For those who suffer from clinical depression, prayer may just be one more thing to get depressed about (believe it or not). I remember when someone close to me died and another relation of the deceased who suffered from depression was told to “stay strong and pray” but clearly just couldn’t do it. Therese Borchard over at Beyond Blue tells of her experience as well.
When I was in the eye of depression’s storm, I couldn’t pray. I would go into my bedroom closet, shut the door, and light a candle in the dark. I stared into its flame, wanting so badly to feel at peace.
But I didn’t. Instead, I trembled with anxiety, barely able to hold my rosary made of rose petals. I pleaded with God to send me a minute of consolation, to show me that He was there. I got nada.
”Be persistent,” a Buddhist friend told me. ”Meditation takes patience and discipline. When the distracting thoughts come, acknowledge them and then let them go. If you do this over and over again, you will begin to transcend.”
But it never happened. So on top of my depression and anxiety, I felt like a prayer loser.
Surely Therese is not alone. And it goes to show that there are relatively few people who really understand mental illness. Mental illness often blocks freedom to think as you’d like to. One might want to think positively, but when in the grasp of depression one is powerless to do so. Powerless. And therefore one needs some kind of anchor to hinge them into prayer. That anchor needs to be rigid in some way as well–something you just can’t let go of because if you do–you fly back into that depressive state.
Read on at this link to see how Therese prays while in the depression’s grasp and the extremely healthy anchor she uses.
For folks who end up with scrupulosity, the same matter applies, I think. Scrupulous people really believe that no matter what they do they can never be redeemed. They are always bad people with no chance of God’s forgiveness. Depression can be at the heart of that issue as well and once that depression lifts then they can see their goodness more clearly.
However, while that depression is lifting, a scrupulous person often needs to make a plan. A therapist-friend tells me that this is much like what someone with OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) does. When an OCD person feels the need to overly wash their hands the realization of that compulsion gets worked out by replacing the compulsion with an activity. So when one feels the need to wash hands one may go and run around the block instead, or write in a journal,or walk the dog. I continue to call it “The Anchor”. What is it that we can hold onto that brings us out of our own confused and jumbled thoughts and into healthy relationship with God?
When one feels like they are worthless, perhaps doing an activity that reveals self-worth–like exercise or volunteering is indeed helpful and can lead some into a better place. Sometimes even that might not lift those feelings but the point (as the 12 step community will tell us) is to “fake it ’til you make it.”
For many, the anchor needs to be coupled with good meds and continual therapy as well. Depression is not something that just goes away. It needs constant attention, treatment and understanding. Not to limit the power of prayer, but when a depressed person sometimes cannot pray, or better stated, can’t connect their thoughts to God because of their mental state, encouraging further prayer without some other kind of plan, is indeed useless.
Thanks to Therese for pointing this out to us today.