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Ink Slingers Lynette Series The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health

May Is Mental Health Awareness Month

Mental illness has no boundaries, no preferences, and no qualifications.  You can be a person of strong belief or no belief, rich or poor, educated or illiterate, male or female, young or old, ______ or ______, and the list goes on.  However, what mental illness does have is a story – a story unique to every individual who experiences mental illness. I, too, have my own story to tell. Every year as Mental Health Month approaches, I feel an urgency in my heart, an urgency not without its own pain, which moves me to step beyond my own memories and fear of stigma.  In a world where so many suffer from mental illness in silence, I hope to be voice that can offer hope and healing.

My story is not unlike that of many who have suffered with mental illness.  It was the fall of 1998. I was happily married, had 3 daughters aged 8, 5, and 2, and was part of a loving extended family.  I was very active in a choir and a local homeschooling group. I frequently enjoyed the activities of a mothers’ group. I helped my husband with the office responsibilities of his business.  From the outside looking in, it appeared I was living an enviable life; that I had it all together. Nothing could have been further from the truth.
On the inside, I was a mess of mixed thoughts and emotions — endless worry and confusion — mixed with a constant wired-but-tired fatigue I couldn’t shake.  As is often the case in mental illness, symptoms, which can manifest themselves in a myriad of medical conditions, tend to be brushed aside until they become a glaring reality.  What I had considered for months to be just normal motherhood exhaustion and worry, was really the beginning of a slow, downward spiral, increasingly feeling I was boxed into a life of repetitive inner turmoil, negative self-talk, and emotional numbness.  I began to feel there was no way out of the vicious cycle I found myself in. My story could have ended there.

Tragically, for many, it does.  Thankfully, I had a cardiologist who saw beyond my heart related symptoms and initiated the right steps to make sure I received the help I needed.  I voluntarily checked into the local hospital’s Behavioral Health Center. Even though I was admitted to the “medical” side of the Center, it was still a locked ward with patients suffering numerous mental illnesses, mostly brought on by unintended medication interactions or old age.  The few days I was there brought on more fear and anxiety as I dealt with my surroundings and new medication. However, I was very relieved to have a diagnosis and a name to what I had been experiencing for the last year (clinical depression, which likely began with postpartum depression, along with anxiety/panic disorder) and a doctor who would help me with a recovery plan.  What I was not prepared for was seeing firsthand the extent of the suffering of the other patients. Many of the people I encountered had much more difficult hurdles to face. I began to see mental illness in a completely different light and to realized my perceptions of mental illness were in many ways misconstrued and prejudicial.

Mental illness statistics are alarming.

Mental illness affects 1 in 5 adults and approximately 20 percent of youth ages 13 to 18.  Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., the 3rd leading cause of death for people aged 10–24, and the 2nd leading cause of death for people aged 15–24.  Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.   70% of youth in juvenile justice systems have at least one mental health condition and at least 20% live with a serious mental illness. An estimated 26% of homeless adults staying in shelters live with serious mental illness and an estimated 46% live with severe mental illness and/or substance use disorders.  See more at: https://www.nami.org/Learn-More/Mental-Health-By-the-Numbers
With statistics such as these, it is highly probable that mental illness will touch each of our lives in some fashion – personally or in the lives of those we know and love – and I encourage you to take action to learn the warning signs of mental illness.  You can find a comprehensive list on the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) website. Although medication and counseling was of benefit to me, what really allowed me to learn how to manage my illness was a self-help program called Recovery.

The mission of Recovery International is to “use the cognitive-behavioral, peer-to-peer, self-help training system developed in 1937 by Abraham Low, MD, to help individuals gain skills to lead more peaceful and productive lives.”  Recovery gave me the concrete tools I needed that allowed me to have control over my illness, rather than allowing it to control me. After attending the meetings for several years, I volunteered as a co-leader and am now the leader of a local group.  My years in Recovery, both as a participant and a leader, have given me an empathy and an understanding into mental illness that I would never have had if I had not experienced it myself. What I received through the program, I now hope to give back to others who are struggling with their own mental health battles.

