Friday, October 14, 2011

The Middle of October

I was saying in the previous post that I feel that I have nothing to give. Well, God seems to make use of me anyway.

It is an miserable condition, to “feel” this way, but it is not a judgment. I know that God says in my heart, “I made you, I redeemed you, I have blessed you, go and give what you have received.” The real danger of depression is that a Malicious Voice enters into the midst of the neurological disequilibrium and tries to lead the person to discouragement. I feel that I am nothing and have nothing to give. The evil voice says, “Give up. Fall into bitterness.” But I still say, “Lord, if I am nothing, then I give you my nothingness. Create me anew.” And so even depression can become an occasion for freedom to embrace this mystery, that my value consists in belonging to You. To say, “I need You” in the darkness is a prayer, and only God knows how much healing such prayer brings to a wounded, desperate world. Let us never underestimate the power of God made perfect in the weakness of our suffering.

Depression does not necessarily overwhelm our freedom, and as long as our freedom is alive there is the possibility for love, even for great love. But we must also remember, especially in looking at others who suffer, that it is a crushing burden, a force that imposes itself, and that can, in certain cases, be so overpowering that it brings about events that may be outside a person’s responsibility. God knows that human freedom can be suspended by the distortion of this disease, so that one acts as if in a dream. Here I am thinking in particular of a terrible tragedy that happened six years ago, in the middle of October, to a lifelong friend–a tragedy that tore my soul in a way that still has not healed.

This event is undoubtedly one of the reasons why I find October so difficult. People die from depression. I prefer to put it this way, because–although I am not considered to be in danger (and I am under the regular professional care of competent and attentive people)–I know this monster, and I believe that it can be a killer. Of course only God knows the limits of freedom, but we know enough today about these diseases to realize that our hearts must commend the afflicted to the mercy of God. The Church confirms this, when she gives them a full Christian burial and continues to pray for them (and honor them) as members of the faithful departed.

Personally, I believe that my friend is at peace. He is in my prayers. And I think, somehow, that he mysteriously accompanies me and my family and even intercedes for us. I think he helps me.

Of course, he would want to help. He always did. My friend, who died from depression, was a Catholic priest. Or I should say, is a Catholic priest, for "thou art a priest forever...." He was a good priest. A very good priest. Only God knows the merits of his struggle, which was a mighty one. In the end, though, depression for him was as deadly as cancer.

I am not trying to scare people. It is not so virulent in me. I am not going to die from this. That is not the danger for me. My temptation is to become discouraged. Encourage me. Some people already have (thanks!), and it is a great help in keeping me focused. I’m not asking for flattery, but if what I do is useful to you, let me know. Kick me in the butt and tell me to do more, if you think I can, or if you need it or know someone else who needs it. We must share our needs. This is the heart of solidarity, and solidarity is one of the great constructive forces of love.

Meanwhile, my doctor and I have made a slight medication adjustment, and I am supplementing Vitamin D and B Complex. The sun is in the sky and there is sunshine in the faces of my wife and children. I struggle with the memory of these terrible days, and find also a mysterious healing at work, hidden in the mercy of God and in the intercession of many good souls. There is deep conviction that grows in me and says within me, “Keep telling people that this is something real. Keep telling them to take care of themselves and their loved ones. Keep telling them that this is a disease; that it is not something to be ashamed of, that it is not their fault, but also that they cannot overcome it by themselves and they need to have the humility to get help. Keep encouraging young people to take up the mental health professions, which are so much in need of an integral Christian vision of the human person.

And please pray for the soul of my friend, and the souls of all the faithful departed who have lost their lives to mental illness. Through the mercy of God, may they rest in peace, and pray for us.