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Placebo Effect

Yet another study pointing to the role of belief and antidepressant effectiveness.  This doesn’t mean antidepressants don’t work.  Sometimes they are necessary.  However, the study and others like it should give us pause and make us ask about the power of advertising.  BTW, this is about antidepressants, not medicine for bipolar disorder.

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Lack of Confidence & Trust in God

“It is very good to mistrust ourselves, but what good will that do unless we place all our confidence in God and wait his mercy? And even if we do not feel such confidence, we must not cease to make acts of confidence and say, “Even though I have no feeling of confidence in You, I know that You are my God, that I am totally Yours and have no hope except Your goodness; therefore I abandon myself entirely into Your hands.” …And it is on these occasions and in these very difficulties that we give witness of our fidelity to God.” –Saint Francis de Sales

When we, or family members struggle with episodes of a mental condition or even a lack of self-confidence in general it is easy to wonder if God is with us. It is also easy to ruminate, “Can we parent well, volunteer, teach, preach, administer, or serve well in any way?”  These thoughts can especially grip us when all seems futile and our emotions are strong.

Here St. Francis is talking to St. Jane Frances de Chantal who often felt an extreme lack of self-confidence and sometimes fell into depression, resentment, feelings of unworthiness, and doubts of God’s very existence and love. She did this throughout her life. We, like her, must heed St. Francis’s advice and stand firm in faith and do the work we are pretty sure we are called to do, at least until evidence suggests otherwise. Our feelings don’t matter. What matters is our choice to believe.

Let’s give thanks to God for the grace He always provides to help us persevere.

from Golden Councils of St. Francis de Sales. Edited by Mary Paula McCarthy, VHM and Mary Grace McCormick, VHM. Translated by Peron Marie Thibert, VHM. Copyright 1994 by Monastery of the Visitation, St. Louis Missouri, Pgs. 9-10. Origionally from St. Francis de Sales, St. Jane Frances de Chantal: Letters of Spiritual Direction, Paulist Press, NY. Copyright 1988 by Peron Marie Thibert, Wendy M. Wright, and Joseph Marie Power

Picture is by DeFranoux, published in the US before 1923 and public domain in the US.

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Should We Remember?

The fact that yesterday was the memorial day for the September 11 attacks and only eight flags were hanging outside in my neighborhood begs the general question, “Should we remember?” That question can be applied to many, many things besides historical events and I think we need to reflect on it.

We would all prefer to forget unpleasant and painful things. We expect people to ‘get over it’ when they have grieved a week. We wear crosses instead of crucifixes. We tell each other to look on the bright side. Some go so far as to hope beyond hope that yesterday’s abuse will be the last time because the perpetrator is “a really good guy/gal.”

This same thought process is how many of us deal with mental health problems. After recovering from an episode of mania, depression, or say, scruples we simply “get on with our lives” and try to forget it ever happened.

Yet remembering the unpleasant is vital to prevention. It provides motivation to do what is necessary to reduce risk. You can’t prevent what you forget. Speaking of risk. Here are some ways to reduce yours for relapse into a mental health crisis.

  • If you have a good friends (off-line) and/or close family members be sure to hang out with them often, and be honest about what’s going on in your life! Secrets breed relapse.
  • Take up activities where you have a good chance of meeting people. Being a loner will eventually increase symptoms.
  • Stay on your medication even if you think you don’t need to. If you insist on stopping do so with your physician’s permission and guidance, not alone.
  • Schedule an occasional tune-up therapy session. It’s always good to discuss anything that could potentially trigger an episode.
  • Say a prayer of Thanksgiving for each day of health. Appreciating and being grateful for health will make you more aware should you begin to lose that health. Health can never be taken for granted.
  • If you do get caught off guard (mental illness can sometimes have a life of its own) or you sense that all is not right, make an appointment with your doctor or therapist. Don’t tell yourself you’re imagining the worse or it’s not possible because….   Just make the appointment.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana (1863 to 1952)

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Victimhood? Justice?

“Why not rather put up with injustice? Why not rather let yourselves be cheated?” 1 Cor 6:7b

Some would say, “Ah Ha! Your scriptures promulgate victimhood!” Being passive in the face of injustice or a doormat for others’ selfishness is never healthy! So what does this mean for us who tend to allow ourselves to be used and cheated, in small ways but sometimes in greater ways?

Aside from the fact that this passage is meant for a different group of people for a particular reason for us it’s simply a matter of perspective. Whenever we are faced with injustice of any kind we need to ask ourselves, “Is this a battle worth fighting? Will more harm than good happen by taking someone to court, including harm to our selves? Will more good be done by putting up with the injustice or allowing someone to “get away with it?” Yes, there are such situations.

So fight for what is right. Don’t be a doormat. Stick up for yourself and others. Get out of abusive relationships or situations. If necessary, sue or press charges against an abuser or thief. In free countries we have a legal system to protect our God-given right to justice. What a blessing! Look what can happen where such a thing doesn’t exist!

On the other hand let’s not abuse the system simply to get what we want. If taking someone to court is not in line with your values and harm will be done perhaps it is best to put up with an injustice or a case of being cheated. The thief, cheat, and abuser cannot take their petty prizes with them to the grave. Best pray for their souls. Everything in this life passes away, except our integrity– or lack thereof. God judges accordingly. Praised be His name!

Picture is public domain, found on Wikimedia.

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St. Teresa of Calcutta and Mental Illness

And no one who has been drinking old wine desires new, for he says, “The old is good.” — Luke 5:38-39

Today is the feast day of St. Teresa of Calcutta, a woman of great yet simple faith who had unwavering trust in God throughout her long and often difficult life. That life began with a call to do a difficult thing, work with the maggot infested, dying people left in the streets of Calcutta. Her old life was pleasant to say the least, and she lived that life for 20 yrs. The important thing of course is that she said yes to the call and then persevered in the sufferings but also the joy she found when she forgot herself and her sufferings.

Such a woman can teach us much about living with a mental condition.

Mental illness, be that schizophrenia, bipolar, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or clinical depression can cause much anguish and fear. St. Teresa suffered great internal anguish during much of her life but unlike so many of us she was never really afraid. She grieved. She thought herself unworthy and rejected by God whom she loved above all else. She even asked spiritual advisors for guidance concerning her inner state. But she did not fear.

That is the lesson.

No one needs to fear mental or emotional difficulties. They are simply one of the many sufferings of life to be faced, accepted, and reckoned with. Yes, they can cause great anguish, doubt, and pain. Yes, they can cause one to become a target for prejudicial humor or gossip. Yes, they can make one become an object of suspicion and yes; they can make a person wary of the future. After all, one never knows when the next episode might strike. But believing by choice that God’s love will and does prevail can take away all fear.

“Give yourself fully to God. He will use you to accomplish great things on the condition that you believe much more in His love than in your own weakness.”–St. Teresa of Calcutta

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