The tools below are quoted or adapted from the self-help books Mental Health Through Will Training, Manage Your Fears Manage Your Anger, and Selections From Dr. Low’s Works.  They are just a few of the many tools available:

  • Treat mental health as a business and not as a game.
  • Humor is our best friend, temper is our worst enemy.
  • If you can’t change a situation, you can change your attitude towards it.
  • Be self-led, not symptom-led.
  • Nervous symptoms and sensations are distressing but not dangerous.
  • Temper is, among other things, blindness to the other side of the story.
  • Comfort is a want, not a need.
  • There is no right or wrong in the trivialities of everyday life.
  • Calm begets calm, temper begets temper.
  • Don’t take our own dear selves too seriously.
  • Feelings should be expressed and temper suppressed.
  • Feelings are not facts, they lie and tell us of danger where there is no danger.
  • Helplessness is not hopelessness.
  • Some people have a passion for self-distrust.
  • Temper maintains and intensifies symptoms.
  • Do things in part acts.
  • Have the courage to make a mistake.
  • Feelings are not facts.
  • Do the things you fear and hate to do.
  • Fear is a belief—beliefs can be changed.
  • Every act of self-control brings a sense of self-respect.
  • Excuse, don’t accuse.
  • Endorse yourself for the effort, not only for the performance.
  • A self-endorsing person feels secure.
    See http://www.selfhelptools.org/endorsement-is-the-essence-of-recovery/ for a discussion on endorsing and its value in the mental health recovery process.

RESOURCES & SPIRITUAL HEALING

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

A FRIEND ASKS – FREE APP (Jason Foundation) – helps provide information, tools, and resources to help a friend (or yourself) who may be in danger of committing suicide

Categories
Ink Slingers Liz The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health

Seven Things Your Mentally Ill Friend Wants to Tell You in 2017

A New Year is here, and with it new blessings, joys, sufferings, and opportunities to grow in the Lord. If you are one of the millions of Americans who knows someone with a mental illness, pin this reminder list with your New Year’s resolutions and make 2017 the year that you are Christ to your brothers and sisters who walk in the dark of mood disorders.

1. Yes, I Look Healthy …
Just because I’m smiling and walking upright doesn’t mean I’m faking my illness or blowing it out of proportion. I really want to be normal and healthy, so I try to manage the best I can. I put on a grin when I’m feeling sad. I carry on a conversation when I really want to hide in bed. I keep on going because it’s the only thing I can do when I have a job and a family. Moreover, the twisted thought patterns that come with depression or bipolar disorder make me feel like I don’t deserve to feel bad. I think of myself as a lazy, incompetent faker, so I do everything I can to hide how “horrible” I am from you. In fact, if I do appear exhausted or disheveled, it could mean things are really bad. When I stop caring for myself and hiding things away, it’s a red flag that my condition has progressed to a dangerous level. 
 
How To Be a Friend: Ask me how I’m doing, even if it looks like the answer is “fine.” You never know what could be hiding underneath that smile. It might be an opportunity from Jesus to reach out to the sick and suffering.
 
2. But My Brain Isn’t Even the Only Thing that Hurts.
You know mental conditions like depression or anxiety can ruin my mood and make me feel scared and hopeless. Unfortunately, the negative effects don’t stop there. Depression can cause intense muscle aches. Bipolar disorder sometimes keeps me from sleeping. Anxiety attacks might make my body feel like I’m dying (even though I’m not)! And the medications that help manage these conditions often come with a whole host of unpleasant side effects. So don’t be surprised if I take extra sick days, punk out on that 5K we’ve had scheduled for months, or end up in the hospital when it’s “just” a panic attack. It’s all part of the war my brain is waging on itself and my body.
 
How to Be a Friend: Please be flexible and patient when it comes to the activities we’ve planned together. Recognize I’m not being a flake if I cancel our plans last minute or suggest we do something more low-key. Going at my pace (and putting up with my uncertainties) might be annoying, but it’s also really kind and merciful. 
 
