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depression

Katharine Welby
Katharine Welby on her website

Katharine Welby has just blogged about her depression. It received media coverage and online comment.

I appreciate it so much that she speaks of “hopeful depression”. That she has humour with depression…

I’ve been following her on twitter for some time now. Her profile has increased since her dad became the Archbishop of Canterbury recently. [Now she is “aka ABCD“!] She is a Christian; “Passionate for community, peace, accepted difference, unity. Lover of God, lover of life”.

She writes:

…I have depression. I get it quite badly on a regular basis and kind of cry and get tired and just generally see no hope in the world. Problem is, recently I have had hope. I am very low, very sad and yet at the same time very happy. It seems like the chemicals in my brain are at war with my circumstances ‘I am happy’ ‘No you are not’ ‘no really I am’ ‘no really you are not’. This is the current sound track to my life.

Amongst all the dull thoughts I have been thinking, I have been pondering the happy/depressed state of my mind and wondering at it. What does it mean to find hope within an illness that is doing everything possible to rob you of it?

I have a hopeful depression. I am unafraid of my illness, I know that at times it will be unbearable, but I know in it all I am not alone. I look forward to the time when this hope is shared by the church and all those in it suffering quietly and in fear of what their friends would say.

The false teaching of “become a Christian and you will be healthy, wealthy, and happy” is highly prevalent, sometimes subtle and insidious. In that teaching, health, wealth, and/or happiness is/are the goal(s). God becomes merely the means.

In fact (IMO) God is the goal. And union with God can be achieved by happy people and sad people; by rich people and poor people. [Well it may actually be more difficult for happy and rich people… but let that be another story…] And by sick people as well as by healthy people. And that includes the mentally ill. And that includes depressed people.

In October 2011 there was a joint initiative between the Church of England and the mental health charity Time to Change to combat mental illness stigma. A resource pack was created for World Mental Health Day 2011. It provides ideas and resources for churches to plan worship on the theme of mental health.

The media (surprise!!!) misquoted a sermon resource in the pack to suggest the church insinuated that Jesus suffered from mental health problems. Heresy! And Apostasy! Were the rallying cries in many corners. Well before we too rapidly point out the resource said nothing of the sort (but that Jesus was not immune to such accusations) let’s realise that the rapid defence may be the bigger heresy?!!! Did Jesus never suffer from a cold, an illness? Did he not bleed when he missed the nail and hit his thumb? Did he never feel annoyed? Angry? Depressed…?!!! Was Jesus not fully human…

*****

New Zealand, with its unacceptably high suicide rate, is growing more proactive about depression; including through websites here and here. With more than two years since the start of the Canterbury earthquakes, this site, responding to the variety of feelings around, is also of interest.

If you appreciated this post, there are different ways to keep in touch with the community around this website: like the facebook page, follow twitter, use the RSS feed,…

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4 Responses to depression

  1. Kia ora Bosco,
    Thanks for your post. Remembering the humanity of Christ is so important as we engage in all that life can throw at us.

  2. I am greatly heartened to reflect on the humanity of Christ. As one who experiences depression I have often struggled with what that means for me as a pastor. Recently I had the experience of facing my congregation following the tragic death of our organist, her husband and mother in a traffic accident. In speaking about it at Mass I cried. It was probably the best thing that I could have done as it affirmed that what we were all feeling was legitimate, deeply felt and that no trite answers could alleviate our pain. One parishioner met me at the end of the service and said, “That display was inappropriate, you have to be the one who is strong.” But didn’t Jesus cry at the death of Lazarus?

    • Thanks, Fr James, for your openness here. So for one parishioner crying at a funeral is weakness; and weakness is bad. I think your example of Jesus answers that. My concern for the parishioner would be that while certain “weakness” can bend, certain “strength” can snap. Christ is risen.

  3. Hmm, what comes first, the chicken or the egg…many times depression is chemical but some circumstances, pain, illness, poverty, bereavement, loneliness- they inevitably will cause profound depression too.

    One of my first experiences as a young Christian was going to play a service at a church, age about 14, and their regular musician wanted to play too. She was pale and shaking and cried several times during the service, she seemed so distressed I shared the platform with her and tried to be kind, as much as someone can at that age. I asked a parishioner about her after and was told her husband had left with another woman after abusing her for years, taking their children when she fell apart and couldn’t cope. A few days later that parishioner called me and said the lady had committed suicide- hung herself from a scarf from the bedrail. It always stuck with me that image- to be so profoundly hopeless, and no one can help, not even herself- she could have stood up any time and not died, but couldn’t choose to value her own life.

    Could people have helped? There seems to be a point of no return when nothing helps. This was a woman who stayed with an abusive man precisely because of her religion, she was obviously thoughtful, kind, and it backfired badly.

    ‘The false teaching of “become a Christian and you will be healthy, wealthy, and happy” is highly prevalent, sometimes subtle and insidious.’

    But that’s exactly a lot of people’s experience of religious ( not just Christian ) teachings…being punished with misfortune, being unworthy of life’s blessings, not trying hard enough…

    One of my least favourite sayings in US Christianity is the platitude ‘God won’t give you anything you cannot bear’. I always want to say ‘bit late for that!’

    Loads of people face nature every day, face human nature, life is precarious and unfair often. Survival hangs in the balance, always has, always will, despite many comfort habits and superstitions. Karma is a cruel concept. When a tsunami or earthquake hits- that’s not because those people killed and injured and bereft deserved it!

    A few years later when I was first married a neighbour visited me. Her abusive husband was having an affair and trying to get rid of her and keep their daughter by convincing her she was evil, ‘a witch’ is the way she put it. He told her she was filled with badness and the best thing she could do was keep away from her family, she told me ‘I have strange powers, I harm people’. I was a little more confident at that point in my life, and able to say this is superstitious nonsense, there’s nothing bad about you, you need mental health professionals to help recover.

    Apparently she did- she was in hospital for a while, and next time I saw her she didn’t remember me but she was working and happy again.

    It’s a horrible thing for a friend or relative to betray someone for expediency, but much worse when it’s part of a religious teaching.

    I am sure many of the respondents here have read the book of Mother Theresa’s private writingsabout her doubts and pains…which she asked to have destroyed, not published!

    Basic respect is what fails people, and causes depression and suicide and cruelty…a lack of ‘do unto others’. And it’s also what fails ideology, in human terms.

    From a later post here http://liturgy.co.nz/reform-of-the-reform-of-the-reform/14884#comments

    ‘to mark special occasions with special style, eg funeral of Margaret Thatcher.’

    That’s it simplified. Why should some people’s lives be less valued than others? Margaret Thatcher was one of the cruelest people who refused to compromise her capitalist agenda even in the face of tremendous suffering.

    How many people sunk into depression or killed themselves in 80’s Britain?

    Margaret Thatcher, who told people they should prepare a ‘care in the community’ ( whilst saying ‘there’s no such thing as society’ ) died in The Ritz in London.

    It should be a matter of shame, not celebration, and wondering what to wear.

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About This Site Welcome to this ecumenical website of resources and reflections on liturgy, spirituality, and worship for individuals and communities. It is run by Rev. Bosco Peters.

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