Finding God in the harsh experience of depression
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By Mary Regina Morrell
© Catholic Online 2005
"One who is living the harsh experience of depression needs, from a spiritual point of view, to recover a profound sense of trust in the God who saves and whose grace is powerful enough to overcome the most rending trials." Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez
Today, while I was piling groceries into my car, I noticed a friend standing close by waiting for me to finish. This friend had recently experienced the death of a young family member and the grief was evident in her face.
As she began speaking to me of this loved one I sensed there was something more that she wanted to say and so I put my arms around her and asked her what had happened. "She took her own life," my friend began to sob. "She was so beautiful, so young. Why did this have to happen?"
There were no words that would make a fitting answer so I simply held her.
I remember several years ago, well before I was diagnosed with clinical depression, sitting in a darkened library and writing the following words: "It seems I have held for too long the solitary note of God's song that is my life."
My eyes passed over the words time and again and, still, I had no idea why I had written them. My life was good, blessed with many gifts from God, and yet I was conscious of an ever present loneliness, a feeling that I didn't really belong here in this world and that I was merely passing the time painfully and slowly until someone who really knew who I was would come and take me home.
But the needs of such a large family kept my mind and heart occupied most of the time and the depression I was obviously experiencing simmered beneath a very busy surface. Now when I think about it, I realize those thoughts could easily belong to the majority of teenagers in this country.
Looking back, I can acknowledge that I had was blessed to have something that most teenagers do not have - a strong faith life and the support of a spiritual community.
Still, I faced years of an exhausting struggle that, for a long period of time, included frequent bouts with suicidal thoughts. Now, in retrospect, I have to wonder how others, most especially our youth, come through without the same support that I had.
Pope John Paul II, during a Vatican conference several years ago, spoke of depression as a spiritual trial and sufferers as people who should receive special support from their priests and parish communities.
"The illness frequently is accompanied by an existential and spiritual crisis that causes one to no longer see the value of living," he told those gathered for the conference, which was sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Health Care Workers.
Having gone through the experience I was moved by his thoughts that,"It is important to extend a hand to the sick, help them perceive the tenderness of God, integrate them in a community of faith and life where they can feel listened to, understood, supported and worthy -- in other words, able to love and be loved."
There are many riches in our Catholic faith that can lead a suffering person back to wholeness and they all stem from our belief that God is love and God's love, often unlike human love, is unconditional, all forgiving and eternal.
When a person is lost in the black night of depression, our covenant relationship with God and with each other calls us to be a light in the darkness.
God has shown us that we must begin with love.
Mary Morrell is the author of Angels in High Top Sneakers from Loyola Press.
Diocese of Metuchen
http://www.diometuchen.org NJ, US
Mary Regina Morrell - Associate Director, Office of Religious Education, 732 562.1990
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