Joy: the hidden gift I found in depression

I’m not a doctor or a therapist.  I can’t diagnose or treat depression.  I can only offer you encouragement and thoughts from my own personal experiences.   If you’re suffering from depression, please seek professional help (I highly recommend Pastoral Solutions Institute tele-counseling services).  If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts, please call 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255 immediately.

 

It was hard for me to explain all the feelings I felt.

I tried to tell my husband I wasn’t unhappy.  But the tears and shouting that streamed from me every day said otherwise.  I was unhappy.  But I knew I shouldn’t be.

I had every reason to be happy.  A loving husband.  A safe home.  Beautiful children.  You, my God, know that everything was going well.

Yet there I was.

I couldn’t stand jokes.  I hated being around people for family dinners.  And I was constantly wallowing in the oppression of my to-do list.

I was so unhappy.

But there was something there. 

Something that dragged me out of bed, finally, three hours after I woke up.  Something that made me want to try to be patient for just ONE more minute before I inevitably lost my temper on my kids.  Something that kept me running back to You, God, in prayer, in the Eucharist, in confession.

Begging You to give me the grace to stop. 

To stop being  a failure of a mom, wife, and Christian.

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This something kept me going even on my darkest days.

It wasn’t happiness.

But I didn’t know what it was.

It was joy.

What is joy?  Is it the warm fuzzies?  When I think of joyful times like Easter or Christmas, I imagine an extra happiness, inspired by something spiritual.

I always thought joy and happiness were synonyms.  Until I was stuck in the darkness of depression.

Joy isn’t a feeling.  It’s not of the body.  It resides in the soul.  I’ve heard that so many times, but I’ve never understood it.

Joy is the virtue that springs from confidence in our Redemption.  Joy is the result of knowing that You, my Jesus, love me above all things.  You died to save me from my sins.  And You’ll take me to Heaven with You at the end of my life.

Joy gives me the strength to keep going.  To do what I know I need to do, simply because of God’s love.

When I discovered this definition of joy I finally understood what I felt.

Even though I didn’t feel an ounce of happiness in my life, I realized it was confidence in my Redemption that kept me going.

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Things were just plain awful.  A pile of laundry felt like a vice grip on my heart.  A sink full of dishes sent me into a panic.  One squeak of a whine from my kids transformed me into a screaming banshee.

But I didn’t give up.

I wanted to give up, but I couldn’t.

I had to eventually get out of bed before my kids murdered each other.  I had to throw the laundry in the washer, even though I knew it would sit in the dryer for days before I got around to folding it.  I had to feed my family dinner, even if it was peanut butter on a spoon, microwaved peas, and the promise of chocolate milk if they would just. shut. up.

I sound like a terrible mom.  I was a terrible mom.  But I was doing the best I could manage, without any idea that I was suffering from a chemical imbalance.

I still clung to my vocation.  I still believed Jesus died to save me from the sin of lousy parenting.  I knew He would get me through this, even though I had no stinking clue how.

So I kept going, doing my best to live virtuously, no matter how terrible I felt about myself.

That. is. joy.


Joy isn’t a feeling.  It’s the virtue that springs from confidence in our Redemption.  It gives us strength to keep going.  Tweet this.


To choose to keep trying every day, even when you feel like you’re failing miserably.

No, joy and happiness aren’t synonyms.  But they do influence each other.

I’ve seen this with the joy of Christmas.  The miracle of You, my Jesus, becoming a sweet baby. It fills me with certainty that You love me without end.

I’ve seen it with the joy of Easter.  The knowledge that You can reverse death itself lets me know without doubt that You can reverse the effects of my sins.

The joy of these seasons overflows from my soul, bringing happiness into my days.  It stretches my face into the biggest smiles.  It bubbles forth in laughter, bursts out in song.  Joy can make me feel so happy.

And now I’ve seen the relationship between joy and happiness in the reverse during my depression.  

The constant, prevailing, oppressive sadness and frustration was sapping my joy.  Slowly draining my resolve to keep trying.  Pinning me in my bed longer every morning until I had the strength to get up and start my day.

Thanks be to God a friend recognized my illness before the unhappiness stole my joy.  Before it conquered my will to try.  Before it convinced me I had sunk too low for the miracles of Your Incarnation or Resurrection to bring me back.

Thank You, God, for joy!

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Thank You God for the joy that resides in my soul, placed there by You, powered by Your salvation.  Tweet this.


Now I’ve returned from the darkness. 

Through counseling, lifestyle changes, a supporting dose of medication, and the grace of God, I’ve made great leaps and bounds at rediscovering the happiness in my life.

My husband says I’m a new person compared to who I was a few short months ago.  My mom says she recognizes the real me that was missing.

Depression was a painful and difficult time.  But today, I thank God that I’ve gone through it.

I thank You, God, that my eyes were opened to the true meaning of joy.  The joy that’s uncovered when all the happiness is stripped away.  The joy that resides in my soul, placed there by You, powered by Your salvation.  The joy I never would’ve understood if I hadn’t been stuck in the darkness of depression.

