Depression Does Not Discriminate

August 13, 2014

The following is a guest post by Michael Lichens.

So many have been shocked by the news of Robin Williams and what appears to be his self-inflicted death. For years, he was to me a poster-child for depression. Laughter became his shield, as it has for many who suffer from mental anguish, but he still was internally haunted. I know in my own struggles with depression, comedy was exactly what I used before discovering the toxic cocktail of food, porn, and booze (really, just don’t do it). A little secret of mine is that my first real writing gig was a weekly satirical column in the Eugene Comic News and I got to meet a lot of comedic writers through that. All of them struggled with some form of mental anguish.

So it is that many wonder how a man who is so funny, so full of life, and with so much adoration, could be depressed. When I hear people asking that, I swing between having no answer to wanting to hit my head against a book case. The same question was asked again when Mother Teresa was “outed” as having dealt with some heavy dark nights of the soul. No one could figure out how a holy woman could feel God’s presence, act in great charity, and yet feel the pains of depression.

Then there’s my personal life. One of the most jovial friends I ever had killed himself after his wife left him several years ago, and just a week ago another close friend attempted to take his own life. I’ve recently been public about my own struggles with MDD and how many times I stared down that abyss where death seemed like it would be the only relief. At one point, medication and a lot of counselling is the only thing that made me turn away from it, along with some deep religious experiences that I can only call miraculous. Yet, you’d never guess that from meeting me in person.

The Depressed Look Nothing Like That

The average depressed person is not wearing black eye-liner and writing emo lyrics for a crappy band. Sure, I went through a phase of listening to a lot of punk and metal, but I generally don’t wear all black. Instead, those who deal with depression are, in my experience, folks who can be quite charming and even seem to be always happy. This would, to some minds, seem to point to an overall good mood. In private, though, it’s a living hell.

My particular form of mental illness is defined by an over-all low mood. Most days I can function normally, but there are those days when getting out of bed seems like the hardest thing in the world to do. On the worst days, I’ve had to check myself into a hospital because all I could think about was ways I’d like to die. That part is hard to explain to people who have never been there. It’s not so much a desire  to no longer exist, but a wish that whatever this is that is clouding my judgement would just be gone.

The worst of it, though, is the loneliness. The feeling that even God has abandoned you to your sufferings and that relief is not coming.

I’m much better now than I was even five years ago, but trust me that those feelings rarely go away. Even though I have a job I love, good friends, and a loving family, I am always having to worry about the day that the bark of the black dog will be too loud to endure.

That’s the point of depression and all other forms of mental illness: it clouds the mind and impairs judgement, you are literally unable to think straight and sometimes reality looks like a hazy dream. My mother once described it as seeing the world through a thick blanket. You can’t reason with it, you can’t negotiate with it, and even if you understand that your thought process is not normal or healthy, it’s easier to make out with a grizzly bear than to try to keep your mind from repeating that inner dialogue.

I don’t expect this to make sense, because it barely makes sense to me and I have to live with it every day. Throw in the fact that I, like many depressed people, keep a persona bon vivant, it becomes alienating when my mood reaches a low where I can’t even stand my own company. We want so badly to have some companionship, but we’re so afraid of our own minds that we’d shiver at exposing other people to our inner darkness.

That, above all else, is why I write. I don’t like writing on this subject. It takes just about every once of energy I have to write about depression. But, if one person can understand that they’re not alone than I can hope that my mild discomfort can help them.

The world though, especially most Catholic media, is lousy at offering the help we need. In the months since I started writing openly about depression and faith I’ve received the kind of cheap email messages that drive people crazy; things like, “have you tried avoiding gluten or taking Omega-6 oils,” (because, holy crikey, I just needed Dr. Oz, M.Div all along) or “maybe you should pray more” (because depressed people don’t pray, ever). Depression is hard to understand, I get that, but we could be better at explaining it and helping the many who endure it find some form of healing or at least enough grace to go on. Depression does not sell conferences or books, but we need to see how many people it touches and do what we can. Lives are on the line.

Arise from the Darkness!