3. It Also Hurts When You Joke.
“She’s so OCD her closet is arranged by color!”
“You were just happy a minute ago! Could you be anymore bipolar?”
“My kids were sick for a whole week last year. I still get PTSD just thinking about it!”
“Geez, you look horrible today. What’s the matter, you got cancer?”
 
One of those quotes is not like the other, right? It’s insensitive (and downright offensive!) to make light of a serious illness like cancer. It has touched so many families, it’s life-changing, and it’s quite possibly deadly. So why are we OK with poking fun at mental disorders? They affect one in three people worldwide. They can change every aspect of a family’s life. And they can certainly be deadly. The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates serious mental illness can take 25 years off a sufferer’s life, and suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States! 
 
How To Be a Friend: Stop with the snarky or thoughtless remarks.Yes, they might seem harmless. But when I think my illness isn’t serious or important enough for you to take seriously, it makes it that much harder to keep going every day. You are my friend, and I care what you think. 
 
5. There is No “Cure” …
Yes, I have heard of anti-depressants. And therapy. And exercise. And going outside. And cutting out sugar and gluten. And even that turmeric lemon honey thing you saw on Pinterest. I’ve actually tried a lot of these things! Many help, some of them help very much, but none of them are an easy fix. Because there’s no such thing. Right now, there’s no sure cure for illnesses like depression or bipolar or PTSD. There are only treatments. Some of them are more pharmaceutical, some are more “natural.” None of them is a magic potion, and none of them is the only right way to manage a condition. 
 
How to Be a Friend: Pray that I’m truly cured with a miracle from God. Pray for an earthly cure and more effective treatments to be invented. Feel free to send me links or tell me about the newest remedy you saw on TV, but please don’t be insulted if it doesn’t work out. And please don’t assume I’m doing the “wrong” thing if I don’t take meds, or if I do! 
 
5. And I Don’t Want to Be Alone …
This one is tough. I might act like I want to be alone. I’m going to spend a lot of time alone. I’m going to turn down invitations and avoid people. I might even tell you I want to be alone. But I shouldn’t be alone. One of the evils of depression, as I’ve mentioned before, is that it “causes the soul to curl in on itself—sufferers desire to spend more and more time alone, which amplifies their loneliness and negativity and causes their condition to become worse and worse.” 
 
How to Be a Friend: If I push you away, reach out. If I don’t respond to your text messages, call me. If I say I’m staying home, ask if you can come over. If I totally shut you down, try again tomorrow. I don’t mean to be a jerk. I’m just hurting, and my fears and sadness are working overtime to convince me that nobody wants me around. It might not seem like I appreciate you, but really, you and my family are the only things keeping me going.
 
6. … But Your Help is a Lifesaver (Literally)!
You may have already forgotten about that time you brought me dinner, or watched my child for the afternoon, or came over with a bottle of wine and insisted we watch TV all evening. But I haven’t. These small gestures of kindness stick out like those beautiful little rays of sunshine you see breaking through on a gloomy day. When I’m in the middle of an episode, every day is dark and gloomy, and I can’t find the power to create those sunshiny rays on my own. So your help is literally shining Christ’s light into my life. In my worst times, it might be the only earthly positive I can remember.
 
How to Be a Friend: Keep up the good work! Even the smallest act of friendship has far-ranging effects, from washing a pile of dirty dishes in my sink to sharing a funny meme with me on Facebook. God bless you for everything you do! 
 
7. Pray for Me! 
You might not not know how to reach out to me when I’m depressed, anxious or manic. You might be afraid of doing the wrong thing or that you don’t know me well enough. And since you’ve got a family, a job and demands of your own, your time is limited. I totally understand that. But there’s one thing you can always do–the simplest, easiest, quickest, but most powerful thing–pray. I’m asking for just one Rosary, one Mass intention, light one candle, heck, say just one Hail Mary! Whatever works for you and your family will make all the difference in my life. There have been horribly dark times when I struggled to pray at all and definitely struggled to pray for myself. I might have felt I didn’t deserve God’s love, or been mad at Him, or just been too exhausted to talk to Him without falling asleep. When I look back and ask myself how I made it through these times, I know in my heart I was being carried by the love and faith of others. 
 
