Friday, July 15, 2011

A Personal Story of Depression

The  Catholic Times column on spirituality discusses the subject of acute depression. The columnist met one of his older priest friends and asked him about his bout with depression, which lasted about three months. Since he was looking back on something that had happened in the past the friend had no difficulty recounting this part of his 
history.

Looking back in retrospect he feels that what happened to him was the result of grace.  He was  building a church and was under stress. The church was finished and he had the blessing.  Right after the ceremony  he received notification of the death of a cousin  he loved greatly. The cousin died  very suddenly. He spent the time of mourning with the relatives at the home of the deceased.

On returning to his rectory he began to feel a heaviness in his body and he couldn't sleep. He went to his priest friends and did some drinking but nothing helped. He couldn't concentrate on anything he was doing. He would be critical with the parishioners and get upset quickly. He hated himself and cried a lot and even had difficulty in breathing. He goes on to say, "I decided to go to see a friend that I knew well, thinking he was a doctor but found out he was a psychiatrist."

The columnist  told the priest that what he did took a lot of courage. It's difficult for priests and religious to speak about their condition for they feel they can overcome whatever is bothering them with prayer and will power.

"Yes it did take courage," he admitted. " I am a priest but also human. If I stayed with the embarrassment and tried to hide what was happening to me I would only be hurting those with whom I came in contact. So I thought that since this came upon me suddenly, I would quickly take the treatment," he laughingly added, "and be over with it quickly." 

The priest in his pastoral work was always telling the parishioners  about hope and  joy, and here he was in the pits and was not able to speak about it to anybody. He recalls that after the ceremony of blessing of the new church he felt no joy, and after the visit to the home of mourning of his  cousin he went into the acute depression.

The columnist asked him if he ever felt like he wanted to die. The priest said that once when he was staying in a high rise building and looking down at the pavement, he did think that he would be free of his worries if he jumped. Since death will come, he wanted it to come quickly. He was not able to express his anger, which stayed within to grow and to harm him. In his self-examination, all he could see were his imperfections, belittling his values and himself.

He took the drugs for depression, the necessary therapy, and learned ways to express his emotions, especially  anger. It wasn't long before he was in control of his life. The bout with depression saved his life, he said.  He learned about his emotions and his faults and, even more importantly, now has a greater sympathy for those who suffer from depression. And he thanks God that everything that happened can in God's providence work out for the good.

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