I wanted to point out that depression touches many lives, whether we know it or not. Even my worst days I can fake being happy for a few hours before I collapse in exhaustion. If someone is depressed, you may never know it unless they feel comfortable enough to let their guard down. Then, it’s up to you to do what you can to be a friend, mother, spouse, or whatever part you play in their lives.

Unlike many illnesses, it does not always show outwardly. The person in your life suffering mental anguish is probably barely aware of it himself. Dig, though, and it’s there. Like all conditions of the Fall, we cannot let it fester in darkness but there needs to a light to shine the truth and to give hope to those who feel like all hope has abandoned them.

Depression doesn’t give a damn about your status, vocation, race, or financial situation. Yet, neither does Christ. If we want the mentally afflicted to find the peace that surpasses all understanding, we need first to open the doors and to let it in, and that is what Christian charity ought to do.

If someone in your life is suffering mental anguish, I can tell you from experience what works and doesn’t work. Don’t try to cure them unless you are a doctor or a real wonder-worker, and for heaven’s sake do not try to tell them, “But how can you be depressed!” Instead, let them know that they do have a friend, who is willing to carry a lot of their pains if necessary, and accept it if silence is their only response. Then, pray for help and that grace will be sufficient to get them through, but be aware that you probably are called to be an instrument of that grace. It means some work, but love demands it.

Also, if you are reading this and have been exhausted by your own black dog, know that it is not all there is. I’ve found some peace, but it doesn’t mean my burden is gone. Seek help, go for a walk, do whatever you can to come back tomorrow with the determination that you shall live. Also, know that God did not take on our nature and defeat death just to leave you alone. It may sound cheap, I know, but sometimes that is the only assurance I have and it is no small thing.

To end, here’s a little poem by one man that few knew struggled with depression, Mr. G.K. Chesterton:

THIS much, O heaven—if I should brood or rave,
Pity me not; but let the world be fed,
Yea, in my madness if I strike me dead,
Heed you the grass that grows upon my grave.

If I dare snarl between this sun and sod,
Whimper and clamour, give me grace to own,
In sun and rain and fruit in season shown,
The shining silence of the scorn of God.

Thank God the stars are set beyond my power,
If I must travail in a night of wrath,
Thank God my tears will never vex a moth,
Nor any curse of mine cut down a flower.

Men say the sun was darkened: yet I had
Thought it beat brightly, even on—Calvary:
And He that hung upon the Torturing Tree
Heard all the crickets singing, and was glad.

Michael J. Lichens is the Editor of Catholic Exchange and blog editor of St. Austin ReviewWhen he’s not revising and editing, he is often found studying and writing about GK Chesterton, Religion and Literature, or random points of local history. He holds an A.M. from the University of Chicago Divinity School and a BA from The Thomas More College of Liberal Arts. To hear some of his musings, find him on Twitter @mjordanlichens


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Reader Interactions


  1. Amfortas says

    Robin Williams was ‘Depressed’. Everyone is saying. ‘Depression’ is such a catch-all term and all too often gets nowhere near the depths of despair that a person might feel. And it is not so much a ‘feeling’ as a deep mood in an iterative cycle. There are pits of despair that an individual cannot escape by themselves. They are in the Abyss and need someone to reach down, grab their hair and pull them out.

    Imagine a cave of ice with all entrance blocked. Dark, cold, wet. You are in there for weeks. Months. That is despair. Imagine being in a ravine with sheer sides and whichever way you go, goes on and on with sharp slippery rocks to clamber over until you are completely exhausted. A week later you are just too weak to clamber over another razor rock. Wet. No sunlight. Dank. Stink. That is despair.

    ‘Depressed’ people do not suicide. Believe me. I have seen enough in my time. People in despair though do. It takes a lot of love and patience and skill to grab their hair. It takes strength to pull them up.

    Sometimes it takes God to do it.

    Been there; experienced Him do it.

