Katie Makkai: Will I Be Pretty?

This is amazing. A hat tip to Lydia Moore, my colleague who supports the Catholic volunteers with Marion and I.

I know she’s speaking to women mostly here. But I really resonated with this, especially the “crestfallen, because not enough strangers found you suitable” part. I used to hate going out to the “meet markets” mostly because I need to communicate verbally and intimately for people to get to know me and perhaps find me amusing. Men too, worry if they are attractive enough. And male body image is becoming a bigger problem in our society. I notice this on Campus a lot. Males who feel the need to be shirtless often, so that others might be jealous of the “six pack abs” or the men who hit the spa to remove unwanted body hair. There are those of us who consider hair coloring the gray or getting hair transplants to cover up the baldness (bad move, being bald is awesome and low maintenance).

But in our visual society, I fear women have it far worse. And I know I’ve been part of the problem. We men all look for “the pretty girl” to date and we are conditioned to do that by a society that tells us we aren’t thin enough, attractive enough, smart enough, whatever enough. Many times thinking that we are not enough makes things even worse. We gain weight from feeling depressed. We feel the malaise and don’t continue healthy practices of exercise, not to look good but to feel good.

We forget that God has made us all amazingly enough just as we are. Accepting that is a confident statement of faith. God can love me just as I am. And it is more than enough. And it never settles for simply being pretty.

Praying While Depressed

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.

Beyond Blue

Therese Borchard is an excellent writer and knows how to carve out a niche well with her writing. Her touching and very real blog at Beliefnet, “Beyond Blue” often moves me “Beyond Words” as she writes unhesitatingly about her struggle with mental illness, something that has effected many of my own friends and family. It is a serious and treatable illness, one that often goes undetected. Therese takes us into the midst of her struggle and how she deals with it in this touching post.

On a discussion thread at Group Beyond Blue, Larry wrote: “Underneath my mental illness are simply enormous, even incalculable, mental reserves. And if my illness strikes again, I need to remember those reserves are there, even if I can’t get to them right now.”

I had an opportunity to do that yesterday.

I journeyed back to the exact spot where I felt a calming hope when I was so desperately seeking a solution to my severe depression three and a half years ago: to the 10-foot statue of Jesus in the lobby of Johns Hopkins’s Billing Administrative Building, where Eric and I stopped on our way to my psychiatric evaluation in March, 2006.

I remember that moment so clearly.

I looked around at all the students with their backpacks and wondered if I’d ever be able to use my brain again. I peered skeptically at the doctors–wondering if they were thieves wanting to steal any creativity or passion or zest I had left in me with the toxic drugs they would pump into me.

I was so afraid.

Of everything.

Until I saw that statue. And read the inscription, written in capital letters on the pedestal: “Come unto me all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Suddenly I felt lighter. As if Jesus really did relieve me of the backpack of rocks I had been carrying for a good year. I began to cry, to release all the fear inside of me. I couldn’t stop crying until we arrived at the consultation.

Now, of course, I can see it in perspective.

That moment at the statue was, indeed, the beginning of my miracle. It was thirty minutes before I would meet the psychiatrist who would be able to successfully treat my bipolar disorder.

Read the rest here and then offer a prayer for all those who have mental illnesses and those who care for them.