While sitting at adoration this morning, besides all the other things that go rocketing around in my mind, I was contemplating the practice of offering our sufferings, mixed with thoughts of those who suffer from depression that often arrive with the winter weather and the Christmas season.
I am no expert when it comes to explaining the theology of offering our sufferings. One good way I think about it is from St.Therese of Lisieux, The Little Flower;
"I prefer the monotony of obscure sacrifice to all ecstasies. To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul." These are the words of Theresa of the Child Jesus, a Carmelite nun called the "Little Flower," who lived a cloistered life of obscurity in the convent of Lisieux, France. [In French-speaking areas, she is known as Thérèse of Lisieux.] And her preference for hidden sacrifice did indeed convert souls. Few saints of God are more popular than this young nun. Her autobiography, The Story of a Soul, is read and loved throughout the world. Thérèse Martin entered the convent at the age of 15 and died in 1897 at the age of 24.
When I am suffering, even in the smallest way, such as a pang of concern for one of my children (this happens roughly every seventeen minutes throughout the day), when I remember, I offer it to the Lord, Even if I have been part of the problem. Or if I encounter people that make me feel angry or agitated, or if I have to do something I don't like or feel like doing. All my sins and failings are somehow spiritual currency to the Lord. They can be offered for someone or some prayer request, or just for reparation for sin. what God does with all this, I don't know! Of course, "big" sufferings, like sickness, pain and any event or trauma can and should be offered,too, but I am mainly thinking about the routine things.
Depression is such a sneaky entity. It will circle around for a while, looking for a place to take root. If I have a certain worry, or a pet peeve that I allow to fester a little too much, I will start to notice myself feeling tired a lot, losing motivation for things I normally like to do, or even getting sick more frequently. I will have bouts of anxiety or angry outbursts. Essentially, what is happening is that I am not trusting God that where my life is, is entirely in His hands. If I am able to offer the stresses, the worries, the pain and fears to Him as they happen, not only does He make good use of them, but I am relieved of the burden and am reminded that He sees me and knows what is going on. Which is a huge comfort!
I know that Saints like the Little Flower, lived in such a way that she could ask to suffer and not want any consolations. (comforts from God). I am not there! I just ask for the ability to handle any suffering I must go through gracefully and to remember to lean on Him. I have often remarked to my husband that raising children is God's way of giving us built in penance. They help us shave off a little Purgatory. Of course they bring tons of joy, too, but the process of growing up is just naturally stressful. Especially at the latter teen years. It reminds me of the culmination of a long labor; how right before the birth there is the most pain, but the shortest, too.
I also want to encourage anyone who may be suffering with depression, to try and do these few things. They really do help. They should be done regularly. Commit to some schedule and stick to it.
1. Get up every day and go out of the house. Even if it is just for a short walk. The fresh air, the exercise, and the changing of your surroundings do wonders. Look around and absorb the world. Thank God for the beauty of the sky, for the fact that you are healthy enough to walk around, anything that comes to mind.
The key to helping yourself is getting out of your head, and focusing outward. If you can go to daily mass, that is the perfect thing to schedule each day. Adoration is even better. Pray, give your concerns to Him, and then, at least for that day, let it go. The late Elizabeth Elliot once said, to actually lift your hands to Him, full of your burdens, and imagine Him taking them. Even if you only envision it in your mind, it can be helpful.
2. Do something for someone else. Many times, we who suffer from depression, look for help from others quite a lot. It is the nature of the beast. But it is so good to remember that there are those less fortunate than ourselves and that to meet someone else's need helps free us from our own little box. The more we look outward and especially upward, the less we obsess about ourselves.
I am happy to say that my struggle with depression is almost completely in the past. But I do have to say almost, because depression can be a learned reaction to life's slings and arrows, so I still have to be vigilant. Plus, if you are one of those, as I am , who are on the sensitive side, you know it is both a blessing and a curse. But God has brought me this far, and I know He will not abandon me, nor will He, you.
Now here is one of today's small blessings.
He or she has taken up residence among the bikes on our porch and the scrap lumber on the neighbor's porch. It is a bit of shelter, that I HAD planned to remove to the basement soon. Now of course I will feel badly. But I think the neighbor is putting out the lumber little by little each week in the trash. So I guess they will be moving on. As adorable as they are, I will not miss the mess they are leaving all over my porch.
Saint Lucy, pray for us!