How many Saints thanked God for their illnesses, trials, and mental and spiritual anguish? Lots. One of those Saints was Elizabeth Seton. Towards the end of her life she was quite open about the fact that her history of irrational self-demeaning thoughts and fears, part of her depressive tendencies, were part of her cross. “I have indeed been a sufferer, partly from the strong impressions of the mind which I could not efface, and also from causes sufficiently real.”
St. Elizabeth Seton’s coping strategy for all her sufferings including her tormented mind was to constantly work towards turning her attention to the Savior. “My heart is lifted, feels its treasure…God is with me and what can I fear?”
Can we embrace our cross of depression? Can we use it as a means to develop the virtues of perseverance, patience, and compassion for ourselves, and others rather than beat ourselves up every time we fail to subdue the relentless sadness, negativity, or self-conscious paranoia about how our symptoms sometimes drive people away? By the way, that is called “depressed about being depressed,” or “double depression.”
Imagine being able to say like St. Elizabeth (as well as St. Josephine Bakhita, Jane Frances de Chantal, and Augustine of Hippo), “Blessed a thousand, thousand times be the One who governs all, and will bring light out of darkness.”
Let’s follow the Saints’ attitude toward mental and spiritual anguish as well as sufferings “sufficiently real.” Let us practice patiently the discipline of focusing our attention on the Redeemer rather than our suffering so that we can also say, “I was not only willing to take up my cross but kissed it too.” Quotes by St. Elizabeth Seton are from 15 Days of Prayer with Saint Elizabeth Seton by Betty Ann McNeil, DC. Chapter 11. Picture of All Saints is public domain due to age. Found on Wikimedia Commons.