How to Be a Friend: “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective.”-James 5:16 (NRSVCE)
 

RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

Categories
Ink Slingers Liz The Crossroads - Where Faith Meets Mental Health

Eternal Rest Unto Dreams

Eternal Rest Unto Dreams

photo source

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”-Proverbs 19:21

A bride kneels next to her husband as they receive Holy Communion for the first time as a married couple.

A novice, covered in flowers, professes her vows.

A giggling toddler runs across the playground, her strong, happy mama close behind.

A confident, compassionate doctor saves the life of a child.

A starry-eyed mystic travels the globe, immersing herself in the best of the Faith in every corner of the world.

These are the dreams of Catholic womanhood. They are healthy and happy and holy goals for life. One or more of them, or some version of them, rests in the hearts of all of us from the time we’re old enough to scribble them in a journal or share them with a friend. They are dreams worthy to be worked toward and attained. But dreams, like all other created things, are subject to both the will of God and the distortion of original sin.  No matter how pretty or holy our dreams might be, sometimes they just cannot be sustained or achieved. Chance, physical or mental illness, or even death come crashing in on the beautiful pictures we’ve created of our futures. These thwarted dreams can be small, or they can shake the very core of our identity. For example …

“The physical side effects of my fibromyalgia have recently become disabling. My plan to homeschool my children is now out of the question.”

“I always thought God was calling me to religious life. But, due to my serious bipolar disorder, I can’t find an order that will accept me.”

“I have severe PMDD. Hormonal fluctuations make it very difficult for me to get pregnant. My husband and I dreamed of a large family, and we are open to life, but we are quickly getting older, and we’ll be lucky to have even a second child.”

“My spouse was just diagnosed with early-onset dementia. I imagined us spending our old age traveling and praying together. Now I know soon the only place we’ll travel is to the doctor.”

So, what happens to a dream deferred? What should we do about the pain we feel when we lose a piece of ourselves we have long envisioned is central to our path to God? Accepting the death of these dreams in a holy manner is somewhat similar to grieving the death of a loved one. Deep down we know that we must acknowledge “the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” But coming to this acknowledgement is painful, difficult and often lifelong. Here are four suggestions for grieving an important dream. Repeat as often as necessary:

  • Let it out. You can’t hide from the Lord how upset, betrayed or confused you are. There is no way to extinguish your feelings, and to try simply putting them aside is unhealthy. So tell Jesus, since he already knows. Pour out your heart again and again at Mass, at Adoration, at home. Yell your prayer, if necessary, or cry your prayer. Whatever you’re feeling, just tell him.
  • Pray the Rosary. Praying the Rosary for the dead is an important tradition of our faith. It is just as important, in a different way, to pray for a lost future. As you move through each decade, ask the Blessed Mother’s intercession for discernment, for strength and healing, for acceptance, for a miraculous change in your circumstances, but above all, for grace. You absolutely don’t have to pick just one outcome. As long as you pray sincerely for his will to be done and open yourself to his answer, you’re praying for the right thing.
  • Attend Mass. It’s not possible to have a funeral Mass for a life goal, of course, but it is very good to formally offer your grief to the Lord. Our outward actions often help our inward dispositions, so if you find it helpful, make this a special, extra trip. Wear somber clothing, light a candle before church begins, asking the intercession of your favorite saint, and afterward, ask the priest to give you a blessing. Explain that you are seeking God’s will for your life.
  • Bury it. Put your earthly hopes and dreams to rest in your own heart and soul by hiding them in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Get on our knees and give up all your idealistic pictures of life and your broken visions of the future. Give him your word that you will continue to do this again and again—dead dreams don’t stay always stay buried–and give him your promise that you will not, as J.K. Rowling famously wrote, “dwell on dreams, and forget to live.”

