This song sets the tone for this piece. Please listen and let it soak in before you read.
I will warn you. The prayer below hurts a little to recite. But once you say it more and more it does get easier. I find it breaks chains of Pride and I actually crave reading it.
Cardinal Merry del Val would say this after Mass. The Imprimatur is James A. McNulty, Bishop of Paterson, N.J.
It is one of my favorite prayers and I recite it almost daily, especially when things are rough.
Litany Of Humility
O Jesus! Meek and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
From the desire of being loved,
From the desire of being extolled,
From the desire of being honored,
From the desire of being praised,
From the desire of being preferred,
From the desire of being consulted,
From the desire of being approved,
Deliver me Jesus,
From the fear of being humiliated,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of suffering rebukes,
From the fear of being calumniated,
From the fear of being forgotten,
From the fear of being wronged,
From the fear of being suspected,
Deliver me, Jesus
That others may be loved more than I,
That others may be esteemed more than I,
That in the opinion of the world others may increase, and I decrease,
That others may be chosen and I set aside,
That others may be praised and I unnoticed,
That others may be preferred to me in everything,
That others become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
I write my life story in chronological order, but there are aspects or categories which are more than a side note. Depression is one of those categories. (Deliver me Jesus from the need to be understood!) Although it will come in handy for you while reading these stories. I am inclined to worry that speaking about struggles gives them power in some way causing a spiritual backlash if you will, but maybe it brings the subject to light, stripping it of its power. I don’t know. It’s one of those things that is hard for to people to admit, including myself. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to appear weak. Or vulnerable. Or incapable of snapping out of it. So, for anyone who has suffered from depression, this post is for you. You are not alone. For anyone who has never suffered, maybe this will help you understand someone you love going through it.
Pride is the opposite of humility. Usually Fear is related to Pride in some way. Depression is made up of a lot of fears which hang out with Pride- like besties.
Writing about my depression is a fear I have and that stems from pride. The lie I struggle with is that when people really know you they may judge you. Or they assume they know everything about you based on what you shared. That’s why some people don’t share anything below the surface. It’s safer. They don’t want anyone to truly see them for fear of what will happen next.
I have a tendency to share too much. I feel the need to be accepted. Acceptance means togetherness which is the opposite of loneliness, right? Ha! I used to feel alone in a crowded room. Like someone just please SEE me. My craving for something more or for meat and potatoes in a world full of Skittles makes me open my big mouth too much. I think in my heart if we all truly knew each other and our individual struggles the world would be less lonely. When I share my heart I sometimes feel ashamed that I let someone in too far. I can usually tell after a conversation if I’ve made a mistake for opening up in search of depth. Pride of their opinion of me can be crippling. I struggled with this- as if I just gave someone my “kryptonite” and now I don’t know if they’re gonna use it against me!
For so long I tried to find my acceptance elsewhere when I truly needed it from Christ. Yes it is good to be there for others, but to seek your worth in them is an empty calorie. I’ve had pep talks with myself before social situations to not share too much with anyone. And “too much” for a person with anxiety is sometimes just as much as a few extra words. Or spilling your whole life story. I’ve done both. I’d second guess everything I said and how I came across. When I was in the thick of my depression this worry was almost constant. You would have thought being self-conscious was the opposite of prideful, but they are one in the same.
For me, the sadness started soon after age 14. My depression was first associated with hormones, then situational, and then became clinical as the years passed. It was debilitating at times. The depression I suffered included a lot of involuntary thoughts or truths I believed about myself in my mind. They were just there churning around like a washing machine. Or a mixed tape. Feelings of supreme self-doubt. Unworthiness, guilt, paranoia and beliefs about the goodness of myself as a person or as a creation of God. I felt like a waste of space. The sadness was so thick at times I would go sleep just to make time pass. I could write “Ode’s to my bed” I was so good at sleeping; anywhere at any time. I was a “nap pro”. To this day when I get overwhelmed my “old faithful coping mechanism” tries to kick in and I become exhausted.
I used to feel debilitating fear about what others thought of me. (Pride) Sometimes my anxiety would get so bad that I would rethink every conversation I had with people to make sure I didn’t say something the wrong way. Being misunderstood was the worst! I hated to have anyone mad at me. I felt like everything was my fault somehow. I doubted my goodness. I doubted God’s goodness.
