It is OK to be on antidepressants.

It is OK to be a Catholic on antidepressants.

I've suffered from major depression many times in my life. I also suffer from anxiety, and every year I get very bad Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a modality of depression (every late September I pretty much feel suicidal, that's how bad it is). I have taken antidepressants, I have been with a counsellor, and I’ve done acupuncture, Vitamin D…all sorts of things.

Perhaps because I have a long history of mental illness I don't feel upset, or even more depressed when people suggest that I should think the days are bright to overcome my SAD, or when people say that  antidepressants are terrible, you shouldn’t be taking them. Most of the people that have said those things I know they love me, I know they mean well and care about me. But it's not me that I'm concerned about, I'm concerned about people who are experiencing depression -or any other mental illness- for the first time, and hear these kind of comments, especially in a religious environment.

I guess in the daily lives on many people, mental illness is still something terrible. That’s probably the reason why we have campaigns to fight the stigma associated with mental illness. I’ve never been ashamed or felt awkward about this topic, but I try to understand the reasons that make people very uncomfortable about this.

I'm very active at the Catholic parish where I belong, and I love it! I have never been so loved by random people.  I truly consider a lot of these people my sisters and brothers in Christ: they are kind, loving, willing to offer all they have. They are a wonderful blessing in my life! Because I hang out with my friends and acquaintances from church, I have heard quite a few statements and stories about depression.

A lot of the times, people say that they have been depressed, but then somehow they started to get more involved in the church and were able to overcome depression without any medications or extra medical help. Sometimes these people were helped by Bible class, a prayer group or  talking to a priest.  I don't doubt this at all, and I'm immensely happy they were able to do it. But sometimes when they tell these stories, antidepressants tend to be referred (I'm sure unintentionally) in a negative connotation, as this awful thing they were able to avoid because of their faith.

And I don’t like that statement, not at all! I'm deeply concerned about people who are experiencing some kind of mental illness for the first time. I'm concerned that they may get the wrong message.

I have heard people say: I've been depressed, but when you put in context your suffering with Christ's sufferingour suffering is nothing. Now, this is true,  our suffering in depression, anxiety or any other mental disorder cannot be compare with Jesus’ suffering. Nevertheless,  I don't think that as regular human beings, not matter how devoted we are, I don't think we'll ever be able to understand Jesus' suffering at all. We can try, and we can probably have a good pseudo understanding of it, but the reality is that we cannot claim to comprehend Jesus’ suffering at all.

Yes, understanding Jesus’s suffering helps put things in perspective. But in fact, in our modern world, we just need to turn around to see suffering everywhere. Again, this give us perspective, that’s an indisputable fact. However, when you're actually depressed, comparing your suffering to other people's  actual suffering only makes you feel more miserable and alone. It is not helpful, and it creates the opposite effect.

It is OK if you receive the Eucharist, and still feel depressed.

You're not a bad Catholic because of this. God wants you to feel better. Sometimes counselling is enough, sometimes medication is needed, and that's OK.

Many times in my life I have wanted to die. Many. But here I am, writing this, because I've been helped by people who love me, by my husband, my counsellor, my Dr., medications, by my little light therapy lamp. I know God gave me all those people and resources so I could stay alive and fight back. I still have in my phone's contacts list, the suicide help line. Every time I'm scrolling down to look for a number, and I see this, I am reminded of how things can get better.

It is OK to be depressed and be Catholic.

It is OK to feel sad in your way back to your seat after receiving the Eucharist. 

You're not a bad Catholic if you're depressed and are taking antidepressants. 

Now, I'm not blindly pro antidepressants.  I'm fully aware of all the side effects. I remember my husband been terrified when he read that one side effects was actually the real possibility of making even more suicidal. I've been given the wrong kind of antidepressants for my body, but I have also been helped by the correct dose and prescription of these medications.

Bible class, the Sacraments or a prayer group can help you if you’re depressed, I’m sure they can (I love my current Bible class on Galatians), but if that’s not enough, if you still feel like you cannot make it, ask for help, taking antidepressants is OK, talking to a psychologist or counsellor is fine; you’re not less of a Catholic because of this.

(My super amazing priest recommended me this talk, which I really enjoyed!)

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Published by Silvia A.A. Vasconcelos