    Williams had made it clear what ailed him. People laughed. He wasn’t waving. He was drowning. One serious condition upon another. He made a career from the gifts one ailment produced. His manic verbalisations were his stock in trade. Normal people do not have that gift. Sane people rarely. On top, add drugs and drink. Where did they come from? All around him. His ‘friends’ and ‘colleagues’ in an incestuous, narcissistic ‘Industry’, surrounded him with them. Inauthenticity surrounded him. It was all through him. That is what show-biz is. Inauthentic people playing the parts written by other inauthentic people. Pretend. Not real. For our entertainment.

    And the ex-wives. Two lots of alimony. Two women who did not love him anymore. Women who had broken their vows but made him give them the money he earned. For as long as he lived. He was in his 60′s and looking to have to continue to work until he dropped just for them. And his current wife. What of her? We don’t know much but they had seperate bedrooms and she ‘went out’ mid-morning without even seeing him or speaking to him. Does that sound like a relationship? Was he seeing another whack of alimony about to load on his shoulders?

    Sharp rocks, dank air. Ice walls. Darkness. Lonliness.

    He gave us all such enjoyment. We, here, around the world, his audience, could not be in his life as friends, but where were his friends? Where were his colleagues? Where were the women who once said they loved him?

    You poor man, Mr Williams. You poor man.

    May God grant His Mercy on your soul. May your rest in His peace.

    • Anna says

      Amfortas, unless you know the details of his divorces, you don’t know what vows were broken or by whom, or how. You also don’t know why they had separate bedrooms (if they did), perhaps it was at his insistence. Depressed people can be unfaithful, porn-addicted, and abusive, too. They aren’t all wilting flowers.

      • Amfortas says

        Point taken, Anna, were I not knowledgable of some or any of the points. But some are indeed clear. Others you raise are not. . They did have seperate bedrooms, by his wife’s free statements, and it was not at his ‘insistence’. I simply questioned the strength of the relationship. Was he porn addicted? I do not know that. Was he abusive? I don’t know that either. Do you? Was he unfaithful? Not that I have heard. Was he a wilting flower? I don’t think so. Did he have huge alimony obligations? That was clearly the case.

        I was being as sympathetic as I could in the circumstances. The thrust of my comment was the depth of despair and that I am very familiar with from hundreds of patients. Many factors could have been involved. Those particular factors lay heavily upon him.

  2. Joseph says

    And it has only taken a few moments for a well-meaning Catholic to comment on a Facebook post that Catholics must reject despair. I think the concept of serious depression remains difficult for some Catholics to grasp. The author of the original post goes through great pains attempting to articulate what it is like to live with this condition, forever. Though the comment on the Facebook post spoke of a truth that we Catholics strive to cooperate with, it also illustrates the unfortunate naivity associated with people who are simply trying to offer hope as an alternative to the depressed. Hope and despair are not conditions clearly marked on a switch that needs only to be flipped at the will of the suffering person. The people suffering with depression do not have the luxury of choice. They cannot simply “reject” despair and move on to hope and joy. Peace is hardly attainable for them through a simple exercise of choice. That is one of major points I feel the writer intended to get across.

  3. Frank says

    My sister liked Robin a lot but to me all his silliness always made me think “this guy is covering up…something” that is why I was not surprised when the news broke about him. I wonder how many catholics or not who enjoyed him will have masses offered for his soul….I wonder that regarding many celebs as to their ‘adorers’ once any one them takes their life or meets their final ‘performance’ in other ways…..very very sad …I have had offered a Mass for him and will as I do for such personalities may you who read this do the same you spent money to see them in movies, concerts or stand up shows….Masses are so much cheaper even rosaries…show him and others you enjoyed that you are a true FAN. They are still alive tho unseen and please God not in the fires of hell….as we could all be one day.