I didn’t want to dream anymore because the thought of what I loved turned to grey and was flavorless. When depressed, food loses it’s taste for me. It really does. I would eat so I didn’t get the shakes, but I had no appetite. Food may as well have been cardboard. Everything around me would also lose its color. I know that sounds crazy but the vibrancy of nature would disappear. I became numb in my senses.
My mom commented that as a teenager I stopped wearing colors. My wardrobe turned to brown. When sad, all the things that I loved became “meh”. My dad would warn me “Spring, don’t get too high on life because it hurts when you come down.” He knew from experience if you got too happy the other side of super happy was deflating. We are a lot alike. Much of his testimony kept me afloat all my life.
As an adult, my paintings would be tabled during these grey phases and I couldn’t create. I would get a blockage of some sort, like writers block but for me it was “everything block”. As a kid my dad told me he could tell when I was happy because I sang throughout the whole house. The song would leave when the colors did. But when the clouds parted, I painted with all the colors while singing.
When I was happy I would use up all my energy in one day because I knew my window would close in a matter of time. I would have several bad weeks or so out of the month and one or two good days where I’d feel like I was functioning and the fog was gone. I would tell my husband, “Can you imagine what I could do if my mind was this clear and I felt normal like this all the time?” I was a rock star!! I so envied those people with seemingly endless enthusiasm who were “type A” and could just run circles around their day. Because there I was, usually running on fumes and barely had enough energy to get out of bed. Try as I might it was all I had. Other people made it look so easy and I started to believe I was a failure at just living.
Sometimes I merely existed. I floated through the motions of the day and prayed I wouldn’t crack because if I did, the flood gates would never stop. How do you get help when you don’t know what is wrong? When you feel like you are the problem and you feel hopeless? When you cry going to bed at night because you know you will have to wake up and do it all again the next day? When you couldn’t weigh the severity of a situation because of how heavy you already felt.
Mental anguish used to be my constant. For 23 years that was my prison. I was held captive by the debilitating fear that I would never find joy. It was always fleeting. Like a butterfly, “joy” would land on my finger and before I could soak in its beauty it would flutter away leaving me so empty and alone. I got so good at seeing it leave that when it was there, I couldn’t appreciate it because I knew it wouldn’t last.
Before I knew he loved me, I thought my husband was that butterfly on my finger and I prepared my heart that he would eventually leave too. I was happy in those early moments but was plagued by the fear it would end. Oh what lies the evil one can plant in your heart.
I was surprised to learn a few years back, that Mother Teresa suffered from depression. Saint Mother Teresa spent her lifetime caring for the sickest and poorest forgotten people. When she passed away, her diary and letters were made into a book. She wrote about her struggles with depression quoting from 1958: “My smile is a great cloak that hides a multitude of pains.” Here’s her book if you are curious. Mother Teresa One day I’m going to have tea with Mother Teresa’s book because I think her pain can speak to a lot of hearts that are hurting. Her life is a testimony that in our weakness we can be strong with Christ.
Why do I share all of this? Every now and again I get glimpses of what used to be. I am now healed from my depression, but I’m horrified if it comes for a visit because I used to be trapped in it constantly. Now when the fear tries to cripple me and tell me that depression is coming back to stay, I say, “thank you Lord for giving me a glimpse and healing me, now show me how to help others out of the pit..” I know now, that depression is not all about me. Even if it feels like my own sadness. What I have learned in the last 3 years especially, is that all pain has a purpose. Even mental anguish. When combined with Christ’s suffering on the cross it can be a powerful prayer for someone else. Sometimes your sadness is not your own. I know! *Mind blowing*. Sometimes that “sadness is a tool” to use for praying for someone else. Just like any pain it can be used to offer up for someone else and before you know it your pain is lessoned when it’s put into action for the love of another. It turns to joy. That’s how it’s been working for me-when I remember to do it! Ugh, humanity 😉 Ha! Don’t give ownership to the LIE that depression is you. Don’t believe those lies that say you aren’t good because TRUTH is, you are good because the Creator of the Universe does not make junk! You are precious and redeemed and adored by Him…
If you feel as though your life is void of purpose or meaningless, it’s a lie. Reach out to someone-anyone, if you feel alone. You are needed and wanted and loved. There is GREAT purpose for your life! If you worry about being too flawed, don’t. None of us are perfect despite how we may appear on the outside. God will bless your tries! He can turn sadness into joy… I promise.