Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. Also called major depressive disorder or clinical depression, it affects how you feel, think and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.
I have been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder, since 2008. At the time, there was much turmoil in my life, and I wasn’t in the Church. I had fallen off. I wasn’t going to Mass, I wasn’t praying, I was somewhat agnostic. I was single, pregnant, and scared. I had just come back home from a year-long deployment with the U.S. Navy. My world had just come crashing in. And in June 2008, mid-pregnancy, I was so depressed that my OB/GYN didn’t let me leave the office. It was that obvious that I was that sad, and I was contemplating suicide after I delivered my baby. I just felt that worthless and that hopeless.
Soon after I delivered my baby, I lost my job. I had married the father of my baby on a Justice of the Peace celebration. So some things were sort of looking up. I still tried to attempt suicide, but was thankfully too chicken to try. I considered the possibility of Hell, since I had known this from my formation as a cradle Catholic, and after having talked to a priest about the possibility of getting married in the Church. Either way, I was so sick that I still went down the suicide path several times.
However, through the years of treatment at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Chicago, one of the things they push, is that spirituality may be a pillar that keeps you sane. Over and over this possibility was brought to the table as part of my treatment, and over and over I turned it down.
I had fallen into the idea that intellect alone should save me from the throes of depression. I had fallen in the un-humble idea that I didn’t need God. If science has so many answers and so many treatments for depression, if I just follow what science says, I should be able to overcome.
Eventually, after about 6 years of “self-sufficiency”, I came across a psychologist whom I respect very much. She insisted – without pushing or preaching – I tried the spiritual pillar of recovery as part of my recovery plan. I eventually gave in. She scheduled an appointment for me to meet with the Catholic Chaplain.
I would like to say that I was obedient and humble and that I was able to immediately learn from what this Priest had to say. But it was not so. It was only after about 1 year of talking with him back and forth that I slowly came back to the faith and I gained humility and obedience (which they are NOT perfect – way far from perfect, but I try).
I now attend Mass more than just on Saturday Vigil or Sundays and Holy Days. Sometimes it’s a real struggle, but I try my absolute best. Not because I feel like I am all holy these days – far from it, but because I want to be closer to God.
During my last hospitalization, which was just a few weeks ago, I had a confession with this Chaplain, and mentioned how I was closer to God and more “Christ-like”. He challenged my thought. He asked me how it was that I was more Christ-like when I was still contemplating suicide? I realized at this very moment that I needed to be more humble and that I also needed the help of God to get through this most horrible illness.
As you can see from the timeline, I am still a work in progress – we all are. But it was this descent down madness that led me to eventually seek God, and return to my faith, making this Cross I bear (depression) a blessing in disguise.
As I grow in faith and prayer, I realize that as much as I hate my depression, it is also a blessing I have. It is as much a reason to increase my prayer life as it is a reason to thank God for everything that goes on in my life, including the bad.