After you have done all these at least once, perhaps many times, ready yourself for your new mission and go forward with the only hope that will never, ever die. In Heaven, all our dreams will be waiting for us, fulfilled through Christ in a way we cannot yet understand.

RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

Categories
Faith Formation Parenting Vocations

It Can’t Be Fixed with Two Aspirin: Mental Illness in Your Family

A “Brillant Madness” is how actress Patty Duke titled her autobiography in which she describes her life living with Manic Depressive mental health illness.  Otherwise known as Bipolar, manic depressive is one of the most challenging mental health illnesses to live with because you can go from feeling like you can conquer the world to having suicidal thoughts within a 24 hour time period. I know because my spouse and one of my adult children suffers from it.  Recently our adult child stopped taking the medication that has helped keep their emotions in check and left our home without saying a word and ceased all contact with our immediate and extended family.  I have felt compelled to write this article to let other parents who have a similar situation know that they are not alone and to give them hope.

windowMental Illness is not Like Other Illnesses

Mental Illness is an illness, but unlike other medical conditions, you can’t easily talk about it. If you break your bones, get cancer or contract a stomach bug, people feel sorry for you and do whatever they can to help you make it through your trials. But when your mind breaks, all too often you are left to fix it on your own, and many times you prefer this isolated suffering. 

Our adult child was diagnosed at age 18 as bipolar. It initially manifested itself with many sleepless nights which eventually produced extreme fear, paranoia, feelings of helplessness and hallucinations. Luckily at that time, our adult child trusted us and allowed us to transport and admit them to a mental hospital.  They have been hospitalized numerous times over the years since, but there have been blessed periods of stability in which our child has been able to lead a “normal” life graduating from school and holding a job.

Those years of striving to maintain a healthily family life paid off.  Mental health professionals don’t see many patients who live normal lives with family and friends who care about them and are willing to stand by and help them get their emotions back under control. All too often, family and friends of a person with mental illness gradually separate themselves from this person who used to be normal, but for some inexplicable reason, is now unreasonable and perhaps does or says some very odd things on a regular basis.

Spreading Their Wings log

There comes a time in every young person’s life when they feel an irresistible and very healthy urge to leave the comfort and security of their parent’s home. This is a normal and good thing which should be encouraged and even enabled by parents.  In the case of our child, this natural desire was perverted by their illness. Unknown to my spouse and I, they stopped taking their medication in the midst of a bipolar episode and lied to us about it. We couldn’t figure out why they would sleep all day and not interact with our family and why they abruptly lost their job and were unmotivated to find another.  It wasn’t until they didn’t come home one day and wouldn’t return our repeated phone calls and texts that we pieced together the puzzle and realized that they had taken a few belongings and moved out.

Rejection

In the midst of this latest bipolar episode, they met another person suffering with mental illness at one of the support groups they attended. This significantly older person befriended our child and apparently started to fill their mind with the idea that they didn’t need medication any more and that their parents did not have their best interest at heart.  Instead they told our child that they would be better off never speaking to us again because we would never understand them and that we only wanted to control every aspect of their life.   Our child believed the ramblings of a person that probably suffers from the same illness that they do.  This person proposed a lifestyle independent of their loving family and paying for everything themselves and living out of their car, and sleeping on the couches of various friends.  Our child choose this life rather than being surrounded by a loving family.  

My spouse and I feel so utterly rejected.  We did so much for our child and yet they can’t see it or appreciate it.  But it is worse than that, they won’t even speak to us and now they believe that that we were not only unable to help them through the struggles of their mental illness, but that we made their situation worse.  Our child has expressed to other family members with whom they are still speaking, that my spouse and I are controlling and abusive and that is why they left.  This is one of the most difficult aspects of this situation.   We love our child so much and have sacrificed so much for them helping them through school, assisting with finding a good career in which they could thrive and now they have completely rejected our family.  Our other children are deeply affected as well.  Not only was it challenging to maintain a peaceful home during those bipolar episodes, but our other children have struggled to understand how their sibling could leave without saying goodbye to them.  They are experiencing a deep loss as well and each will deal with it in their own way and even through our sorrow, we will need to be there to help them understand.

