"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."
We are in a constant Spiritual Warfare.
We see this eminent in the Agony in the Garden, where Jesus battles between his human desires and the will of God. The devil has a way of getting under your skin. He does what he can to infiltrate your life with despair, depression, hopelessness, unworthiness, fear, anxiety, negative thoughts, loneliness, hatred, anger, jealousy, lust, gluttony, selfishness, doubt - anything that will cause you to leave faith and sin. He will confuse our minds in menacing ways, and label them with words accepted by our "modern" society as normal or desirable. Honest words like love, equality, condition, rights, freedom, choice, necessity, supportive, desperate, etc… can all be twisted to justify our ill desires and actions.
I once read that Doubt, Despair and Depression are his three common wounds for holy souls. If he cannot cause us to sin, he can cause us to find misery and uncertainty. It's much more subtle, so we don't always see it coming. But there is hope. Jesus taught us that suffering can be beautiful. Beautiful suffering? Yes! When you don't allow the suffering to become a part of who you are and you overcome it - that's beautiful. And when we open our eyes to the beauty of God's Desires for us, we can better reject Satan and all his temptations.
Tested by Fire
I have suffered for years from depression, ranging from bumbed-out days to feeling completely hopeless. I suffer from PMDD and gluten-induced bursts of emotional distress. While I can control what I eat and offer my sufferings with the Cross of Christ, I still can't control what my hormones induce. On some occasions, it could be a spout of crying or irritability. Nothing new for this homeschooling mother of 5. Other days it affects my entire day, after a phone call or conversation with family or friends. For hours after I will ponder the conversation, read deeply into it, and feel utterly depressed about my relationships. There have also been times when I curl up in bed, thinking of every possible excuse not to attend a gathering or appointment that day or the next.
Medications were helpful at one time, but as I heal my body, medication only makes me feel numb and blissless. So for the occasional rainy-day, I suffer and I'm okay with that. It's my cross, and I embrace it, as everyone has a cross. What I can control is the way I handle the moment before, during and after. What I control is how I spend MOST of my life, the good days. On the good days, I seek out God's desire for me, his purpose for my life. I embrace the lessons learned from my bad days, making my good days better.
Letter of Pope John Paul II on the Christian Meaning of Human Suffering, 11 February 1984
"…With these and similar words the witnesses of the New Covenant speak of the greatness of the Redemption, accomplished through the suffering of Christ. The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the Redemption. Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the Redemption was accomplished. He is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed. In bringing about the Redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the Redemption. Thus each man, in his suffering, can also become a sharer in the redemptive suffering of Christ…"
Being Christ to others.
Today was posted an article that really reaches out to Catholics, on how to talk to others suffering with depression. It's part of a series of how you can reach out in an appropriate way. I encourage you to read it if you know or may someday meet someone with depression. Even if you "think you know" what to say or do, this might be enlightening. From Austin Catholic New Media…
"As family and friends of people suffering with a mental illness, our job isn’t to make the pain and suffering disappear. Being there for someone is far more valuable, to validate their existence and their suffering, to remind them it is not their fault and they are not crazy. To try to solve it or make their pain disappear is not our task. The more we educate ourselves about the ebb and flow of Depression, the better we will be able to understand the people who carry that cross…"
Please, read the whole article "What to say (and not to say) to someone who is depressed"
Here's the quick list of what to say (and not say) to someone who's depressed.
Please don’t say:
1) Try to think more positive
2) You just need to get out and exercise
3) You need to pray more
4) It’s all in your head
5) You just need perspective, others have it much worse.
6) Just get over it, Snap Out of It
7) Don't think like that
8) Pull Yourself Together
9) You know better
10) You're just trying to get attention, or you're doing this on purpose
Trust me, I've heard them ALL, but sadly the "don'ts" more than the "dos". Most depressed people realize when their friends are trying, and it is appreciated. Don't get offended if we don't respond the way you hoped. Saying the wrong thing can push them deeper, even if you meant well. For many of us, this moment will pass and we would like to let that down moment go and keep it in the past. But for the moment - we can't let it go because our chemically altered minds keep the negative thoughts repeating us into a deeper depression.
Avoiding someone who is depressed makes it worse, because they need Jesus in you to help them up. Here are some things you could say or do. Be not afraid!
Instead, we can say things like this.
1) You’re not alone
2) I’m here for you, let me help you
3) This is not your fault
4) You are important, you are loved
5) I am praying for you
6) Lets get together
7) Do you want to join me in adoration today
8) It's okay to take a day off
9) Something's different about you today, do you want to talk about it?
It's hard for the depressed person to come up with ideas for distraction. When I'm depressed, I cannot make decisions. I cannot make a meal plan, I cannot plan a school lesson, I cannot "handle the kids," I cannot think about tomorrow. Any help with these areas are such a blessing. What is helpful? Eating out, play dates, spouse taking the role of discipline, someone bringing a meal, send an e-card, and having someone pray FOR you or WITH you.
I have found that simply watching a comedy with a spouse or friend can be comforting. Getting out of the slump we're in is the first step towards recovery, by having someone else make the first initiative to plan something mildly entertaining. Pick something that doesn't increase social anxiety, or require us to gussy up. Find a way to lessen any burden of the day - you can find it out best by being a good listener.
Thank you to all who've helped me recover from one of my "episodes." They're less frequent this past year, and most I keep to myself through the grace of God. Please continue to pray for me and all those afflicted with depression.
Please help me be a light to those who suffer from the darkness of depression. Intercede in their lives with great moments of hope, joy and friendship. Help them find a support system of family, friends and therapists that can teach them ways to pull out of the darkness of despair, depression, discouragement, doubt and distress. In your name I pray. Amen.
Unite my sufferings with your holy cross and help me to better embrace my own cross. Help me find faith, joy, hope and peace in my life, as well as friendships that nurture joy and faith. Thank you for my many blessings that make this burden lighter. Shower me with your grace, O Lord. Amen.
Books that have been recommended for Catholics:
Never Give Up: My Life and God's Mercy by John Janaro
The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman
-These books help you better understand why your child or spouse doesn't love you the way you want them to. Perhaps, they're saying or doing it in a different way than you'd expect. Learn your love language and how to love others better.
The Temperament God Gave Your Kids by Art & Laraine Bennett
-This book has really opened my eyes to loving my children more tenderly and noticing my personal behavior towards others. Answered questions I have about discipline, ADD, depression, moods and more from a Christian perspective. Also read "The Temperament God Gave You" and "The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse."