.
Faith is beautiful in how it unites us like none other.
This is the best article I have ever read on my disease and the way I feel. I have suffered with this since my late 20s and now I am 77. It is refreshing to know someone knows what my life is like. I have never had any support because no one in my family knows anything about manic depression or bipolar disorder. Thank you.
Wow! I can’t believe I found this! Depression and spirituality go hand in hand. Well, for the ones that struggle through the pain and despair. I need this site more than ever now.
We should make tee shirts that say something to the effect of “I’m a Depressive and I’m Proud.” Or bumper stickers: “Depressives make better lovers.” You get my drift. It just feels so good to laugh about our affliction/gift/whatever the heck it is.
Reading this has given me some hope and inspiration as I am in a “spiritual rut” at this time. I pray and pray, and still pray that GOD will answer my prayers. Blessings to all.
Welcome back. I ran across your blog just before you took a break and while in the midst of a relapse into Major Depression. Your honesty is encouraging and I look forward to your posts and responses of others.
–Dark to Dawn
Welcome back, to you and me both. I didn’t think I’d be around this Christmas, either, after missing last year’s family gatherings due to depression. God won’t let us give up. He gives us friends to call us every other day, and to pick us up when we can’t drive, and to keep asking us to invest in our own lives time and again, no matter how many times we’ve said “no”. And He reminds us that he put us here to put His gifts to best use, and that we’ll have more work to do when we’re ready. We just have to listen, and to try to get a little more strength from His grace every day.
Thank you for your honesty; I greatly admire it. I am having a hard enough time being honest with myself about my depression.
Thank you. I don’t feel so completely alone now.
The people most threatened by mental illness or the notion of it, I believe, are the ones most insecure in their own mental health. Rock on!
I think about Mary often this time of year. More than usual, which is a lot.
Mary loves desperate people–the ones who have already tried Jesus and, for whatever reason, didn’t get results.
That’s how my mom explained it when she told me that she was going to Mary with my depression. For a year I called her (daily) in tears, begging her to bring out all her spiritual ammunition–novenas, rosaries, fasting, Mass–to help me fight the beast. She got impatient with the saints and with the Sacred Heart, so she went to the mother of God.
“Mary has never let me down,” she explained.
I believed her because I’ve seen proof of Mary’s miracles: The rows of crutches hanging over the magnificent grotto at Lourdes, France, where I made a pilgrimage when I was a college student living abroad. And the original cloak (with the image of a Madonna) presented to Juan Diego in 1531 hanging in the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, where I stopped two years after Lourdes en route to a vacation in Acapulco.
Now, as a mother myself, I understand why so many people go to Jesus’ mother with their intentions. Moms don’t waste time. They get things done. And they have lots of compassion.
It’s like that great St. Peter joke:
Jesus is all upset when he sees a bunch of crooks, liars, and thieves in heaven.
“I gave you this job for a reason,” Jesus reprimands St. Peter, who has been diligently guarding the pearly gates, directing those with a bad score card toward the dude with the red horns. “What are you doing letting these people in?”
“It’s not my fault!” St. Peter responds. “As soon as I get rid of them, they go around back and your mom lets them in.”
I have prayed the Memorare every day since my mom (and others) told me to go to Mary with my depression. It’s clear from the words of this prayer that Mary hears all pleas, but especially those uttered in desperation:
“Remember O Most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help, or sought your intercession was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence, I fly to you, O Virgin of virgins, my mother. To you I come; before you I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me. Amen.”