    As to depression I have been told I am a good listener so those who want contact with me thru: sanctuaryhouse_99@ contact me no I not a professional but just a long time widower whose wife of 32 yrs had her inner demons and also our son who thank God has been able finally to slay his own….me my helpers are a wonderful lady and her son. her name is Mary her son is named Jesus, tho I refer to him as JC we are that close…no depression tho I laugh a lot but not to cover a problem but I listen to those who deal with them, being truly a real friend. This world is dumb stupid crazy place, but not designed so by the Almighty DAD….he and I laugh a lot and discuss many things as well as those who he sends my way from a variety of places and countries and he teaches me how to let them know I am here for them, til I go home to him at his time. My door as it were (texting, phone calls, visits but definitely NOT Facebook or Tweeter NEVER) is always open to this Dad aka PAPA. I will soon be a young 78 no this not a self ego compliment hell no…..but maturing does give a person a different perspective on soooo many things.

  4. 9jaime says

    I believe everything you wrote, although I have not personally experienced it. One of our young sons struggles with anxiety and depression. He is young, and large doses of fish oil, vitamin B12 (we have genetic issues processing B12), treatment for PANDAS, and most especially avoiding gluten have *so far* been life changing for him. This in no way means the coast is clear for him in the future and stronger medical treatments won’t be necessary. Obviously, we won’t hesitate. The level of his sadness, anxiety, and the cloud of despair he felt was terrible. I will continue to monitor him and check in with him frequently. Thank you for your thought-provoking post. Prayers for you—not in the praying-will-take-it-all-away way, just simply praying for you. God bless.

  5. Ann says

    I would recommend reading Dr. Aaron Keriaty’s book, a Catholic Guide to Depression. He is a renowned psychiatrist and helped one of our family members in recent years. People who have never experienced Depression don’t understand how a faith-filled Catholic could suffer from temptations to despair and suicide. Pray for everyone who is experiencing this, and for their family members.

    • Richard says

      Excellent advice. A good psychiatrist, one who is really up on psychopharmacology and sound therapeutics, can really help make a difference. Faith, prayer, spiritual exercise, and medicine can all work together.

  6. Richard says

    Catholic Gentleman, you are a gentle man indeed. Thank you for your honest and well written post. It always surprises me, in a distressing way, to hear that Catholics (in general) do not respond well to the reality of depression. The Dark Night of the Soul is such a common denominator for the great saints. I suffered for many years with anxiety and depression, as a young person I could’t make sense of it. I only knew I was different. In the midst of it all God granted me a great blessing: athletic talent. In running and competitive sports I found real periods of relief. But the underlying disturbance could and did always break through. The single most significant gift I received as a young adult, after I had recently reverted to orthodox Catholic Faith and Life, came from a dear priest friend who I confided in. After a period of joy upon returning to the Church I fell into an even deeper depression than before. I asked my priest why this was happening; what could I do to work my way out from under an often terrifying sense of daily doom? He had a very simple, very true answer: I was made to suffer precisely because Jesus loved me so much, Jesus was calling to me, calling me to share his suffering so I could know Him more deeply, and, most importantly, trust Him more fully. My dear priest was completely correct. It took time to learn just how correct. I do not consider my anxiety-depression to be as serious as that of you or others. I do however know, first hand, how real it is. Catholics should be the first to help others, it is integral to to the life of Faith, Hope, and true Love we are called to. Thank you for reminding us of that and of the still unmet response of too many of our brothers and sisters in the ancient Catholic Faith.

  7. Maria says

    Thank you for this. The comment that always bothers me the most is “suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” Would that depression were actually temporary and not recurring. I am finding that what is most demoralizing is feeling so dark over and over and over again, more than the dark thoughts themselves. Peace.

    • Marie says

      Well, depression isn’t always temporary in the sense of being around for just a few days or weeks and then going away never to be heard from again. But it still isn’t permanent in the same way that death is permanent. Where there is life there IS hope, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the moment. But when you are dead, you’re dead and there’s no changing it. It’s been said – and there’s truth in the saying – that “change is the only constant in life,” well, that gives hope: change can be for the better. You never do know what tomorrow may bring. Maybe more darkness, maybe some light at last. Tomorrow could be be the day that you get better for good, or at any rate, it could be the day you give or receive love in a new and precious way that would be impossible if you’d been dead since the night before.

      • Maria says

        “Maybe more darkness, maybe some light at last.”

