Angels play songs of sweet sorrow on the strings of my heart. If Saint Paul were a teenage girl this might have been how he would have described the “thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” Many Biblical scholars have said that Saint Paul suffered from chronic depression.
One of the things that seem to plague mothers is worry and stress. We become preoccupied with our children’s lives; and this is not unusual. As mother we are our infants prime source of life, as our children grow they seek us out for comfort, wisdom and help, when teens of course the priority shifts and they want more independence and we worry what they are doing out of our control; no wonder we feel stressed, burned out, worried! But for some moms it becomes more than that, it becomes chronic depression.
Chronic depression is a common enough illness, and one that is misunderstood. Those who suffer from it are not weak, they are not lazy, they are faking; they are like Saint Paul, they are people; women, of action. No-one knows why some people suffer from chronic depression, but they believe it has a great deal to do with the levels of serotonin, a brain chemistry that helps maintain mood, the amounts of stress, illness, worry in our lives, as well as SAD: Seasonal affective disorder, that feeling of being down when sunlight is reduced and evening darkness comes in earlier in the day. Some who suffer chronic depression can trace it back to how they were taught to deal with emotions, stress in life.
Like Saint Paul there are symptoms of chronic depression, which are the same as those of major depression but not as intense, to watch out for, he must have had:
- Persistent sad or empty feeling
- Difficulty sleeping (sleeping too much or too little)
- Insomnia (early morning awakening)
- Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and worthlessness
- Feelings of guilt
- Loss of interest or the ability to enjoy oneself
- Loss of energy or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating, thinking or making decisions
- Changes in appetite (overeating or loss of appetite)
- Observable mental and physical sluggishness
- Persistent aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems that do not ease even with treatment
- Thoughts of death or suicide
... and we get a sense of this in 2 Corinthians. If you see yourself in any of those you can like Saint Paul battle out of it. Chronic depression is nothing to be ashamed of, even Saint Paul saw a way to triumph over it, and for him it was a time to gather even greater strength: “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
One of the greatest weapons against depression is the believe that God is the Author of All Good things; there is reason to continue to suffer. 2 Corinthians 1: 6 So if we have hardships to undergo, this will contribute to your encouragement and your salvation; if we receive encouragement, this is to gain for you the encouragement which enables you to bear with perseverance the same sufferings as we do.
When we do encounter chronic depression we have ways to battle it, to fight the good fight. Looking at our Baptismal role of Queen, we know we are to take for our resources, and we are one of the resources. If that is true than we need to:
- Get plenty of exercise (30 minutes at least three times a week)
- Eat regularly throughout the day.
- Get plenty of natural sunlight
- Manage stress and negative emotions
- Get 6-8 hours of quality sleep a night
- Set time aside for fun and relaxation
- Take a multivitamin daily
- Prayer and Meditation
These will help us balance our moods and deduce our feelings of chronic depression, making us better mothers, women, and wives.