Easter Depression can hit people hard. Religiously, Easter is when Christians remember the death of Jesus. It’s a time to reflect on His sacrifice and what it means to you that He died for your sins. You’re supposed to fast, or at least cut out certain foods. Churches resemble dark tombs with shrouded statues and an empty altar.
I always felt sad at Easter but when I became severely depressed, Easter became a nightmare. My mind was pre-occupied with despair and thoughts about death. Going to church I wanted some message of hope that would lift my spirit. Instead, the message reflected only on Jesus’ suffering and sacrifice. I remember thinking, “What about my suffering? Aren’t I sacrificing myself to a world that doesn’t care about me?”
I know that suffering and sacrifice make up half of what Easter is about. Easter is also about the joy and hope that comes from the empty tomb. But while joy and despair exist together in the human heart, the dichotomy becomes unbalanced when you’re depressed. Depression tunes your thoughts into the suffering and sacrifice part of Easter.
I also hated the guilt trip. My self-esteem was shot and I kept lying to myself about things I had done. I felt guilty about things I should never have felt that way about. Good Friday mass was about Jesus dying for my sins. While I understand what it means theologically, it sucks when you have to feel guilty about someone’s sacrifice year after year. Okay, Jesus died for me. But I wasn’t there. It’s like my grandparents doing something bad and I’m indirectly responsible because I’m their descendent. Inherited guilt isn’t healthy when it’s generations removed.
Collective guilt won’t work on everyone because guilt diffuses. But depression sucks guilt into you, even guilt you know isn’t yours. I got angry that Easter mass tried to make me feel guilty when what I really needed was hope.
One Good Friday mass I attended did focus on the message of hope. The pastor focused on the positive side of death, telling us how grief can turn into joy even when we feel most despairing. Just because you feel horrible when someone you love dies doesn’t mean you won’t ever feel joyful again. Know that joy exists and that it will come to you.
When I was in grade school, we were asked to paint anything we wanted using the three colours yellow, blue, and red. People blended the colours and painted green fields with flowers. Me, I painted an ocean with the sun shining down upon a beach. I never thought about combining the colours, just using the ones I was given. I wasn’t wrong. My art was a perfect manifestation of my uniqueness.
Depression affects everyone in similar ways. How you respond to depression will always be decided by who you are at that moment. Your attitudes, perceptions, ideas – these are influenced and shaped moment by moment. Today you look outside and the world seems okay. A few minutes later, the exact same scenery and situation will look and feel horrible because in those few minutes your thoughts have made you believe you are useless or terrible.
Depression is an emotional maelstrom. One second you feel like you are on top of your world and then literally, the next second, you feel like you’re falling in an endless dark pit. Your emotions change from moment to moment. It’s like riding a terrible roller coaster you can’t get off.
But in all that confusion and pain, the core inner being who is you remains intact. You are a good soul. Someone who didn’t do anything wrong or bad. Someone who still has love and hope in his/her heart.
Even if you say you have no love or hope inside you, it’s there. You still love yourself to some degree because you’re fighting to stay alive. You still hang onto the one person who encourages you or who listens to your rants and ravings. Love can be like a crumb you find and eat slowly, savouring the moment. Hope still hovers inside your heart whenever you try something new to fight depression. Hope is there the minute you think “I can get through this” or “It will get better.” Even if you feel hopeless, hope sticks around you in the form of help from those who love you or from anyone who takes a moment to be with you.
Depression gives you one colour – black. In paint, black is the sum of all colours. You can paint your world black or you can leave some white in it. You might even be able to separate out some of the other colours that make up the black paint and see blues or greens. There’s always a choice, even with black.
Teresa of Avila was a Spanish mystic saint. She had visions of Jesus and God. Saint Teresa had several prayers, but this one I found inspirational during my darker days of depression. I hope it helps you as much as it did me.
Saint Teresa’s Prayer
May today be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received,
And pass on the love that has been given to you.
May you be content knowing that you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and
Allow you soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.
Your friend just told you that he or she self-harms. How should you react? What should you say? What can you do if your friend hasn’t said anything but you think he/she might be self-injuring?
Here’s 8 things you can do when a friend self-injures:
- Stay calm. Don’t panic or over-react. That will just increase your friend’s emotional distress and not solve anything. Take some time to digest everything your friend has told you. Jumping to snap conclusions or reacting poorly will isolate you from your friend.
- Talk. Talking about self-injury can be a really hard thing for your friend. Don’t force the issue. If your friend wants to talk, then listen non-judgmentally. Let your friend know you’re there whenever he/she needs to talk to you.
- Take the problem seriously. Don’t accuse your friend of being an attention seeker or being too emotional. It’s not just a girl thing. It doesn’t mean you’re a wimp who can’t deal with stuff. Self-injury is what you see of a serious emotional problem, ‘stuff’ like abuse or bullying, which can tear down the strongest person.
- Know your limitations. You can’t solve every problem. You can’t always give good advice. Encourage your friend to seek help from a parent, teacher, or medical professional.
- Stop gossip about your friend. Gossip can lead to bullying, lose of friendships, isolation, and low self-esteem. That’s not helping your friend. Don’t talk about the self-injuries unless your friend has agreed to it.
- Tell someone immediately if your friend mentions suicide. Self-harm isn’t suicidal by itself but the pain and despair behind it can lead to suicidal thoughts.
- Give encouragement through prayer if your friend is religious. Praying together or talking about how God loves him/her can help.
- Don’t say things like “God is angry with you for hurting yourself.” God is probably more concerned about helping your friend out of the darkness and pain he/she feels than about being angry or punishing your friend.
For information or assistance, contact Mental Health America or S.A.F.E. Alternatives
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