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-attempt 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.