My Jesus, please help me to grow in grace and virtue.  Please continue to guide my healing process.  Make me whole and well.

Lord, guard all those who suffer from depression today.  Let them cling to the gift of joy.  Give them renewed hope in Your Salvation.  Bring them out of the darkness, and into the light of day.

Amen.

 


Lord guard all who suffer from depression. Bring them out of darkness and into the light of day. Tweet this.


joy and depression pinterest.png

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17 thoughts on “Joy: the hidden gift I found in depression

  1. “Joy resides in the soul” — I love that! And I’m so glad you got to the root of the problem and was able to address it. Sharing your story empowers others to find the support they need as well, so thank you for being so brave.
    Blessings,
    Marva | SunSparkleShine

    Liked by 1 person

    1. God bless you, thank you SO much for reaching out with your comment. I do NOT really think that. But I darn sure felt like it at the time, and that’s why I wrote that line. That’s how I felt, and that’s what I believed. I felt like a lousy parent. I felt like I was either ignoring my kids, or screaming at them all the time. I felt like I was letting God down so bad, and I brought it to confession over and over. I knew that God could and would help me be a better parent, and I was waiting for His grace. At the time, I didn’t know I was suffering from depression. I had no idea what was the root of my behavior. I thought I was just trenched in anger and sin.

      And then I poured my heart out to a friend, and told her what a terrible sinful mother I was, and she told me to get help. She was sure I was suffering from depression. I followed her advice, saw my doctor, and began meds and counseling almost immediately. It was then that I realized that I was out of control. That the chemical imbalance I was suffering really, truly was more than I can handle. It was the reason I couldn’t be the mom I wanted to be, no matter how hard I tried. I knew I didn’t want to do all those awful things, but I couldn’t stop myself.

      I wasn’t sinning. I was sick.

      And the same is true for you.

      I pray that you’re getting the help and support you need for your depression. You’re not alone. I’m so so sorry that I hurt you with that line, and I can tell that you’re feeling the same pain and guilt I felt. So I want to tell you that there’s hope. There’s healing. There’s grace in abundance. And I’m praying for you today.

      Like

  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. Realizing there is a difference between happiness and joy really helped me when I was first realizing I had depression. Like others have said, there isn’t nearly enough discussion about Catholics suffering from depression. I really appreciate your honesty and openness.

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  3. Thank you so much for sharing your insights with this common mental health condition. You are amazing and such a brave woman for using your reach to ensure other sufferers know they are not suffering in their journeys alone. Bravo to you!

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  4. Thank you for sharing your story! Finding the difference between joy and happiness is so freeing! I’m so proud of you for making all those changes to get the help you needed.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this! I feel like Catholics don’t talk about this enough, like it’s sort of considered something we should be able to “get over” if we try harder, are more virtuous, pray more, etc. But depression is real and usually doesn’t go away with these things. It’s nice to hear a Catholic voice on this issue.

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  6. Thank you both for this!!! Living with depression makes you question so much and it is a really hard battle…so many people do not understand this. It has taken me so long to understand what you have written and I thank you for making it clearer to me. I live with depression but cannot take medication. I fight it through prayer and trusting in Jesus ….. I did fall over a year ago but God placed someone in my path and a spiritual light went on for me that has just kept shining. I also receive spiritual guidance from a very reverent priest…always knows what to say to me to life me up. I love reading your blog posts and appreciate you sharing. They are words of hope for me and honestly a pick me up! So thank you!

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  7. Interesting take on Joy! I’m glad you got help before all your joy was stolen! I too know what it’s like to suddenly find yourself in darkness and struggle to do even the littlest things! So happy you’re feeling better! Keep rocking!

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  8. Wow, I have to say that was such an inspiring post. I will keep you in our prayers! I really like that quote that the reader shared. I think Joy is the number thing the Devil wants from us, especially mothers who in his eyes are very dangerous since we create life with God and bringing more soul to heaven. But we having in our hands the power to transport our faith with Joy in the mist of evil in this world (even within the church). God bless you!

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  9. I thought you might find this edifying….

    Happiness vs. Joy
    “The difference between shallow happiness
    and a deep sustaining joy is sorrow. Happiness
    lives where sorrow is not. When sorrow
    arrives, happiness dies. It can’t stand pain.
    Joy, on the other hand, rises from sorrow
    and therefore can withstand all grief.

    Joy, by the grace of God, is the transfiguration
    of suffering into endurance, and of endurance
    into character, and of character into
    hope – and the hope that has become our joy
    does not (as happiness must for those who depend
    upon it) disappoint us.”

    –WalterWangerin, Jr. | Reliving the Passion

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      1. I like it too. The Lord works with us all in different ways, our burdens being a path to our sanctification. I struggle with joy when so many of my family and friends are unsaved. Joy has been elusive more so than the other Fruit of the Spirit, as written in Galations 5:22-23. The bible is filled with scripture on the topic of Joy. Bless you!

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