In our mind, we know it is our child’s mental illness that has caused such a dramatic change in only a few months, but it doesn’t make it any easier.  As I have pondered this situation, the thought that keeps coming to my mind is that I am being shown how God the Father feels when one of His children rejects Him.  He offers us unconditional love and the keys to the kingdom and many reject it preferring to live a life according to worldly values.  He loves us perfectly, yet some still reject Him and many of his children do so without the excuse of a mental illness.  

Longing for Their Return

What do we do now?  Surely we are not the only parents who have suffered this trial and we will not be the last.  How do we go on living our lives for each other and for our other children when it feels like one of them has died?  I am not an expert in this area, I am not trained in psychology (other than that one course in my freshman year of college), but I am a parent and I am a Christian.  I have the perfect example of how a parent should react to a child who rejects them, all I need to do is pick up my cross and carry it.  Jesus tells us that his yoke is easy and his burden is light, by faith I must believe this, because this cross seems very heavy. I know that if I ask through prayer for help, He will provide it and He will take care of my child and lead them back home, perhaps not to my home, but surely to our heavenly Father’s home.  corn

I have been listening to the new book by Pope Francis, “The Name of God is Mercy”.  I highly recommend it to everyone.  Pope Francis is a true servant leader of the Catholic Church and if we could summarize his pontificate in one word, it would certainly be mercy.  Mercy is a tough thing to give and perhaps even a tougher thing to receive, but if we wish to be close to God, we must extend and embrace it because our God is a God of mercy.  In the pages of this book, I have heard God speaking to me loud and clear that our job as parents in this situation is to extend mercy to our child who has rejected us, much like the Father in the story of the prodigal son.  We need to be anxiously looking for their return home and if they do return, we need to welcome them with open arms.  We also need to help our other children and extended family to understand God’s mercy so they don’t act like the older son in the parable who while obedient to the Father, was bitter that the prodigal son caused so much misery for the family that he rejected.  

In the meantime, we will pray, along with many friends and family, for the safety of our child and for their return, and also pray for all those who have been affected by this situation.  It is hard not only for the parents, but for the grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters and cousins and friends.  We need to pray that each of us are ready to joyfully extend mercy if they are the one whom our child contacts seeking help.  Prayer is our most powerful weapon to change this situation, I have seen the power of prayer and it is real and effective.  I don’t know why this happened and there is not much I can do to fix it, but I trust that God can take this horrible situation and use it for His glory, I just wish I could see what He sees.  But for now I will have to use the eyes of faith and trust in His divine providence and His love for us and for our child.

RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION HOTLINE

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}

BOOK: The Catholic Guide to Depression by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty

Review of The Catholic Guide to Depression

Categories
Books Ink Slingers Martina Reviews

REVIEW: A Catholic Guide to Depression

What comes to mind when you read the word depression?

Let’s take a look at the definition:

noun de·pres·sion \di-ˈpre-shən, dē-\

: a state of feeling sad

: a serious medical condition in which a person feels very sad, hopeless, and unimportant and often is unable to live in a normal way

Now, let’s look at some stats:

20120517 DepressionB

source

catholic-guide-to-depressionHard to believe that one in TEN people are affected by some form of depression, considering it is still quite the taboo topic, often spoken about in hushed tones or with an undercurrent of shame. In The Catholic Guide to Depression: How the Saints, the Sacraments, and Psychiatry Can Help You Break Its Grip and Find Happiness Again, Dr. Aaron Kheriaty does an excellent job at breaking down depression into three helpful categories: the spiritual, the medical, and the psychological.

How many of us have either experienced or known someone who was depressed, perhaps even committed suicide as a result of depression?