        Emphasis on “maybe.” For the depressed, darkness is probable. Light is a “maybe” indeed.

        • Marie says

          It’s still possible though! (And impossible if one commits suicide.)

          Probable? Maybe, maybe not. If it is, what of that? Probabilities are human attempts to guess at the future. We don’t *know* the future. We can’t even predict the weather!! People beat the odds of “probability” all of the time; you never know if you might be one of them. Why is it wrong to focus on that fact (and yes it is a fact!) rather than gloomier facts? Especially when focusing on the gloomier facts tends to increase the temptation to do something like snuff out a life.

  8. Mary says

    I had suffered with a dark night of the soul which seemed to come out of no where and so much so to the point of having to quit work and only being able to leave the house with my husband helping me, other wise the day would be wake up cry all day and cry some more, I wanted to sleep all the time just to shut down, Then I finally went to the doctor only to be put on anti-depressant Prozac for a while which only exacerbated the problem.
    I went back only to have her tell me to go to mental health which they in turn told me I had Bi-Polar and so that brought me even further down because growing up I was the poster child for neurological disorders LD, ADHD, Dyslexia, so I hit rock bottom with no end in site of this black hole of pain all I could do was put on a Cd of a friend from church’s music and pray through my crying so yes depressed people pray maybe not in words but growns and tears. So being on these meds was awful for me I went into study mode of the disease and the meds it finally dawned on me that I didn’t have Bi-polar but just depression so I fired my doctors and titrated down while all this was going on I had friends who would invite me to go do things and it was hard being around any one even to the point of outbursts of irrational behavior due to the meds but here is where I had God meet me in the pain and sorrow is a deep knowledge of the fact that God NEVER LEFT ME AND HE LOVES ME! I knew he would help me I used to plead with him like Jesus please take this cup from me! Looking back on this 6 yrs. later I can see that when I titrated down and didn’t have any more symptoms of depression again that for what ever reason I went thought that I still don’t have an answer for but I do have knowledge of what it was like and an affinity as to what someone might be going through. I do believe I was healed by God he answered my prayers in delivering me, why, I don’t know but every day I want to be thankful but if it ever came back again I would still know that God loves me and in a strange way, even in that dark hole it was like He had me in His arms that little Lamb picture is a good analogy of how it felt. if anyone wants to talk about it or prayer you can reach me at (put in subject heading depression and prayer) then I know it won’t be spam. I probably won’t be back on this site to see any reply’s God bless – Mary Laiti

  9. Jas says

    Hi! Sorry if this is messy, I can barely see on this tablet. I’d just like to point out that we must be careful not to generalize things, like those who don’t understand and oversiplify, when speaking of MDD. I was born this way. Also on the high functioning spectrum. But we’re all individuals with our unique ‘finger print’. For example, I’ve been taking a SSRI for 20 years but with analgesic effect. I do not experience anger but I know anguish. Perhaps because of early experince ‘shutting down’. I don’t understand the anger response and tend to think folks are joking. That can be a source of more problems. Add that I can feel sounds, hear multiple simultaneous conversations… well, process overload comes easy. I know every day may be my last if i experience too much emotional stress because NSVT may one day sustain. Yet I know joy and do not despair. I don’t know if I’m able to express in a way that others understand, I just want to say don’t underestimate the power of prayer, the solace of praying Scriptures, meditation/contemplation, the power of the Consoler n the Sacraments. I experience this power, this comfort, when I don’t try so much to ‘figure it out’, let go and let God, as they say. Much love. God bless!

    • Jas says

      And I just realized I may have oversimplified things and my situation, but don’t want to seem like I’m simply complaining, I have no complaints. Re Robin Williams, I think the prospect of facing effects of parkinson’s was a contributing factor as to what happened. I didn’t see anyone mention the sometimes intense physical pain that accompanies depression. When the anguish is almost debilitating and physical pain severe is when I intensify in prayer, the Spirit truly prays within these inexpressible groanings. Oh, also another common misconception is that the disease simply entails ‘sadness’ or self pity; it is a neurotransmitter impairment. I just realized, if anyone sees something they can relate to in my situation, I’m willing to listen to and pray for you. I’m no Dr., just one who lives as hermit with 40 + years experience living with mdd. As I’m late to and if anyone sees this and wants prayers I can be reached at jamespaul6626 at gmail dot com (mdd in sub please) No the numbers don’t mean anything, just something random gogglle chose for me when I had pneumonia last year. lol! God bless!

