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Our Plans, God’s Plans & Psychological/Spiritual Health

“Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”

These words are attributed to many authors but we can all use them to describe our lives. Compare how many times things went according to how you anticipated versus how many times the proverbial “bump in the road” occurred. Sometimes that bump was the size of the Himalayas and you were forced to completely change direction.

Our expectations about what should be and how tightly we hold onto those expectations can truly influence our risk for episodes of depression, anxiety, and mania. Why? Because holding on to our, “life should go this way” creates stress. Holding on too tightly has been known to lay the groundwork for a nervous breakdown.

It’s like when a person holds an umbrella in order to shield him or herself in a storm. If that person holds the umbrella too tightly in one direction and a wind gust bursts at just the right angle the umbrella is turned inside out or ripped completely away. On the other hand, if that person moves with the wind unafraid to endure a small amount of raindrops from time to time the umbrella stays intact. Although, sometimes all someone can do is close the umbrella and plod on unprotected. So what? Who has ever died from a temporary bit of wind and rain?

Life is just that way. So is illness. So is God. Sometimes these things occur in a way that matches our hopes, dreams, and plans. Sometimes they don’t.

St. Francis of Assisi thought he’d build buildings and ended up on his deathbed watching those who followed him change his rule. St. Francis Xavier and Venerable Charles de Foucald failed, plain and simple. God’s way occurred later and in the latter case, after his death. Blessed Enrico Rebuschi relapsed into a bipolar episode and had to be quasi-hospitalized. Yet, a religious order still blossomed through his efforts.

So watch those expectations. Don’t let them become too unrealistic or too rigid. Life and God will happen to you sometimes as planned and sometimes not. If you are flexible you’ll probably stay healthier, perhaps in body and mind but definitely in soul.

Picture by Colin & Sarah Northway. Creative Commons, Generic License. The authors do not necessarily endorse this blog.

New Post has been published on Healthy Catholics

New Post has been published on http://healthycatholics.com/?p=206

Saints Monica, Augustine, John the Baptist and God’s Healing

Sometimes depression and other mental ills tempt us to engage in activities that we think will relieve our pain. Then we fall and find ourselves trapped in more pain. We chronically misuse or become addicted to drink, drugs, shopping, gambling, pornography, sexing, social networks, video games, work, and even religious practice.

To engage in escape is the opposite of listening to God’s call to be faithful, virtuous, and healthy. The good news is that many a Saint began in this predicament. Two, Saints Monica and Augustine, found themselves in such a quandary. St. Monica was an alcoholic and possibly struggled with depression. St. Augustine continued to be unfaithful to God and to himself by staying with a lover, and not necessarily because he loved her. Addictions to anything can delude ones mind about ones motives. For both these Saints the road to sanctity began by stopping the dysfunctional behavior, which of necessity included some internal pain. Dying to self is usually somewhat uncomfortable.

I find it interesting that today’s feast follows the feasts of those two great Saints. Today is the feast of the Passion of St. John the Baptist. Now, there was a man who listened and followed his sacred call rather than running from the pain he undoubtedly knew would be his end. He walked right into the pain, on purpose, simply because it was the right thing to do.

There are many present day saints-in-the-making who are listening to God’s call, which is always a call to work for health and holiness. Like Saints Monica and Augustine they leave their destructive lifestyle. They join Alcoholics or Narcotics Anonymous, get treatment for mental health problems, leave their lovers to work on things with their spouse, and cease abusing loved ones in favor of voluntarily getting treatment even if it means temporarily separating from the one they love. In a less dramatic way than St. John the Baptist they are dying, to themselves–their arrogance, shame, and pride.

To renounce the tools of flight and enter into the pain of recovery is a way to move toward healing and wholeness. None of the above mentioned activities cause depression, bipolar, or schizophrenia but they do compound the problem and may even trigger an episode of illness.

The Lord wants us to heal. He wants us to draw closer to Him, which is what makes us holy. Saints Monica, Augustine, John the Baptist, and all those living saints-to-be are our role models. Call them to mind in prayer and then act. It is the way of the Saints.

Picture by Ken Walker, on Wikimedia from Flickr.  Public use permitted.  The author does not necessarily endorse this post or the blog.

New Post has been published on Healthy Catholics

New Post has been published on http://healthycatholics.com/?p=191

Passivity, Integrity, & Depression Prevention

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.” — Dietrich Bonhoeffer

This quote has been used a lot lately, mostly as a clarion’s call for political and social action, and rightfully so. But I want to make a more personal application.

When was the last time you confronted someone who had just made a derogatory, judgmental, erroneous, or even outlandish statement about the mentally or emotionally unwell? What if that person had more credentials, authority, or status than you, or was capable of hurting your reputation or making your life miserable?

Depression can make us so passive if we let it. Even when we feel good we can act like frightened mice, hiding rather than challenging destructive lines of thought, our own as well as those found in others’ words. The sad thing is that passivity creates a sense of helplessness, which in turn creates a sense of hopelessness. Practice being passive often enough and soon you will feel like a victim in a seemingly big and dangerous world.

So stand your ground. Don’t give in to fear when fear leads to an increase of stigma toward the depressed, anxious, and those suffering other types of mental or emotional ill health. Even if you are trembling inside or your assertiveness is tinged with tears demand justice and respect for yourself and for those close to you. In the end, even if the consequences of standing your ground are unpleasant you have mastered yourself. That kind of integrity will make you feel stronger inside. Such strength is another tool in the bag to ward off emotional and mental problems.

Jaguar picture by Cburnett: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License. Found on Wikimedia Commons.