“Bewitched, bothered, and bewildered am I” wrote US songwriter Lorenz Hart about the feeling of infatuation. It’s blissful and euphoric, as we all know. But it’s also addicting, messy and blinding. Without careful monitoring, its wild wind can rage through your life leaving you much like the lyrics of a country song: without a wife, […]
Fellow blogger and friend Ryan Howes graciously interviewed me for his “In Therapy” blog on Psychology Today. To check out the interview, you can click here.
He asked me this: Spirituality clearly plays a major role in your life. How does your faith contribute to mental health?
I responded: Spirituality and mental illness have an interesting relationship. From the research I’ve read, those with strong religious beliefs are more prone to depression, and yet their faith is one of the most important elements of recovery or ways to stay resilient. Confusing, right?
I wrote in the first chapter of Beyond Blue that I was both blessed and cursed by my Catholic faith. Blessed because I had so many beautiful traditions and rituals and stories and things to cling on to. For a person prone to OCD, Catholicism is a goldmine for that repetitive weird ritual stuff that gives you some kind of comfort. And, as I said in the book, there is a saint for everything: for panic, for alcoholism, for hopeless causes. Yah! But it was because of my scrupulosity as a young girl that the adults in my life failed to recognize my mood disorder. They thought I just had a peculiar and intense faith life.
During my suicidal two years, my faith kept me alive. I remember sitting in the car after I drove home from the last day of my intensive outpatient program-after the nurses basically told me I was out of luck-if you weren’t fixed in 8 weeks, they couldn’t do anything else for you. I had tried absolutely everything, but I still wanted to die.
So I issued God an ultimatum in the car. I sat there, with a bag of about 20 bottles of prescription drugs next to me (which was my exit out of this life), and told him I was getting the hell out of this place because I had tried everything, EVERYTHING, and nothing was working. Obviously He didn’t give a damn. I shouted, “Give me a sign I’m supposed to hang on, or else I am out of here. I am so out of here if you don’t let me know you are with me!”
After about 20 minutes of wailing, I decided to go inside and, on the way into my house, checked the mailbox. There was a letter written by a woman I had met at a conference, and she sent me a medal of St. Therese that was an exact copy to the one that I had been carrying in my pocket ever since the depression set in.
I knew from that point on that, even though I didn’t always feel God’s helping hand, that I must somehow try to have faith in him.