  10. Doc says

    Correct. People do not kill themselves directly from a state of depression but a state of despair.
    Despair is what it says it is, without hope; and, all hope resides in relationship.
    Someone in despair feels totally without relationship to anyone including God. It may occur even when there are others about who do care greatly.
    A complete state of despair cannot be lived with longer than 45.”
    WFC, M.D.

  11. Joe says

    I dealt (still deal with) depression for 6 years. I recently went from being depressed for no reason to actually knowing exactly why I felt awful, or at least had something concrete to pin the underlying psychology on. I was in seminary for 2 years, the depression started my first year. At first, even though I thought God abandoned me, I was able to push through by sheer willpower. It was harder some days than others, but overall I knew my self hatred was irrational and (at the time) I thought it would be temporary. Then it didn’t go away so I dropped out and stopped practicing my faith entirely. Still believe in the Church, just gave up trying. I finished my degree, a B.A. in history and have a full time job in a retail store. Things felt a little better. All of a sudden, almost weirdly coinciding with the news of Robin Williams who I loved, I realized if I wanted to marry my girlfriend, support her, and overall be able to do anything of consequence I needed to find a new job.

    Of course, then I realized my degree is worthless and I have no employment prospects beyond the 15k I make right now. Depression for no discernable reason sucks. It sucks a lot and you hate yourself even more because you don’t know why you feel that way and you should be happy because X person is worse off than you and they’re still happy. But being depressed for an identifiable reason and being completely incapable of changing it? That makes things feel hopeless. Thanks for reading this anyone, just felt a need to write this down.

  12. Joseph says

    Brother, people like you are heroes to me. I do not have depression but someone close to me did. I am doing okay in life but never finished college. I’m horrible at grasping algebraic concepts. You may not think the B.A. is much of anything, but your accomplishment is something I can only dream about. Nice work pushing forward with that awesome effort. You’ll always have that accomplishment. Peace.

  13. David says

    Thank you for your courage in being open about MDD. I suffer myself from the same disorder and have had four or five episodes in adult life of serious depression, that is ~1 episode every two years. My worst episode so far came when I was received into the Church five years ago and got hit with really serious scruples and obsessive thoughts. It wasn’t my first episode, but it was then that medication stopped being an option anymore. When I look back at that I sometimes wonder how I pulled through. Probably thanks to the prohibition against suicide in the commandments and thanks to family and friends that were truly there for me, even when I was acting really, really, really weird.

    I agree that sometimes the suggestions on food and exercise can come across as strange and ill-advised, especially if it’s presented as the end-all solution. But still I have benefited a lot from the maxim “mens sana in corporis sana”. One of my earlier episodes was probably lifted entirely by exercise, while my current ketogenic diet is an enormous assistance to keeping me active (physically and mentally) for long periods of time, which I think in turn is having positive effects on my mental health. However, it’s not the end-all solution, at least not for me. Case in point: I quit my SNRI last autumn and had to start again this spring after a new (but milder) episode reared its ugly head. Giving such advice, even helpful and good advice, should be done with caution and is probably better at a different point than “in the pit”. To make a, somewhat silly, analogy: When someone has fallen into a deep well, it’s not quite helpful to give them advice on how to become a better climber, which might help them should they ever fall down again.