If you’re like a good number of folks, you might view depression as a largely one dimensional topic…until it affects you or someone you love. In my personal experience, the illness hit close to home. As I began to search for answers, both medically and spiritually, a friend recommended Dr. Kheriaty’s book and loaned her copy to me. I was hooked. The book did a great job of explaining depression from a Catholic point of view. Finding resources was often difficult; finding Catholic ones even more so. The book covers spiritual, medical, and psychological matters in-depth, which gives the reader a good basis for understanding the disorder, but does not seek to provide cookie cutter answers. If you’ve ever been down the road of depression yourself or with a loved one, you know that the journey itself doesn’t always lend itself to a quick fix answer…unfortunately. Our society is all too quick with its self help books and instant gratification to solving problems. Depression, on the other hand, is multifaceted, and oftentimes takes quite a bit of time and finesse and study unique to the individual to find the right fit for treatment. Our faith is not a religion that provides easy answers or quick fixes to tragic and inexplicable events such as suicide. {p.107}

It takes…patience.

IN THE BEGINNING

Dr. Kheriaty covers the basics of depression: its origin in sin, signs and symptoms to types {psychotic vs. melancholic depression, bipolar depression and substance abuse}, and even going back to its original name, melancholia, and its importance and place in the confessional, the effect of depression on the spiritual life and discerning the provenance of consolation and desolation based on particular circumstances.

Because depression is often the root of suicide, he also talks about suicide with respect to the Catechism, and the nuanced and sensitive teaching of the Church, highlighting CCC 2280-2283

Everyone is responsible for his life before God who has given it to him. It is God who remains the sovereign Master of life. We are obliged to accept life gratefully and preserve it for his honor and the salvation of our souls. We are stewards, not owners, of the life God has entrusted to us. It is not ours to dispose of.

Suicide contradicts the natural inclination of the human being to preserve and perpetuate his life. It is gravely contrary to the just love of self. It likewise offends love of neighbor because it unjustly breaks the ties of solidarity with family, nation, and other human societies to which we continue to have obligations. Suicide is contrary to love for the living God.

If suicide is committed with the intention of setting an example, especially to the young, it also takes on the gravity of scandal. Voluntary co-operation in suicide is contrary to the moral law.

Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide.

We should not despair of the eternal salvation of persons who have taken their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives.

depressedFinding and keeping one’s spirituality through depression can be difficult. Dr. Kheriaty shares some advice in maintaining a spiritual life through depression. He says, “This illness is a trial, a cross, which God allows for reasons that are usually beyond our understanding for now. The Christian faith teaches that this suffering can have redemptive value, if it is united to the suffering of our Lord on the Cross. He has not, and he will not, abandon the person who suffers. In fact, through suffering, a person can become ever more deeply united to Christ and can thereby grow in holiness.”

Dr. Kheriaty explains that depression does not always have a spiritual cause and goes on to say:

…we should not automatically presume exclusively upon a supernatural cause or cure. It would be unintelligent, for example, for someone with diabetes to rely on divine grace to manage his blood sugar, when the Lord himself placed in the natural order the medical means for dealing with this problem, as well as equipping us with the intelligence to seek out these natural solutions.

In part two, Dr. Kheriaty discusses medical treatments common to depression, as well as biological treatments and psychotherapy and its limitations. Comprehensive treatment of depression will include not just medical and psychological realms, but spiritual, too.

I can’t recommend this book enough if you would like a balanced look at medical, psychological, and spiritual elements of depression. It provides the perfect merge of the three, taking the Catholic Faith into account, weaving stories of the saints and Apostles and our Blessed Mother throughout the book. What I appreciated most about this book is that it doesn’t tout itself as a cure all for depression, but rather provides an extensive road map for readers to do their own research and become their own advocate for best medical and spiritual practices.

RESOURCES

DBSA {Depression, Bipolar Support Alliance}

NAMI {National Alliance of Mental Illness}

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

MTHFR {genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia}