In a recent conversation with a friend, she confided in me she had been suffering for an extended period of time from what she suspected was depression. Her family had requested she see a professional, but she was hesitant.
Reprinted with permission from CatholicSistas.com.
“At what point do I turn to a doctor and feel as though I’ve betrayed my Healer?” she asked.
This question is echoed all too frequently by Catholics with mood disorders. Fueled in equal parts by anxiety, pop spirituality, and true faith, we begin to believe the sweet-sounding lies the world tells us about Christians: good ones are always cheerful, favored ones are always happy, and authentic ones rely on no one but God.
“He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to,” we hear the crowd chant. So defeated, condemned, exhausted and broken, we retreat into our illness, waiting for the miracle we have come to believe is the only moral form of healing.
But what does our Catholic faith really say about healing? In 2009, while tackling the issue of New Age therapies like Reiki, the U.S. Bishops wrote these wise words:
Because it is possible to be healed by divine power does not mean that we should not use natural means at our disposal. It is not our decision whether or not God will heal someone by supernatural means. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church points out, the Holy Spirit sometimes gives to certain human beings “a special charism of healing so as to make manifest the power of the grace of the risen Lord.”
This power of healing is not at human disposal, however, for “even the most intense prayers do not always obtain the healing of all illnesses.” Recourse to natural means of healing therefore remains entirely appropriate, as these are at human disposal. In fact, Christian charity demands that we not neglect natural means of healing people who are ill.
Deciding at what point to seek help for a serious mental illness is an intensely personal decision. But “never” is always the wrong answer. Good Catholics can get depressed. Favored daughters will still go through trials. Christian authenticity means submitting to Christ’s healing work in your life, even when He works through your doctor. And that crowd you keep hearing? It’s fueled by the devil himself, as it was 2,000 years ago, and it wants you to stay pinned to that cross.
Below are a few of my own physical, mental and spiritual warning signs that tell me it’s time to think about getting help. What are yours?
- Exhaustion to the point of inability to do everyday tasks
- Extreme neglect of self-care like showering, brushing hair or teeth, or wearing clean clothes
- Intense food cravings
- Vivid, disturbing dreams
- Consistent, prolonged lack of creativity; perpetual “writer’s block”
- Feeling as if everyone dislikes me or is judging me
- Inability to mentally recover from small setbacks
- Feeling guilty or angry whenever I find myself happy
- Soaking up the negative emotions of others
- Scrupulosity: feeling like every mistake I make is damning
- Feeling as if God is punishing me with sadness
- Feeling as if I deserve all of the negative things that I experience
- Inability to ever derive happiness or solace from prayer
- Self harm (cutting, starving oneself, seeking out dangerous situations, etc.)
- Near-literal inability to get out of bed for work, Mass, or family
- Intrusive, unbidden thoughts of injury, death, or going to Heaven or Hell
- Temptations to suicide
MTHFR (Research on the genetic mutation associated with depression, bipolar, and schizophrenia)
The Catholic Guide to Depression by Dr. Aaron Kheriaty
Review of The Catholic Guide to Depression