    Regarding depression/despair, I think that there is a necessary distinction to be made between theological and emotional despair. Theological despair is basically concluding, with a certain amount of finality, that God doesn’t love us and doesn’t want to save us in spite of our best efforts. It’s not even necessarily accompanied by any emotional distress. Emotional despair, where we are at a loss for what to do in order to feel “in control”, to have a clear sense of self and the limits and strengths of our abilities, is not necessarily accompanied by theological despair. We can be fully confident that God loves us and desires our salvation more than we can even begin to fathom, while at the same time be in the deepest pit of anguish, torment and pain. Confusing the two will lead people’s anguish to deepen even more: when they don’t feel like they are in control and are feeling utterly desperate, the enormous burden is added that they might think they are committing one of the sins against the Holy Ghost. It is certainly possible for the two to coexist, but they are not the same and are not equivalent. Little by little this insight has also helped me, especially during my episode this spring.

    Once more, thank you!

    Saint Dymphna, pray for us!

  14. Jim says

    Thank you for this post, I needed to hear that I am not alone in my struggle. I am a husband and father of five, I think most of the people that I know would describe me as a dedicated Catholic, a good Father and Husband, generally a positive person. For the last few months I have had this weight pushing down on me that I cannot remove. It is hard to even describe my feelings, it is like I am lacking the energy to put my feelings into words. I have trouble concentrating at work and I seem very bland and emotionless most of the day. The most disturbing thoughts that I have are images of my wife and my family with out me. Please pray for me and my family.

  15. Matthew says

    Even years after you initially posted this comment, people (such as myself) have finally come acrosss these words, which so few people are able to articulate as well as you have here about a debilitating darkness that is so real–it’s as though it has a mind of its own.

    You also shed light on many things that have made me lose touch of certain individuals, due to their insensitive remarks about my genuine disposition: one of depression followed by an unrelentless orientation towards despair.

    So few people understand what depression does to you and your soul? Sadly, they make comments like “you’re alright, after all–you got food and shelter!” –as if that’s all life is about(?). What’s more interesting, is these are the same people who claim to be devout Catholics, and even display this by frequenting the Sacraments.

    Now, I am grateful that these individuals are not in the same mental state I have found myself for most of my life. However, these are the same individuals who left me when I needed them most in my life. It’s as though I was taboo once I opened up about my deep depression. Sadly, I’ve even had certain priests tell me that I will need to find a way to move beyond this depression as though I could eventually just find the depression switch and just turn it off.

    For lay Catholics who may read this comment, I would encourage you to find a way to just simply listen–without making judgement or recommendations–to those in your life who may be in the depths of depression & despair. You just might make their day–more than you know–just by being there for that person. Essentially, these people are lonely, and displaying traits of a lonely person. That’s all. There not beneath you because they are damaged, so please: don’t treat them like they don’t have a place in the Body of Christ.

  16. Dane Parker says

    Seems I always find good internet discussions too late. Anyway, great remarks here. Depression and despondency, particularly of the worst kind seems to be little respecter of persons; however, at the same time, there is surely something to be said of the somewhat disproportionate manner with which depression is a phenomenon that descends as a gloomy cloud upon the developed nations, visiting iniquity upon their (not infrequently, but not exclusively, well-to-do) peoples. And I can’t help if this speaks to the remarks you make. But it’s a maddening thing—might I say, depressing thing—when there is so much misunderstanding out there, comprised of too many willing to suggest non-solutions.

    Personally, my principal struggle is with anxiety. And the circumstances of common knowledge about anxiety is little better than what it seems to be with depression. Specifically, the manner in which *anxiety* per se is seen as something interchangeable with *fear* or *panic* is maddening. Even books published in the popular press written by degreed experts rarely attempt to correct this—certainly not because we can’t say research has suggested differences in neural activity, because it has. And the reported psychic and somatic symptoms have always suggested a relative difference. My testimony is not to dismiss the very real people who experience anxiety along with fear or panic. But there are those of us with anxiety, full stop, who are not going to be helped by yet another book encouraging, to list my pet peeve, breathing exercises. The predominantly/exclusively anxious are not struggling with hearts beating out of our chests, out of control blood pressure, or shortness of breath. Anyone claiming such are the symptoms of pathological anxiety (by itself or otherwise) I can personally report—having monitored all these measures in the darkest of my episodes—has clearly failed to understand something very important.


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